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  Ravens May Have Hit Low in 24-3 Loss to Bears

Ravens Logo By Ken Denlinger
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 21, 1998; Page D11

CHICAGO, Dec. 20 – The Baltimore Ravens have played a total of 47 games in their three-year history and won just 15, so deciding which loss ranks as the most embarrassing is close to impossible. Today's 24-3 blowout by the Chicago Bears became a serious contender because, for the first time, there was talk throughout the locker room about the team's lack of effort.

"I was looking for the score to be worse than it was," said veteran right guard Jeff Blackshear. "There was a different attitude [before the game]. You can just feel it. Lots of guys could have just stayed home. They could have brought some guys who really wanted to play."

"Effort is the hardest thing to judge," added quarterback Jim Harbaugh. "But you've got to go by the scoreboard, I guess. You've got to feel like there wasn't [enough]."

When defensive tackle James Jones was asked if all his teammates had been trying, he paused and said: "I won't answer that."

The Ravens (5-10) were out of the game by halftime. That's hardly unique. But the Bears had won just three times all season and were on a six-game losing streak. Their star was the formally unknown James Allen, a third-string running back elevated to starter because of injuries whose 163 yards rushing was one of the best totals in team history.

Chicago scored three touchdowns in the second quarter, on a one-yard run by Allen, a 16-yard pass from quarterback Steve Stenstrom to Curtis Conway and a four-yard run by fullback Robert Chancey, and had a 24-0 lead at intermission before a crowd of only 40,853 in 66,944-seat Soldier Field.

The loss means the Ravens not only will fail to improve this season, as owner Art Modell had confidently predicted, but also will fall below last season's 6-9-1 record. Weeks ago, a team source said Coach Ted Marchibroda might not be rehired when his contract runs out after the season even if the Ravens finished at .500.

"I won't say [the players] quit," Marchibroda said, "but there wasn't the effort [in the first half] you normally get. It was as bad a first half as any since I've been here. ... It was a little bit of everything. Some guys who played last week [for the first time were] thinking they were pretty good this week. They're young. They don't understand that you've got to be ready to play every week. And there was a little distraction from the Pro Bowl."

Despite Baltimore's poor record, five Ravens made the Pro Bowl. Two of them, left tackle Jonathan Ogden and wide receiver-punt returner Jermaine Lewis, were sidelined by injuries.

Marchibroda once more had to field a patchwork lineup, especially on offense. With tackles Ogden and Orlando Brown (ankles) and center Wally Williams (neck) out, the line had four backups at the five positions. Also, tight end Eric Green left the game early with a knee injury.

However, the Bears were even more depleted by injuries. The best illustration was Allen, a practice-squad player most of last year with the Philadelphia Eagles who had carried the ball for the Bears just 13 times for 47 yards this season before today.

The 5-foot-10, 215-pound Allen was a starter because rookie Curtis Enis and veteran Edgar Bennett were out with knee injuries. Allen had 135 yards and a touchdown by halftime. His 57- and 54-yard runs were the team's longest of the season. Only legendary Bears Walter Payton, Gale Sayers, Rick Casares and Willie Gallimore have run for more yards in one game.

"I was just thrilled to death," said Allen. "Last night I was walking through the hotel, just smiling down the hallway because I knew something big was going to happen once I got the chance to play. ... If I get past the linebackers, don't worry – I'll do the rest."

The Ravens seemed to go flat after their first possession, when the Bears intercepted a tipped pass by Harbaugh and turned it into a 3-0 lead. The Ravens also had a long field goal blocked. Tailback Priest Holmes had just 17 yards on 11 carries.

At one point, Harbaugh tried to dance out of the pocket so he could throw the ball away and avoid being called for intentional grounding. However, defensive end John Thierry stopped him and Harbaugh eventually was sacked for a 24-yard loss.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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