The New York Giants didn't fall to the Ravens until the final play yesterday, but their biggest loss came on their second offensive play.
That's when their starting running back, Gary Brown, went down with a sprained knee ligament, a setback that overshadowed their 28-24 defeat by the Ravens.
Like most teams in their final exhibition game, the Giants' main goal was to get out of it without any injuries; instead, they lost their starting running back.
The only consolation for the Giants is that Brown's injury may not be as serious as first feared. The team won't know for sure until he has an magnetic resonance imaging today, but it hopes he'll miss only a couple of weeks.
"The pain made it feel like it was much worse than what I was told. The pain subsided quickly. I have to get the MRI and find out exactly what the deal is," Brown said.
The eight-year pro said it would take a miracle for him to play next week in the season opener.
Describing his first carry, he said: "I knew I wasn't going any further. I tried to get down, but I couldn't get down soon enough before my leg got stuck in the turf and went underneath me."
Said quarterback Kent Graham: "We were really upset in the huddle. The second play and he gets hurt. That's a killer. Hopefully, it's not that bad and he'll get back soon."
It's been a summer of setbacks for Brown, who was hurt in a motorcycle accident just before camp that got him off to a slow start.
"It's very frustrating because of where I came from. From the motorcycle thing and now this happens," Brown said.
Coach Jim Fassel said he didn't know who would start in Brown's place, but LeShon Johnson and rookie Sean Bennett are the top candidates.
Johnson, playing with a cast on his right thumb because of a torn ligament, ran for 19 yards on six carries, and Bennett managed 19 yards on 13 carries as the Giants' offense had little success running against the Ravens' defense. Johnson also fumbled once.
Things went from bad to worse after the Brown injury -- the Giants thought they were one play away from victory at the end.
"We weren't very smart. We made some big, bonehead mistakes that cost us the game," Fassel said. "They tried to give us the game and we didn't take it."
He was agitated that Kerry Collins threw an ill-advised pass in the fourth period that was intercepted and that rookie Lyle West blew the coverage on the final play.
West made the rookie mistake of going for the ball instead of trying to tackle Brandon Stokley, who went in for the game-winning touchdown on the final play.
West took all of the blame, saying he was trying to knock the ball down because he thought Stokley might have gotten out of bounds with a second left, and the Ravens could have kicked a field goal to tie the game.
"It blew up in my face," said West, a sixth-round pick trying to win a job as the fourth safety. "Obviously, when you play defensive back, you're going to get burned once in a while but it never happened in a situation like that."
On top of the other problems, Fassel wasn't happy with the new instant-replay system. In the last two games, two calls were overturned against him, even though the league determined the original calls on the field were right.
In yesterday's game, Fassel challenged the ruling on Johnson's fumble. The replay seemed to show his knee was down before he lost the ball, but the official ruled he fumbled.
Later, the Ravens challenged when the officials ruled Billy Davis was out of bounds when he made a catch. The official overturned the call and ruled he made a catch although it was a close call on the replay.
"I've had a belly full of them," Fassel said of the replay calls. "I can't comment on this one right now. But I can comment on the other two [earlier in the preseason]. Both of those plays should not have been reversed and they went against us."
Fassel was then asked why he didn't challenge a call in the first half when the replay showed that Jermaine Lewis appeared to have fumbled a punt, even though the official ruled the Raven was down before he lost the ball.
"Next time, you replay it," Fassel said. "My luck right now, I may never see another replay."
Pub Date: 9/04/99