Vs. Ravens, Jags at loss only for an explanation First '96 road win extends hex over franchise to 4-0

November 25, 1996|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,SUN STAFF

The question is met with a shake of the head, a shrug of the shoulders, a blank stare.

The Jacksonville Jaguars would like to explain their success against the Browns/Ravens, including two wins last year when the franchise was in Cleveland. But they can't do it.

It's something that just happens, the players say, and it doesn't matter how far they're behind, or how much the odds are against them.

Before yesterday, the Jaguars hadn't won on the road all season. And they didn't seem capable of changing that after Matt Stover kicked a 33-yard field goal late in the third quarter to give the Ravens a 25-10 lead.

But this was Jacksonville vs. Cleveland/Baltimore. The game may as well have just been starting.

Mark Brunell certainly was. The fourth-year quarterback threw for two fourth-quarter touchdowns, ran for a two-point conversion, then drove the Jaguars close enough in overtime for Mike Hollis to win it with a 34-yard kick.

Final score: Jacksonville 28, Baltimore 25. Running tally: The Jaguars 4, the Browns/Ravens 0.

Why?

"I don't know," said Jaguars left tackle Tony Boselli. "Today, the ball bounced our way and gave us an opportunity, but I don't think it's one thing. We come in confident for every game we play because we think we're a pretty good team. It just happened to work out for us."

The end result benefited Boselli as much as anyone. It was his procedure penalty in the fourth quarter, with Jacksonville behind 25-17, that turned a fourth-and-inches on the Ravens' 25 into a fourth-and-six from the 30. An incompletion gave the Ravens the ball with 2: 49 left in regulation, and a chance to end the hex.

Instead, it bit them again. Vinny Testaverde fumbled on the Ravens' first play, Jacksonville's Eddie Robinson recovered, and the Jaguars went on to score.

Divine intervention, perhaps?

"I thank the Lord I got a second chance," Boselli said. "I made one of the dumbest plays you can make."

Two weeks before, the Jaguars erased an 11-point, fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Ravens, 30-27. Brunell orchestrated that comeback, and he was the maestro again yesterday.

"We realized we had been in an identical situation against them before, and we had confidence we could move the ball against these guys with our three-wides and four-wides and throwing it downfield. And it worked," he said.

One of his favorite targets was Keenan McCardell, who signed with Jacksonville as a free agent after playing parts of four seasons in Cleveland. McCardell has been on both ends of this young rivalry, which makes him more qualified than anyone to explain Jacksonville's dominance.

"We just know that anytime we play these guys, it's going to be a tough battle. We just seem to have a lot of confidence against them," said McCardell, who caught nine passes for 107 yards.

Maybe the Jaguars would have a better answer if they gave it more thought.

"We don't think about it," said Jimmy Smith (eight receptions, 131 yards). "They're a good football team and they have some good athletes out there. We're just happy that we got this victory.

"They have a very explosive offense. We're on pins and needles every time their offense is on the field."

If only they weren't always on the winning side, too.

If only they had an explanation.

"I don't know what the thing is with that," Hollis said.

"It's just making plays at the end of the game," said center Dave Widell.

That will have to suffice.

Jaguars jinx

Jacksonville is just 9-19 in its two-year existence, but four of the wins have come against the Browns/Ravens:

Date ............ Site .............. Score

10-22-95 ........ Clev. ............. Jags, 23-15

12-24-95 ........ Jack. ............. Jags, 24-21

11-10-96 ........ Jack. ............. Jags, 30-27

11-24-96 ........ Balt. ............. Jags, 28-25*

* -- Overtime

Pub Date: 11/25/96

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