Ravens hungry for 2nd helping

They, Jaguars reopen fresh wound from 6-3 standoff 2 weeks ago

Defense is out for respect

9-1 Jags `believed they played bad ... last time'

November 28, 1999|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

Today's game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Ravens is about respect.

The Ravens' defense believes it didn't get any from the Jaguars two weeks ago when it allowed just 132 yards of total offense in a 6-3 Jacksonville victory. The Jaguars (9-1) are trying to regain some because they feel they didn't play well offensively in that game.

Let the battle begin.

"They know we'll come after them. We know they'll attack us. We're fresh in each other's minds," said middle linebacker Ray Lewis, the Ravens' leading tackler with 136. "I'm glad we can play them in such a short time."

Said Ravens defensive end Michael McCrary: "This is a challenge for the whole team, but especially the defense. They believed they played a bad game the last time and that's the reason they lost. They won't give us any credit. We're out to take care of business."

The Ravens (4-6), though, have a lot more to gain than just respect if they win. It's a chance to climb back within a game of .500 with the Tennessee Titans (8-2) coming to Baltimore next week. It's also a chance to regain the fans' confidence. The Ravens are 12-15-1 at home since moving here from Cleveland nearly four years ago, 1-3 this season.

Before a team can even talk about playoffs, it has to take care of business in its own house.

"We recognize that this is a tremendous opportunity for us," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "I'm sure our fans recognize that. We need to play with the same intensity we showed against them at their place two weeks ago. We need to play with the same intelligence. One of the great things in sports is to let your play make your statement.

"You can argue that the Jaguars are the best team in the NFL right now," Billick said. "They have the best record. They are sound in every phase of the game. They are in their fifth year in the same system, and it shows. They do everything well, and the balance they have with an outstanding defense and a great offense is tough to match. That said, we know we can play with them. We don't have to say anything about our game in Jacksonville. Let us see what we can do."

Jacksonville comes into the game with the No. 1 ranked defense while the Ravens are No. 2, the same scenario as the first game. But the Jaguars opened up the offense last week in a 41-23 win over the New Orleans Saints as Mark Brunell threw for 351 yards and receiver Jimmy Smith had nine catches for 220 yards including a 54-yard touchdown.

Brunell had some of his best games against the Ravens until coach Tom Coughlin started calling the plays this season. The conservative approach was never more evident than two weeks ago, when the longest pass reception was for 11 yards.

The Ravens want to prove that it just wasn't Coughlin's play-calling, but their defense that made the game close.

"Our fans deserve better than what we have given them," McCrary said. "They have shown great support, and this is a game we need to take. We have to play with the same intensity we did last time, but also improve on our overall game. We want to play mistake-free football. We have to improve on our field position and force turnovers."

The Ravens should get a break today if Jacksonville running back Fred Taylor does not play. Taylor, who has been bothered by a hamstring injury, was downgraded to doubtful Friday morning. His cutback ability gives the Ravens problems.

It also will be interesting to see how the Ravens play receivers Smith and Keenan McCardell. In the past, the Ravens have played them soft or off the line of scrimmage. The Jaguars threw a lot of hitch passes and short slant-in routes last game against the Ravens, but the game plan will probably change today.

"It all depends on how many mistakes they feel they made last time," Ravens cornerback Duane Starks said. "If they feel they made a lot, then we'll see a big difference in their game plan. I think they will try to go deep more and use a little more play-action."

Offensively, the Ravens will probably take more risks today than in the three previous weeks when they were on the road. Quarterback Tony Banks, making his fifth straight start, probably will audible-ize more because he doesn't have to deal with crowd noise.

The Ravens have to stay mistake-free and do a better job of pass protecting, especially the running backs, than they did a week ago when they allowed seven sacks against the Cincinnati Bengals. Jacksonville is a zone-blitz team and has 41 sacks this season.

"We're getting a little better every week on offense," Billick said. "Tony is more comfortable, more efficient and he's making more plays. Our line and backs did not have a very good day against the Bengals."

Billick said running back Errict Rhett had to improve his pass protection, or "the opportunity will be presented to" Priest Holmes, the No. 2 back. "That's not a veiled threat," the coach said. "Errict knows that's what got him fired before. Overall, they have been playing sound. We need to win the field position battle. They had us in the hole all day in Jacksonville."

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