The Ravens no longer are digging a deeper hole for themselves in the AFC Central race. It's time to put this team to rest.Barring one of the greatest late-season runs in NFL history, the Ravens buried any playoff aspirations under a 45-19 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars yesterday before a crowd of 68,915 at Ravens stadium.
With eight games remaining, the major question surrounding the Ravens (2-6) after their fourth loss in a row is the status of coach Ted Marchibroda, who is in the third and final year of his contract.
In three seasons, Marchibroda is 12-27-1. But none of the Ravens' previous losses was as ugly as this one. Four of their five turnovers led to 24 points, including two fumbles by tight end Eric Green that led to two Jaguars touchdowns. The Ravens gave up touchdown passes of 37 and 78 yards in the first quarter and then had a punt blocked for a second-quarter touchdown.
The Ravens were booed after they gave up 42 points in the first half. They were booed when they didn't score in the third quarter. They weren't booed late in the fourth because most of the crowd had gone home. On the day after Halloween, the fans were tired of the Ravens masquerading as a football team. The Ravens are 1-3 in their new, $223 million house.
"I think in my coaching career I've had two games like this. I remember the other one and this is No. 2," Marchibroda said. "I hope I don't have any others, and I hope the guys don't have any others, either.
"And sometimes I've learned this, too: You have to hit bottom before you come out of it. I don't think there is any question today that we hit rock bottom and whether we come out of it or not, we'll know."
When asked about his job security, Marchibroda said: "It's not my decision; we'll wait and see. I'm sure I'll talk to him [owner Art Modell]. I always talk to him."
Modell declined to comment last night, but his players were just as embarrassed by the loss as Marchibroda, who put a lot of emphasis on Jacksonville. This game marked the return of quarterback Jim Harbaugh and Green, who both had been bothered by injuries. The Ravens had moved left guard Wally Williams back to his natural position at center and inserted Ben Cavil at left guard.
For additional motivation, Marchibroda closed locker room access to the media last week. Yet the Ravens still bombed.
"We're embarrassed," said Harbaugh, who was superb,
completing 27 of 34 passes for 243 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. "It feels like rock bottom. I've never been in a game like this. I'm pretty speechless about it. I can't even come up with an excuse. It's just embarrassing."
Ravens defensive tackle Tony Siragusa, who was with Marchibroda in Indianapolis in 1995 when the Colts made a late-season playoff run, defended the coach.
"It's not about the coach, it's about the players," Siragusa said. "Coaches don't put on the pads, they don't cover. They put you in the position and the player has to make the play. Look out there to- day, nobody was quitting. Eric Green fumbled twice because he was trying to get an extra yard.
"I've been through this before and it's just a matter of getting the breaks if you keep working hard. I like Ted, he's a good coach. He has always taught us to not worry about things you can't control. He'll keep fighting, we'll keeping fighting and work our way out of this."
Williams said: "I can't control who gets hired or fired. That decision is made by a higher power. But I was enthused about our game plan and we moved the ball well. We just had some turnovers and bad officiating calls. We were ready to play, we just can't get out of this unfortunate situation."
Actually, the Ravens' offense had its best performance since the team beat the Cincinnati Bengals, 31-24, on Sept. 27. The Ravens used the one-back set and had 239 yards of total offense in the first half as Harbaugh completed 16 of 19 passes for 137 yards. But with 1: 00 left in the first quarter, Green caught a 5-yard pass in the right flat and tried to hurdle linebacker Kevin Hardy and strong safety Donovin Darius. Instead, he fumbled and the Jaguars recovered at the Ravens' 25.
Seven plays later, running back Fred Taylor ran off left guard for a 1-yard touchdown and a 21-7 Jacksonville lead with 13: 31 left in the second quarter.
Fullback Roosevelt Potts gave the Jaguars another gift a few minutes later when he fumbled a Harbaugh pass in the right flat when Jacksonville linebacker Bryan Schwartz stripped him of the ball and recovered it at the Ravens' 28.
Seven plays later again, fullback Daimon Shelton rushed for a 2-yard touchdown and a 28-7 lead. Not to be outdone by Potts, Green lost the ball again after a 17-yard pass from Harbaugh down to the Jacksonville 17, fumbling while trying to stretch out for the extra yard. Darius picked up the ball and ran 83 yards for a touchdown down the left sideline with 2: 59 left in the half.
That made the score 42-7.
"If I don't do those two things, you never know what might have happened," said Green, playing for the first time since rupturing an air sac in his chest Oct. 11. "It just wasn't my day. I wasn't playing my game. I was trying to do too much. I've got to get back to what Eric Green does best and that's play within himself and don't try to be a hero. I put this game on myself."
There's too much blame to spread around. Let's move to the Ravens' secondary. Pick a cornerback, any cornerback. DeRon Jenkins, Rod Woodson and Duane Starks, come on down. Jacksonville quarterback Mark Brunell and wide receiver Jimmy Smith toasted Jenkins for a 37-yard touchdown down the left sideline with 7: 58 left in the first quarter.
Brunell (13-for-20, 237 yards) and Taylor burned Woodson on a 78-yard touchdown completion with 1: 19 left in the first quarter, less than a half-minute after Harbaugh had hit Jermaine Lewis in the back of the end zone with a 6-yard touchdown pass to tie the score at 7.
"The play we took the long pass down the sideline for a touchdown we lined up in a formation we used against the Ravens in the past," said Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin. "They adjusted and allowed Fred to go by him on the outside. Mark saw it and that was the key."
The Ravens had one more snafu before halftime. Kyle Richardson's punt was blocked and returned for a 24-yard touchdown by Alvis Whitted with 4: 03 left in the half. Reserve safety Ralph Staten, the up back, stepped out to block Taylor but let Whitted come in through his inside shoulder.
"They beat us in every phase of the game -- offense, defense and special teams," Marchibroda said. "You can't win unless you play from the opening bell to the final gun and we didn't do that today. If we haven't hit bottom, we're in real trouble."