Statement to be made either way

Win over Jaguars would lift Ravens to 2-0, Central lead

Lose? Status quo remains

Jacksonville holds 8-0 record in series

September 10, 2000|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

The Jacksonville Jaguars arrive at PSINet Stadium today with a certain swagger, a two-year reign over the AFC Central Division, and a long-running theme of dominance over the Ravens.

By nightfall, either the swagger and the dominance will be shattered, or the reign will be lodged unmistakably in the Ravens' throats.

D-day - as in domination - is here with this Week 2 confrontation. But the Jaguars' eight-game winning streak over the Ravens is only part of the bigger picture.

The Ravens want what the Jaguars have, and that runs all the way to their position of prominence in the AFC.

"I don't think there's a statement to the league to be made," said Ravens safety Rod Woodson, "but we know if we want to win the AFC Central, get into the playoffs and be a contender, we've got to beat these guys.

"They've won the AFC Central the last two years. If we want to be there and be among the elite in this league, we have to beat the people who've been there. And they've been there."

The Ravens (1-0) not only are playing for the division lead, but also are attempting to go 2-0 for the first time in their five-year history.

If they are going to evict the Jaguars (1-0) from first place, it almost certainly will be on the strong arm of a defense that has grown in leaps and bounds in confidence since last year's coming-out campaign.

And, yes, a victory over the Jaguars would make quite a statement.

"I think it would let other teams know that we're serious, that we are on our way," said defensive end Michael McCrary. "We've never beaten them before, so it'd be a landmark. And it would give us more confidence, because they are a good, quality team."

Confidence won't be the issue today as much as a fourth-quarter mentality the Ravens have been lacking in the Jacksonville series. Led by quarterback Mark Brunell, the Jaguars have made fourth-quarter heroics a routine against Baltimore. Five of the eight games have been decided by three points or fewer.

"We match up with them very well," middle linebacker Ray Lewis said. "[But] they have this little swagger, a sense that `the Ravens can't beat us.' It's like a mind-set that late in the fourth quarter, somebody is going to make a play.

"That's our focus now. We want to set our own standard. Our attitude is, we don't believe anybody can move the ball on us for 60 minutes."

The Jaguars struggled against the Ravens for nearly 50 minutes of last year's game in Baltimore. The Ravens took a 16-7 lead into the final quarter before the Jaguars erupted for 23 points to steal a 30-23 triumph.

How did the Jaguars do it?

Brunell threw a touchdown pass, defensive end Tony Brackens returned an interception for a score and, in the closing minutes, the Jaguars drove 78 yards to the winning touchdown.

"It's nothing they do," said Woodson of the Ravens' fourth-quarter woe. "We break down. I watched film, and last year we broke down a lot. Maybe we're getting too excited. We're not playing our coverages right as a defense. We're giving them opportunities."

In the parlance of sport, the Jaguars have the Ravens' number. If nothing else, that's a mental advantage Jacksonville carries into tight games and tight situations.

"A lot of it's mental, a lot of it's confidence," Ravens defensive end Rob Burnett said. "A lot of times, when you're a team that has the other team's number, no matter what the score is, when the fourth quarter begins, you have the feeling you're going to be able to pull it out, no matter what happens."

McCrary says the Ravens don't have a mental block against Jacksonville, the streak notwithstanding.

"I think in our situation this year, we come into the season with a type of pride that the Baltimore Ravens have never seen before," he said. "I don't think the past with Jacksonville has really put any doubt in our mind.

"I think we're confident we are capable of beating them, as long as we minimize our mental mistakes and stick to our program."

Neither does their Jacksonville past haunt the Ravens, Woodson said.

"I think it bothers us; I know it bothers me," he said. "I'm looking at the game here last year, and we're winning into the fourth quarter.

"We blew coverages; we did stupid things on defense. Some of them were me. I was really disappointed. But that's why God let's you wake up in the morning, if you're blessed. And we have another season; we have another game against these guys, so you get a chance for redemption."

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