Brunell, Jaguars come up just short

QB gives Ravens fits, but can't pull out victory

Ravens 18, Jaguars 17

October 29, 2001|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

A savvy, veteran quarterback with a live arm and a dependable set of wide receivers nearly victimized the Ravens again.

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell threw, ran and executed an almost flawless game plan for 46 minutes in an 18-17 loss to the Ravens at PSINet Stadium yesterday.

The nine-year veteran's performance - which included connecting on 25 of 37 passes for 306 yards and two touchdowns - was reminiscent of Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre's dissection of the Ravens two weeks ago.

The only - and most notable - difference is that Favre and his teammates emerged with the victory. Meanwhile, Brunell and the Jaguars (2-4) had to swallow their fourth consecutive loss.

"We did some good things today, but not enough," Brunell said. "It's unfortunate because it was a game within our grasp."

Brunell certainly did his part to help the Jaguars break their skid. Not only did he power the Jacksonville offense to a 17-6 lead with only the fourth quarter left to play, but he also rushed for a team-high 55 yards on just four carries.

Asked to recall what he was thinking after he ran 38 yards through the middle of the field on a Jacksonville drive that ended with a field goal to tie the game 3-3, Brunell replied, "Oxygen. Just oxygen."

Brunell's ability to roll out of the pocket to buy time paid dividends on the Jaguars' first play of the fourth quarter. Avoiding a pass rush, Brunell ranged to his left, checked off a couple of receivers, and finally drilled an 11-yard pass to Stacey Mack in the left corner of the end zone for a 17-6 lead.

"We really don't want to wait until the last minute to throw the ball," Brunell admitted. "We want to get that ball out of my hands as quick as possible ... Guys kept moving, Mack got uncovered, and we were able to hit him."

His two favorite targets, Keenan McCardell and Jimmy Smith, combined for 17 receptions, finished with 118 and 119 yards, respectively, and set an NFL record of recording 100 yards of receiving in the same game for the ninth time in their careers.

"Mark played an outstanding game," Smith said. "He didn't have a lot of time, but he hung in there and made plays. ... When he plays like that, we're going to respond."

But as well as Brunell played, he couldn't help but wish for another shot on Jacksonville's second-to-last drive of the game.

Brunell and company marched from their own 20-yard line to the Ravens' 43-yard line with two minutes left in the game.

But an ill-advised screen pass of 1 yard to Mack on second down and an overthrown ball to McCardell on third down left the Jaguars with a fourth-and-five situation. With Ravens defensive tackle Sam Adams lumbering toward him, Brunell threw the ball too far ahead for McCardell to catch.

"He made a nice cut. Just missed it," Brunell said. "When the game's on the line, you've got to be able to stand there and deliver the ball even with pressure in your face, and I missed it."

Still, Brunell said the team would draw some positives.

"As far as confidence is concerned, I think the team, as much as this hurts to walk away from, can feel good about the effort," he said.

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