Smith, McCardell allow Jaguars to play catch-up

Receiving duo out-gains Ravens with 234 air yards, 5 catches on winning drive

November 29, 1999|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

On what amounted to the biggest play of the game on fourth-and-one at the Ravens' 34 late in the fourth quarter, Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell turned to Keenan McCardell for a 4-yard completion.

But it might as well have been Jimmy Smith.

Either one of the two could have done it, and both torched the Ravens for 100-yard receiving days, the first two receivers to accomplish that this season.

The duo is known as "Thunder and Lightning" in Jacksonville, and the combination worked to perfection in the Jaguars' 30-23 win over the Ravens.

"Thunder comes, then comes the lightning with the big strike," said McCardell, who had eight catches for 102 yards and a touchdown. "It doesn't matter who it is. We are going to make something happen. When you hear the rumbling of the thunder, you better watch out because here comes the lightning."

The last drive was a good illustration of that. Brunell's first three completions went to Smith, who finished with 10 catches for 132 yards and a touchdown. After one to running back James Stewart, the next two completions, including the pivotal fourth down, went to McCardell. Smith closed the drive by catching a two-point conversion after a 4-yard touchdown run by Stewart.

The two's combined 234 yards and 18 completions both topped the Ravens' receiving corps, which finished with 17 catches for 214 yards.

"We just hope that we can continue to be as productive in our offense each week," Smith said. "We can't have two good weeks then come back next week and not have good production."

Smith said he knew the receivers would need a good game for Jacksonville to win because of the absence of starting running back Fred Taylor.

It helped that Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin opened up the offense for the second straight week, putting the ball in the air 47 times and allowing his big-play receivers to make plays.

Coughlin realized he had to, after scoring only six points against the Ravens in the win in Florida two weeks ago.

"We'd been asking for it all year, just to go at people," McCardell said. "We felt like we were clicking. We just wanted to take our chances at them.

"Me and Jimmy laugh, saying, `Let's put it on our shoulders.' Even last week, we were like put it on our shoulders like the old days."

It looked eerily similar to the old days, when the Ravens' defense had problems stopping the Jaguars' offense.

Smith and McCardell each caught more than 100 yards in the first meeting last season. McCardell said that the Ravens' secondary is much improved over previous years even though he and Smith again put up big numbers.

The secondary did keep from getting burned deep by the duo, with McCardell making the longest catch of the day at 24 yards.

But that was partly because at times the Ravens were playing 9 yards off the line of scrimmage against the receivers.

"You have to because if you don't, I'm going to run by you," Smith said. "They did the smart thing. I would play 10 yards off me, too. And they kept me from catching the deep ball.

"They played well. I have the utmost respect for their secondary. They've got a lot of young talent. [Chris] McAlister is going to be a great defensive back in the days to come."

Where the duo really stepped up was in third-down efficiency, catching five of the nine conversions, with McCardell getting four. The two combined for 15 of the Jaguars' 24 first downs.

"I don't think we were worried about them exploding on us," McAlister said. "We knew we had the type of speed to run with them. They are very talented athletes, and they go out and make plays."

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