Brookins' swagger is boost of confidence for Ravens

Meeting doubts head on, rookie runs for 82 yards

Ravens 18, Jaguars 17

October 29, 2001|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

During the first two months of the regular season, Ravens fans and NFL observers wondered where the defending Super Bowl champions' swagger went, as boasts and taunts disappeared before their dominance.

Enter Jason Brookins, the first-year running back who has gone from obscurity in August to what could be a starring role down the NFL stretch. When the Ravens go to Jacksonville on Thanksgiving weekend, the Jaguars will be reminded of the load Brookins carried for Baltimore in yesterday's 18-17 victory and the claims he made afterward.

Brookins established career highs with 19 carries, 82 yards and a 23-yard ramble, but it wasn't as if he had much of a career to speak of before his first NFL start. A 25-year-old out of Division II Lane College, Brookins finished last year on the Jaguars' practice squad and got one carry in the Ravens' first two games this season.

"I'm always confident," Brookins said. "I'm arrogant, I really am. I just haven't had a chance to show it."

The Ravens had 124 yards at intermission - their least productive half of the season - with a pass-happy attack in which Randall Cunningham threw 20 times and Brookins got four carries. "They had a good scheme," Brookins said of the Jaguars. "I was down there last year. They know I can play. They were trying to get Randall to beat us. They were not going to let me beat us."

The Ravens went back to basics in the second half, when Cunningham attempted 11 passes and handed off to Brookins 15 times, carries that produced 77 yards. The 23-yarder - behind the maligned right side of the line, no less - punctuated a possession that got the Ravens a 6-3 lead.

"They [the Jaguars] got kind of soft after that," Brookins said. "They weren't coming in aggressively, didn't want to tackle, so I just said, `Forget it, I'm not going to try to juke anybody; I'm just going to run them over.' After I started running them over, they started getting out of my way."

He was responsible for the Ravens' only turnover of the day, as a Cunningham dump pass in the third quarter glanced off the helmet of a Jaguars defensive lineman and Brookins' right hand to linebacker Hardy Nickerson. It was the bridge between two Jacksonville touchdowns that put the Ravens in a 17-6 hole, but Brookins kept running hard.

He had solid first-down gains of 4 and 5 yards on the Ravens' first touchdown drive, and finished it with a 2-yard dive.

"I'm unstoppable from 2 yards out," Brookins said. "No one can stop me from 2 yards. I'm 240 pounds. I can do that 10 times out of 10. I had good lead blocking from Sam [Gash], and I just ran it in hard for the score."

Forget quarterback. Do the Ravens have a running back controversy?

"If Terry [Allen] comes back next week, and they say he's the starter, I'll go back to doing what I was doing," a suddenly humble Brookins said. "I want my team to win. I want to go back to the Super Bowl, be a part of whatever it takes for us to win a game."

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