Secondary breaks down

Ravens search for answers after Jaguars exploit defensive backfield's mistakes

Ravens Gameday

Jaguars 30 Ravens 3


JACKSONVILLE, FLA. -- On the whole, members of the Ravens' secondary have not needed much introspection after games this season. That ended yesterday when the team was handed a 30-3 loss by the Jacksonville Jaguars, with a couple of breakdowns in the defensive backfield helping lead to the lopsided score.

"Today was the first time our breakdowns got exposed," cornerback Samari Rolle said. "I was guilty of one of the breakdowns. It was just one of those things. Today was probably our worst game of the year."

Jaguars quarterback Byron Leftwich threw for 211 yards, including a 32-yard touchdown pass to Matt Jones in the second quarter, giving his team a 7-3 lead.

Jones split through a couple of defenders in the middle of the field, got himself one-on-one with Chris McAlister and beat him to a spot in the back half of the end zone for the touchdown. Jones, a rookie out of Arkansas, also had a 36-yard catch in the third quarter, one that came over Deion Sanders and set his team up at the Ravens' 4.

Greg Jones scored on a 1-yard run two plays later to put the Jaguars up 17-3. Matt Jones later caught a 42-yard pass from Leftwich, again over McAlister.

As for Jones' catch over Sanders, the Ravens' nickel back turned around to his teammates immediately afterward as if he were expecting help. It led him to challenge his teammates after the game.

"Evaluate yourself individually and ask yourself the question: `Are you doing whatever it takes to help this team win?' " Sanders said.

"Am I giving it all I can for this team? Am I studying? Am I doing whatever it takes to be successful? You have to ask yourself that and come back with an honest answer and evaluate that."

Let Sanders be the first to pose the question inward. His answer?

"Today was the first time I got a ball in three games," Sanders said. "We screwed up coverage. Anybody can see what happened on that. But I'm giving it all I've got. You can ask the guys on defense, when I run in the game, I'm happy, excited and trying to make a play."

It has been an uneventful year for Sanders, who has no interceptions after recording three last year. Sanders, though, serves as a microcosm for a defense that has not produced a turnover in three of the nine games this season, including yesterday.

Of course, the secondary was without last year's NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Ed Reed, and cornerback/safety Dale Carter. Zach Norton, who was on the practice squad most of this season, was signed Saturday and played in the game.

"We only had six healthy [defensive backs]," Rolle said. "A lot of our packages, we can't run. But that's no excuse. You get paid to do a job, and right now we just aren't doing it."

Despite not forcing many turnovers this year, the Ravens had not given up too many long passes. Before yesterday, the Ravens had given up four passes of 30 yards or more. Matt Jones, alone, had three.

"That's all part of the game," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "We'd been pretty good that way this year. But we weren't able to hold up today."

Said Sanders: "We can do much, much better. Giving up big plays, it's frustrating to me because it doesn't make sense not to come out of this game in a better situation in our secondary."

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