Fourth-quarter flop nothing new for Jags

Ravens' winning drive adds to defensive woes

Ravens 24, Jaguars 21

November 26, 2001|By Bart Hubbuch | Bart Hubbuch,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Jacksonville Jaguars' fourth-quarter defensive collapses are so predictable, even the opponent knows they're coming.

So said frustrated Jaguars defensive tackle Gary Walker after yet another late folding act by the Jaguars' defense yesterday resulted in a 24-21 victory for the Ravens.

"It's almost like they know what [defense] we're going to be in when that situation happens, so they've already got their calls laid out," Walker said, shaking his head. "It's not like the Ravens were talking a lot out there. They just knew what they were going to run and what we were going to run."

Walker was referring to the Ravens' game-winning touchdown march in the final seconds yesterday, but he just as easily could have been talking about Cleveland, Buffalo, Tennessee or the Ravens that he and the Jaguars saw a month ago.

All of the above did pretty much the same thing the Ravens accomplished yesterday - drive the length of the field easily in the fourth quarter against a soft Jaguars defense for the game-winning points.

"This might have surprised me two or three weeks ago, but not now," Jaguars defensive tackle Seth Payne said. "This just keeps happening to us. We've got to stop it somehow."

Once again, however, the Jaguars' defenders and embattled defensive coordinator Gary Moeller had no answer for an opponent's driving in the game's final minutes.

With quarterback Elvis Grbac completing five of seven passes (not including two spikes) for 74 yards against primarily a three-man rush and soft zone coverage, the Ravens - starting with 1:32 left - drove 74 yards in nine plays for the winning points.

The drive ended with Grbac tossing a 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end Shannon Sharpe against out-of-position Jaguars safety Ainsley Battles. Sharpe made a diving catch for the score, dragging his feet just inside the end line.

"They just kept finding the little soft spots in the zone and took advantage of them," Jaguars middle linebacker Hardy Nickerson said.

The game-winning march renewed the heated debate inside the Jaguars' locker room about whether the players or the scheme is at fault for the repeated fourth-quarter defensive breakdowns.

The players continue to blame Moeller's system, which calls mostly for zone coverage. The Jaguars also were angered by the lack of pressure on Grbac on the final drive, when Moeller had the Jaguars go primarily to a three-man rush."[We should] have a four-man rush going, and play safeties over top, with man [coverage] underneath," cornerback Aaron Beasley said. "Either way, you have to have people in [the quarterback's] face."

Fellow cornerback Fernando Bryant was even more blunt with his criticism of Moeller's scheme.

"Something has to be adjusted," Bryant said. "If it's the players, [then the coaches] should say it's the players. But if it's not the players, then say it's not the players."

Moeller and the Jaguars' assistants aren't allowed to speak to the media, but coach Tom Coughlin continues to say it's his players' responsibility to make defensive plays with the game on the line.

"You have to be able to play for 60 minutes, and you have to be able to handle anything," Coughlin said. "This is something we've floundered on defensively."

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