Nemesis Smith gets touches, but no touchdowns

Receiver held in check by McAlister and company

Ravens 17, Jaguars 10

Nfl Week 7

October 21, 2002|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

Jimmy Smith's most significant play yesterday came early in the second quarter, when the Jacksonville Jaguars receiver blocked Ravens free safety Will Demps into the air and helped spring teammate Fred Taylor for a 30-yard gain.

The block that will be admired in today's film sessions aside, the Ravens' defense will gladly take the rest of Smith's performance in their 17-10 victory over the Jaguars. That is, no big plays and no touchdowns for the 10-year veteran who has been a terror for this franchise.

"We knew that Jimmy Smith was going to be the receiver in this game, and we knew that he was going to get his touches," said cornerback Gary Baxter, one of the defenders who limited to Smith to 63 yards on seven catches. "Our goal was to shut him down no matter who was on him."

Smith's numbers coming into yesterday - 22 catches for 337 yards - seem as ordinary as his name. But the receiver, who has the most catches and yardage of any receiver in the NFL in the past seven years, has a special history against the Ravens.

He has had six 100-yard receiving games against Baltimore in his career, including a 200-yard effort.

Unfortunately for the Jaguars, Smith's biggest play that didn't involve blocking was a 24-yard catch in the fourth quarter. It did come on a third-down play on a potential game-tying drive within the final two minutes. But it also raised the question of where he'd been the rest of the game.

He'd been relegated to an afterthought by the Ravens' array of coverages, highlighted by cornerback Chris McAlister, who was responsible for the receiver in most cases.

"We just wanted to execute our game plan," McAlister said. "The coverages were designed to give us the best chance not to let guys get loose."

The Ravens chose to sit on the Jacksonville inside routes - called "China Floods" - which Smith often depends on for receptions and yardage after the catch.

Baxter said secondary coach Donnie Henderson told the defensive backs throughout the week what to expect, and the Jaguars fulfilled those expectations.

"He kept telling us what they were going to run and who they were going to go to," Baxter said. "We honed in on Jimmy Smith and shut it down."

With Smith contained, Jacksonville countered with 197 yards of total offense from Taylor, but the passing game generated little steam. Quarterback Mark Brunell gained only 5 yards per pass attempt, was sacked twice and threw three interceptions, including one to Demps in the end zone in the game's final seconds.

"We took away half of their pass plays," linebacker Ed Hartwell said. "They wanted to throw to Jimmy, and when you take him away, you make the quarterback have to read other receivers instead of going to Jimmy all the time. That's frustrated the quarterback a bit."

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