Ravens: no replay vs. Jags

Team determined to avoid repeat of Bengals upset

November 02, 2003|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

A rivalry linked by close calls and a busy signal could be disconnected today.

Barring any unforeseen difficulties - did someone say instant replay? - the fortunes of the Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars will be further separated at M&T Bank Stadium.

A victory would put the Ravens (4-3) atop their division heading into the second half of a season for the first time in franchise history. A loss would continue the unraveling of the Jaguars (1-6), who have dealt with a suspension, an arrest, a quarterback controversy and an ax accident in the locker room this season.

But before you can say timber, the Ravens have repeatedly stressed that Jacksonville isn't going to lay down for them.

"You can't go in thinking about them being 1-6," Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said. "We learned that a couple weeks ago from the Bengals. So we are not going through something like that again. They are wounded right now and that is the scariest people to play because they will come out and give it all they've got."

Historically, nothing comes easy for the Ravens against Jacksonville.

After losing the first eight meetings in the series, the Ravens have won the past five by an average margin of 3.8 points.

The Jaguars, though, have been moving away from their past this season, albeit tripping most of the way. Rookie Byron Leftwich has taken over for Mark Brunell at quarterback, and former Ravens linebackers coach Jack Del Rio has replaced Tom Coughlin as coach.

"It's still Jacksonville," Ravens offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden said. "They've given us battles in the past. They're going to come out and play hard. Jack Del Rio doesn't want to come up here and lose to Brian Billick. I know they're going to be ready to play."

Being ready to play on the field has been tough for the Jaguars after being hit with all the distractions off it.

The turmoil started with receiver Jimmy Smith's substance-abuse suspension. Then there was the debate about whether Brunell or Leftwich should start. On Tuesday, the club released linebacker T.J. Slaughter after he was arrested for allegedly brandishing a handgun at two teenagers.

But the Jaguars became the punch line of the league for an ax accident a month ago, when punter Chris Hanson gashed his lower leg while chopping a tree stump in the locker room. The stump was part of a motivational ploy by Del Rio to get the players to "keep chopping wood."

The ax and stump were removed, but the bad luck has lingered.

When asked whether these problems have played a role in the worst start of the franchise's nine-year history, Del Rio said, "It is hard to say for sure. You would like ideally not to deal with it, and I am sure that everyone around the league deals with some. But we have had more than our fair share."

Despite the different directions the Ravens and Jaguars are headed this season, their paths crossed six months ago on draft day. The Ravens were within a connected phone call of handing in a card with Leftwich's name on it.

Trying to work a trade with the Minnesota Vikings to move up to take him, the Ravens got a busy signal as time expired. As a result, the Jaguars drafted Leftwich with the No. 7 pick and the Ravens ultimately traded up to select Kyle Boller at No. 19.

"We like what we got," Billick said. "This comparison is probably going to go on for a long, long time."

Said Boller: "I know he was [the Ravens'] first choice, but I'm a Baltimore Raven now. And I'm happy as can be."

Boller and Leftwich - the league's only current starting rookie quarterbacks -have experienced growing pains.

Boller, the lowest-rated passer in the AFC, has completed 53.1 percent of his passes, with 982 yards, five touchdowns and seven interceptions. Leftwich, who is rated only three spots above Boller, has connected on 58.5 percent of his throws, with 1,105 yards, six touchdowns and nine interceptions.

But Boller may have the edge today since Leftwich is the one who has to face the Ravens' defense, which has not surrendered a touchdown in 74 minutes, 53 seconds.

"I think we can get into any rookie's head one way or another," Lewis said. "They do like to throw the ball a lot. Hopefully, we can get to him a little bit and shake him up."

The key, however, is to not let the Jaguars' poor start get into the Ravens' head. It was only two weeks ago when the Ravens turned the ball over three times in an upset loss to Cincinnati.

"That's the same thing we're going through right now," tight end Todd Heap said. "We know they're better than 1-6. So, we can't sleep on them."

Ravens today

Matchup: Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6) vs. Ravens (4-3)

Site: M&T Bank Stadium

Time: 1 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)

Line: Ravens by 6 1/2Inside

Scouting report, rosters, statistics and more. [Page 14e]

Keeping it close

The Ravens have won five straight games against the Jacksonville Jaguars, but all of the wins have come by seven points or fewer. A look at the close calls:

Year Result Key play

2000 Ravens, 39-36 Sharpe 29-yard TD catch with 0:41 left

2000 Ravens, 15-10 McAlister INT seals win with 0:53 left

2001 Ravens, 18-17 Ismail 2-yard TD catch with 4:07 left

2001 Ravens, 24-21 Sharpe 3-yard TD catch with 0:09 left

2002 Ravens, 17-10 Demps INT at goal line as time expires

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