Zeier trips, Ravens fall End zone, OT beckon, but fill-in QB falls over Ogden, foils conversion

Rally from 15 down in 4th

Jags add to narrow hex

Testaverde strains knee

December 01, 1997|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- In the record books, it will go down as another Ravens' defeat. Another close loss. Another setback to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the final moments, this time by 29-27 yesterday before 63,712 at Alltel Stadium.

But the Ravens at least left with self-respect from a game in which they played without two starters in their secondary and then lost starting quarterback Vinny Testaverde to a knee injury late in the second quarter for the rest of the game.

The Ravens battled back from a 29-14 deficit early in the fourth quarter, but their comeback was thwarted with 1: 10 left on a botched two-point conversion attempt. Backup quarterback Eric Zeier tripped over left offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden's leg on a quarterback draw, then was stopped at the 1-yard line.

The Ravens tried an onside kick, but Jacksonville's Jimmy Smith recovered the ball at the Jaguars' 42 and Jacksonville (9-4) ran out the clock to clinch the victory.

The Jaguars have beaten the Ravens (4-8-1) four times, but unlike the first three meetings, when Jacksonville had to pull out victories in the closing moments with big offensive plays, this time it was the Ravens' turn.

And they didn't get it done. "We could have turned it in when we were down without our starting quarterback and they had scored a couple of times in a row," said Ravens cornerback Antonio Langham, who returned an interception 40 yards for a first-quarter touchdown and 7-0 lead.

"I know people thought we were going to get blown out, that we had quit, but this team will never stop fighting no matter how bad it looks," Langham said. "We showed a lot of character today, and that gives us a solid foundation. We're close to turning this thing around, I can feel it."

Coach Ted Marchibroda said: "We didn't forget to fight and it's a tribute to our football team. They hung in there at the end when it looked like they were out of it.

"You're never happy with a loss, but you have to like the effort. We played against one of the best teams in the league. If we play that way all the time, then we're going to win some games."

Zeier was inserted with 1: 54 left in the first half for Testaverde, who strained his left knee ligament on a sack when Bam Morris blocked safety Travis Davis into him. Testaverde is expected to undergo a magnetic resonance imaging test or X-rays today.

Zeier and the offense were pathetic in the third quarter, when the Ravens ran only six offensive plays -- three of them sacks. But the third-year quarterback out of Georgia led the team to two scoring drives in the fourth quarter.

The first was a seven-play, 72-yard march that ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by fullback Kenyon Cotton that pulled the Ravens within 29-21 with 7: 13 left.

The other was a 12-play, 69-yard drive that ended when Zeier sprinted out of the pocket to his right and threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Eric Green as the tight end was falling backward in the right corner of the end zone.

Needing two points to tie, the Ravens called for a quarterback draw up the middle on the conversion attempt. Jaguars defensive end Tony Brackens, however, took a hard inside rush and Ogden appeared not to have driven him hard enough down the line of scrimmage, clogging up the middle.

Zeier also may not have gotten enough depth on his drop-back, which caused him to trip over Ogden's leg, when he turned left, where there was a gaping hole.

"I didn't know he was tripping over me at first," Ogden said. "I thought it was a running back who had fallen into the back of me. When I took my pass set, I just tried to wash him [Brackens] down inside. I thought I had him deep enough, but maybe I didn't. The quarterback also may not have gotten deep enough. We'll have to take a look on the film."

Zeier said: "I'm not sure how deep I was, but I saw the end go inside and it was wide-open on the outside. If I got past Jonathan, I could have crawled into the end zone."

Despite his rough start, Zeier completed seven of 12 passes for 87 yards and one touchdown. Ravens receivers also dropped three passes. Testaverde started out strong, completing 11 of 17 passes for 101 yards and a 15-yard touchdown to Jermaine Lewis.

But there will not be a quarterback controversy in Baltimore. Marchibroda said Testaverde -- who declined to comment -- would start against Seattle on Sunday if healthy.

"We're not going to base our decision on one game. We know what Eric can do," Marchibroda said.

"Everyone wants to be a starting quarterback in this league, that's what we all work for," Zeier said. "My No. 1 concern is helping this team win games. I'm not interested in starting a controversy."

The Ravens have other problems. They entered the game without right cornerback Eugene Daniel (hamstring tear) and free safety Rondell Jones (groin), who had started the previous 12 games.

That forced the Ravens to start second-year cornerback DeRon Jenkins in place of Daniel and move former starting cornerback Donny Brady into the dime and nickel coverages.

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