There was no suspense in Jaguars- Ravens V. The previous four games were decided by a combined nine points, but this time Jacksonville scored two third-quarter touchdowns and finished with 519 yards of total offense to easily defeat the Ravens, 24-10, yesterday in an AFC Central Division game before 67,069 at Alltel Stadium.
The loss was tough for the Ravens (1-2) on several fronts. Most importantly, third-year middle linebacker Ray Lewis will miss at least the next two weeks because of a dislocated left elbow he injured on the last play of the first quarter.
But even if the Ravens had Lewis, they were no match for Jacksonville (3-0), which took over sole possession of first place in the division yesterday. Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell finished with 376 yards passing, including 10 combined receptions to receivers Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell for 224 yards and running back Fred Taylor had 128 yards rushing.
Neither Ravens quarterbacks Jim Harbaugh nor Eric Zeier were effective moving the offense, which had a misleading 313 total yards, but had only three offensive plays on nine different possessions. Ineptness? The Ravens' Kyle Richardson had 10 punts.
The Ravens' dud of a performance came on a day when they had a chance to tie for first place in the division and gain some national notoriety in the AFC. Instead, the Ravens got slapped by reality: they are a team that still can't win two big games in a row.
"We got it thrown right in our face," Ravens defensive end Michael McCrary said of the hype surrounding the Ravens' 24-10 road victory over the New York Jets last week. "We missed too many tackles. We got beat by a wounded team."
Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda said: "We didn't block them, we didn't get the running game going, we didn't tackle, and you can't beat a good football team like that. This is our seventh game [including preseason games] and we haven't played like this. Then all of a sudden, the biggest game of our life and -- boom -- they come up with a game like this. This is a disappointing loss."
Lewis went down after tackling Taylor for a 1-yard loss, and as he planted to brace himself, his elbow and shoulder were pinned to the ground by defensive tackle Tony Siragusa, who was also in on the tackle. Lewis is expected to get an MRI this morning.
"Some of the guys have to take a reality check," said Lewis. "You don't know who is going to go down or when they are going to go down. When it happens, other people have to step up."
Instead, a lot of the Ravens backed up. The score was tied 10-10 at the half, but Jacksonville scored on the third play of the third quarter when Brunell threw a 10-yard pass to Smith, who turned it into a 72-yard touchdown run down the right sideline.
Ravens cornerback Rod Woodson blitzed from the corner and free safety Corey Harris tried to knock down the short pass. Instead, Harris missed and Smith easily outran strong safety Stevon Moore for the touchdown.
"I tried to make the play, but didn't," said Harris, who was filling in for the injured Kim Herring, out one to three more weeks with a dislocated left shoulder. "In that situation, you either knock it down or you get a pick. I blew it. It was one of those plays you would like to have over."
The Jaguars controlled the game from that point on. On the next series, Jacksonville went 80 yards in 14 plays as Brunell completed the drive with a 1-yard touchdown pass in the right flat to tight end Damon Jones. The big play in the drive was a third-and-21 at the Ravens' 45 and Brunell completed a 22-yard pass to Reggie Barlow in front of cornerback DeRon Jenkins.
"Losing Ray Lewis was a major letdown. He's the cornerstone of our defense," said Ravens outside linebacker Peter Boulware. "Tyrus [second-year linebacker Tyrus McCloud] stepped in and did a great job, but when a player goes down, others have to step up. We didn't get it done."
Boulware was one of the few exceptions, but it's no secret that when the Ravens don't get a pass rush, their weak secondary is exposed. But this was not a great day for the Ravens' other linebackers either, such as Jamie Sharper and McCloud. Taylor had nine receptions for 85 yards, most of those on swing passes out of the backfield, one for 41 yards.
"The plays they hurt us with early in the game, they're the same ones they ran last year," said Woodson. "We didn't have a solution today. I kept seeing guys running downfield and it wasn't a Raven. My son could have went out there today and caught some long passes against us."
Trailing 24-10 at the end of the third period, the Ravens still had some chances, but Harbaugh wasn't going to lead the rally. Where was Captain Comeback? He hasn't lived up to his nickname in the Ravens' first three games this season.
"I'm well aware of that. I'm not happy with it," said Harbaugh.
Marchibroda replaced Harbaugh with Zeier with 8: 38 left in the second quarter after Harbaugh completed four of nine passes for 59 yards and led the Ravens to a Matt Stover 25-yard field goal with 1: 29 remaining in the first period.
JTC Marchibroda said he went with Zeier to ignite his offense, not because the tendinitis in Harbaugh's right elbow or the hyper-extended ring finger on his right throwing hand were causing problems. Harbaugh, though, didn't seem to get the green light to throw downfield as much as Zeier and was replaced after three straight running plays.
"I'm not talking for Ted, but Eric is a pretty hot quarterback," said Harbaugh. "I had an opportunity, I didn't get it done. I guess Ted had a gut feeling for what he wanted to do and he went with it. I'm not going to second-guess him. We came in here to get a win and we didn't accomplish that. We have to find a way to move the ball downfield with 12- to 14-play drives, not just in big chunks."
The Ravens wanted to be a power running team this season, but thus far haven't established the run with any consistency. The Ravens had 81 yards yesterday on 25 attempts, 67 on 20 carries from second-year running back Jay Graham. Veteran running back Errict Rhett didn't play because of a hamstring injury.
Once the team fell behind in the third quarter, the Ravens were forced to abandon the run and throw. Zeier, who had a 56-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter to receiver Jermaine Lewis, was 13 of 25 for 189 yards for the game. The Ravens showed little desire to throw downfield early in the game.
Marchibroda said he will decrease the amount of running plays the Ravens use in preparation for the Cincinnati Bengals next week. Left guard Wally Williams said the Ravens didn't use all the running plays against Jacksonville they practiced last week and he felt the running game was going fine until the third quarter.
"It's Ted's prerogative," said left offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden. "The coaches call the plays, we just go out and execute them."
Zeier said: "I don't know if we did quite what we wanted to do running the ball, but when you get behind late in the game, you have to throw the ball a little more. They put some pressure on us and made some adjustments in the second half."