Jaguars look to deep-six memory of two weeks ago

Jacksonsville offense eager to make amends for showing vs. Ravens

November 26, 1999|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

Tom Coughlin, master of safety-first football, shucked his conservative reputation like an oyster shell last Sunday.

The coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars went deep against the New Orleans Saints.

The result was a 494-yard offensive breakout, and repercussions were felt as far away as Baltimore, next stop in the Jaguars' giddy playoff caravan. That's just 362 yards more than the Jaguars managed in a punchless 6-3 victory over the Ravens two weeks ago.

Count wide receiver Jimmy Smith among those happy for a chance to expunge the memory of what might be the darkest victory in Jacksonville's five-year history so quickly, "while the memory is so fresh in our heads," Smith said.

"I'm glad to be getting back at these guys so soon because you don't want it to linger on to the end of the season and they end up getting us again."

Sunday's rematch at PSINet Stadium promises a heaping share of payback on one team's part, and almost certainly a sampling of the bombs-away philosophy the 9-1 Jaguars espoused in a 41-23 rout of the Saints.

In that Week 11 game, Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell threw seven deep balls, and accounted for 176 yards of his 351-yard passing total on just four completions.

Air Coughlin?

"We expect that every week because we consider ourselves a wide-open offense and we like big plays, just like every other offense in the league," said Smith, who had three gains of more than 40 yards among his nine receptions.

"I'm sure everyone wants to throw bombs up and down the field. [But] there are going to be some games where you're not going to get that."

Like the 6-3 game in Jacksonville, when the Jaguars had 85 net passing yards and a franchise-low 132 total yards against the Ravens. No bombs, no touchdowns, just aggravation.

"They took the deep ball away by doubling and running Rod Woodson over the top several times," Smith said. "They're improved in their secondary with DeRon Jenkins playing a lot better than he has ever played, and [Chris] McAlister has a lot of talent; he's big, strong and fast, and a good cover guy.

"Certainly, they've gotten better not only in the secondary, but as a total defense."

Chagrined by that performance, Coughlin challenged his offense to deliver big plays against the Saints.

"We felt like we needed to have a better mix," the coach said. "We felt like if we had some opportunities to throw the ball downfield [against New Orleans], we would do so."

Coughlin, who assumed play-calling duties this season when offensive coordinator Chris Palmer left to coach the Cleveland Browns, did his part. Of the Jaguars' 62 offensive plays, he called 35 passes. But it was on first down that Coughlin was most creative.

Of 30 first-down plays, he called 13 runs -- averaging 5.2 yards per carry -- and 17 passes. Brunell completed seven of 13 first-down throws for 164 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He was sacked three times and chased out of the pocket on another pass play.

All four of Jacksonville's offensive touchdowns were scored on first downs. Altogether, the Jaguars averaged a remarkable 7.2 yards on first down.

The new-look offense under Coughlin?

"It hasn't changed at all," Smith said. "The only difference is, we just weren't executing early in the season. He [Coughlin] does a good job creating a good mix of run and pass. Last year, I would say we were predictable because we ran the ball so much on first down. This year, we've changed that."

Most of the Jaguars' offensive numbers are comparable to last season. Touchdowns are down -- they're on a pace to score 40, or seven under last year's total -- but scoring is up. They're averaging 25.7 points a game to 24.5 a year ago.

The lack of big plays -- until last Sunday -- has been conspicuous. Either the Jaguars haven't thrown the ball downfield enough to make big plays, or they haven't capitalized when they do. The loss of play-making running back Fred Taylor for all or parts of six games to a hamstring injury hasn't helped, either.

Still, the Jaguars have one of the league's best receivers in Smith, a seven-year veteran. His 22 receptions of 40 yards or more since 1995 are the most in the NFL. His 4,672 receiving yards over the last 3 1/2 seasons also lead the league.

But when Smith pulled down 220 yards worth of passes last Sunday, it marked his first 100-yard effort in seven games. It is rare when Smith sees single coverage. So far this season, he said only the San Francisco 49ers, the Browns and the Saints have tried to cover him one-on-one. The Saints paid the biggest price.

"It was a matter of catching their defense in the right coverages, and it was all timing," Smith said. "Once we got a chance to catch them in single high coverage, we've got to take advantage of it because we don't feel we can be covered one-on-one, Keenan [McCardell] and myself."

Sunday in Baltimore, the Jaguars will try to make amends for their offensive performance two weeks ago. The passing game will be pivotal.

"Obviously, we got embarrassed," Smith said. "Their defense came and basically shut our offense down, so we want to prove to ourselves that we can bounce back from that embarrassing moment. They put it to us. You've got to give them a lot of credit."

Next for Ravens

Opponent: Jacksonville Jaguars

Site: PSINet Stadium

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV/Radio:Ch. 13/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)

Line: Jaguars by 7

Tickets: Sold out

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