Fumbles leave sour taste with Brookins

One is costly, dampening 2-touchdown performance

Ravens 24, Jaguars 21

November 26, 2001|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Ravens running back Jason Brookins carried the ball the number of times he wanted (32), scored the number of touchdowns he wanted (two) and was able to bask in the success of having defeated his former team for the second time this year.

Still, what stuck out for Brookins after the Ravens' 24-21 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars yesterday at ALLTEL Stadium were the fumbles, and how he could have prevented them.

Brookins fumbled twice, both times in crucial situations. He recovered the ball the first time, but failed to do so the second, and the Jaguars capitalized with an eight-play drive ending in a 3-yard touchdown run by Stacey Mack that put Jacksonville up 21-17 with 1:32.

That second fumble was caused by linebacker Danny Clark's hit, one that upended Brookins at the Ravens' 40. It was recovered by end Tony Brackens."[Clark] just hit my hand on the ball," Brookins said. "But they weren't very physical. I was tearing their butts up until that point. I have to talk a little trash, but I have to focus on my mistakes. I can't allow that if I'm going to be a good back in this league."

Brookins finished with 82 yards on 32 carries against a team with which he spent part of last year on the practice squad.

He and Moe Williams combined for 113 yards - displaying tough inside running that may have helped wear down the Jaguars' defense, which was unable to hold a four-point lead with 1:26 left.

But the fumbles kept it from being a great day.

"Well, he learned," Ravens coach Brian Billick said of Brookins. "We've been lucky this year in that we've learned some tough lessons that haven't cost us. It was a hell of a hit. But Jason understands better now than he did."

Ravens tight end Shannon Sharpe gave Brookins some advice - fumblers get reputations quick.

"Brookins did a great job of running the football," Sharpe said. "The thing is, he has to understand that it's getting around the league: `If you put the helmet on Brookins, he'll put the ball on the ground.' He's the only one that can stop it. He has to take it upon himself to take care of the football.

"All the talking Brian and [running backs coach] Matt [Simon] and we do on the sidelines is not going to do anything. But they were hitting - Donovin Darius and those guys."

The first time Brookins coughed up the ball was on linebacker T.J. Slaughter's hit at the Jacksonville 1-yard line on the Ravens' opening possession of the second half.

Brookins pursued the ball and arrived at the same time as Brackens, according to the officials. A tie goes to the offensive team, and Brookins scored a touchdown on the next play, putting the Ravens up 17-0 four minutes into the second half.

Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin did not like the call.

"You fumble the ball, it's our ball," Coughlin said. "How could he come up in there and say the ball is shared? I've never heard that call. It's the bottom of the pile; who has the ball gets the ball. There was nothing to see, and you couldn't review it. Brackens ran around the field with the ball. You saw it. I'm not making it up."

Even with the problems, Billick still trusted Brookins enough to give him a shot at the go-ahead touchdown with 19 seconds left and the Ravens at the Jaguars' 1-yard line. Slaughter tripped Brookins up, forcing a two-yard loss that could have been a redemption touchdown.

The Ravens scored on the next play when quarterback Elvis Grbac found Sharpe.

"That guy [Slaughter] just made a great play," Brookins said. "But I had my share of good runs."

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