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  A Touchdown and Little Else in 28-10 Loss

Baltimore's Jaimie Sharper
Green Bay punt returner Roell Preston, right, runs this punt back 71 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter Sunday. (Reuters)
By Ken Denlinger
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 26, 1998; Page C10

GREEN BAY, Wis., Oct. 25 – Progress for the Baltimore Ravens is what happened today at a time when beating the Green Bay Packers no longer was possible. The offense actually scored a touchdown, its first in 14 quarters.

The almost-forgotten sighting came midway through the fourth quarter, at the end of a 96-yard drive, when wide receiver Jermaine Lewis blew by a defender on first down from the Green Bay 46 and quarterback Jim Harbaugh hit him in the end zone. However, that was a relatively minor blotch on an undramatic 28-10 Green Bay victory.

The Packers (5-2) snapped an uncommon two-game losing streak while the Ravens (2-5) lost their third straight.

Harbaugh had relieved an ineffective Eric Zeier on the first offensive series of the second half, after the Packers had taken a 21-0 lead on a 71-yard punt return for a touchdown by Roell Preston and four- and 28-yard scoring passes by Brett Favre. Ravens Coach Ted Marchibroda would not commit to a starter for next week, but seemed to be leaning toward Harbaugh.

"That's the best I saw Jim throw in a long period of time," Marchibroda said. "By far."

Harbaugh produced 174 yards and the touchdown on nine completions in 20 tries. He was intercepted twice, once when he slipped in the end zone and was hit as he released the ball. He had a 27-yard pass broken up at the goal line and watched in frustration another time when wide receiver Michael Jackson couldn't hold a high but catchable 21-yard pass in the end zone.

"I think there's greatness in this team," Harbaugh said. "We've got to get everybody to believe that. . . . Hopefully, I'll get my timing back and execute better."

He said he is no longer bothered by tendinitis in his right elbow that cropped up in the last week of the preseason and the ligament damage he suffered to the ring finger of his throwing hand in the regular season opener.

Marchibroda was unusually harsh in assessing the performance of Zeier, who sprained his right thumb last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers but threw well during practice.

"I don't know that he has a big problem," Marchibroda said. "We knew he could play. He did well at the end of last year. He did at the beginning of this year. What we didn't know is: 'Can he play 16 games?' We put a lot of pressure on him, because Jimmy was hurt and he had to win."

Zeier completed 9 of 19 passes for just 34 yards and was sacked four times. He was hampered by several dropped passes.

"There was nothing wrong with my motion," he said, "but the ball kinda came out of my hand bad. The thumb probably was a little reason for the ball sailing a bit, but that's no excuse."

Overall, the theme was familiar for the Ravens. Special teams did not play especially well. The defense generally was tough, with cornerback Rod Woodson tipping the ball and then gathering it in late in the third quarter for an interception.

Still, the defense surrendered a four-play, 89-yard drive at the start of the second half.

"It's tough when you [go against] such a good quarterback and you're put on the field a long time," said defensive tackle Tony Siragusa. "You put him on the field 'x' amount of time and he's going to score points."

Preston scored the first points when he grabbed the first of Kyle Richardson's eight first-half punts near the right sideline and weaved through excellent blocks 71 yards into the end zone. He slowed just enough to cause Richardson to dive and miss near the goal line.

Green Bay increased its advantage to 14-0 near the end of the first quarter. Favre completed two 13-yard passes during a 69-yard drive that ended with his flip to wide receiver Antonio Freeman on second and goal from the 4. Favre's second touchdown pass came when wide receiver Robert Brooks beat safety Corey Harris and caught the ball inside the Baltimore 5.

Favre also scored on a four-yard run that capped a 27-yard surge after safety LeRoy Butler intercepted the pass Harbaugh threw from his end zone after slipping and being hit. That made Green Bay's lead 28-3 midway through the third period.

Ravens Note: Three players had injuries that will be reevaluated Monday: Siragusa (ankle), backup middle linebacker Tyrus McCloud (knee) and Woodson (Achilles' strain).

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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