How close was Leftwich to being the Ravens' starter on draft day?
"If we had 30 more seconds on the clock," Ravens general manager Ozzie
Newsome said, "Leftwich would be our quarterback."
Boller is starting for the Ravens because of a busy signal.
Five months ago on draft day, the Ravens were within a connected phone call of handing in a card with Leftwich's name on it.
The Minnesota Vikings, who had the No. 7 pick, contacted the Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars with five minutes left in their 15-minute window to see which team would give up the most to trade up and select Leftwich. Minnesota, though, waited too long to get the best deal.
With 32 seconds left, the Ravens agreed to make the jump in exchange for fourth- and sixth-round picks, but couldn't inform the NFL of the deal. When the Ravens phoned league headquarters in New York, they got a busy signal as time expired on the Vikings' turn, which allowed the Jaguars to take Leftwich.
The Ravens subsequently drafted pass rusher Terrell Suggs with the 10th pick and traded up to get Boller at No. 19.
"It's been well documented on the way that it went down," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "The idea that we are sitting here with Kyle Boller and Terrell Suggs is exciting to us. These two young men (Boller and Leftwich) are going to battle each other, although not in the same division obviously now, for years and years to come. They are two very gifted, young quarterbacks that are going to be fun to watch."
As the Ravens have jumped out to a 4-3 start and first place in the AFC North, they have asked Boller to not lose games. He has the worst quarterback rating (62.2) among AFC starters, throwing five touchdowns and seven interceptions.
He took a step forward Sunday, when he threw for 137 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.
"You look up on ESPN and you'll see my stats and it'll be for 100 yards passing and people will say, 'Dah-dah-dah,'" Boller said. "But hey, we got the 'W' and that's what it is all about."
Leftwich has not fared much better while playing for a far worse team. In four starts for the 1-6 Jaguars, he has thrown nine interceptions and lost two fumbles. His quarterback rating is only slightly higher than Boller's at 70.3.
He was pulled in the fourth quarter Sunday for David Garrard.
Leftwich is limping from a sore ankle after getting it twisted in the Titans' loss. Coach Jack Del Rio did not think the injury would keep Leftwich from starting Sunday.
"We think he'll be OK," Del Rio said.
SERIES HISTORY: 14th meeting. The Jaguars lead the series, 8-5, but this rivalry
has been dictated by runs. Jacksonville won the first eight meetings and
Baltimore has won the last five. The Ravens have won the last three meetings in
Baltimore including the 17-10 victory last season. Ravens safety Will Demps
made his first interception at the goal line as time expired to preserve the
Lewis ran for 119 yards and Todd Heap had two touchdown
NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES
- It's been a rough first season as a head coach for Jacksonville's Jack Del
Rio, who was the Ravens linebackers coach from 1999 to 2001. Del Rio has dealt
with such incidents as Jimmy Smith's drug suspension, a quarterback
controversy with Mark
Brunell and Byron Leftwich and the ax accident with punter Chris
Jack has called and we have visited about some situations and he has asked for some input, I think that he has handled it very well," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "For a first-year head coach, he is handling it very well."
Unlike other coaches around the league, Billick refused to poke fun at the incident in which punter Chris Hanson gashed his leg with an ax that Del Rio had placed in the locker room.
"That was all well and good to joke about until a young man may have ended his career," Billick said. "It's not as funny as it was, initially. A lot of people had some fun with that and I did, too. Until you saw how serious it was, it ceased to be funny at that point so it's not something that I care to make light of."
- The Ravens are a win away from closing out the first half of the season at
5-3, a magic record for this franchise. The only two playoff berths in the
team's eight-year history -- including the Super Bowl championship three seasons
ago -- came when the Ravens won five of their first eight games.
"If we get to 5-3, winning in November and December is not only going to be big for us making the playoffs but will be big in us possibly getting a first-round bye," linebacker Ray Lewis said. "With what we have in front of us right now, it can be special again in Baltimore."
- The red zone has been a dead zone this season for the Ravens. In seven games,
the Ravens have scored seven touchdowns in 21 trips inside the 20-yard line,
including one in five red-zone opportunities Sunday.
"Put it on a list with a number of things," Billick said. "We'll look at it and try to get it done. The bottom line was that we won yesterday. As soon as we get that solved, something else will pop its head up, so we can discuss it."
- Though Ravens quarterback Kyle Boller looked to be in pain a couple of times
against the Broncos, coach Brian Billick never considered removing the rookie
from the game.
Boller took every snap for the Ravens despite nursing a sore left (non-throwing) shoulder that originally had him questionable last week.
"There is a difference between being hurt and being injured," Billick said. "Everybody hurts. He's a tough kid. At no point did it limit his play or he felt like he had to come out. He took a couple of shots, but we were watching it very closely and it didn't seem to inhibit him at all."
- In five seasons under Billick, the Ravens have a 21-4 record when they produce
a 100-yard rusher.
The Ravens have completed 59 percent of their passes for 3,059 yards and 23 touchdowns in 13 games against the Jaguars. They also average 96.5 yards against Jacksonville.
Running back Jamal Lewis is 23 yards shy of becoming the 14th player in NFL history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in his first three active seasons.
Receiver Travis Taylor, a Jacksonville native, needs one catch for 150 for his career.
The Ravens are 4-0 this season when forcing multiple turnovers. The Ravens are 3-1 against AFC South teams.
BY THE NUMBERS: 3.8 -- Average margin of victory by the Ravens in their
five-game winning streak over the Jaguars.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It would be nice to continue on a path that we started. If we win this week against Jacksonville and make a run in the second half of the year, we'll see if we can get this thing done. We still have to see everyone in the division again so there's a long way to go still." -- Ravens offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden on where his team sits as the first half of the season comes to a close.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Ravens are banged up in the secondary, where they could be without starting cornerback Corey Fuller (groin and hamstring) and nickel back Tom Knight (groin).
If Fuller can't play, the Ravens will move free safety Gary Baxter to cornerback and start Will Demps at free safety. It's not that drastic of a chance since Baxter started at corner and Demps played safety all of last season. In nickel situations, little-used Ray Walls would likely cover the slot receiver.
- CB Corey Fuller (hamstring and groin) did not practice and is not expected to start.
- CB Tom Knight (groin) is questionable and was limited in practice.
- TE Todd Heap (shoulder) is probable.
- RB Jamal Lewis (shoulder) is probable.
- LB Bart Scott (leg) is probable.
GAME PLAN: The Ravens anticipate a challenge in running the ball against
Jacksonville, which is ranked sixth in the NFL in stopping the run. That may
test the Ravens' run-oriented attack. The Ravens won't back off running the ball
but they will likely be more balanced and attack an injury-filled Jacksonville
Defensively, the key will be the same as last week against Denver -- stop the run first. The Ravens will try to force the Jaguars to become one-dimensional and then blitz rookie quarterback Byron Leftwich.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
- Ravens RB Jamal Lewis vs. Jaguars run defense -- Lewis remains atop of the league in rushing, averaging an astounding 5.9 yards per carry. Jacksonville has allowed 3.2 yards per carry, which is second-best in the NFL.
- Ravens CB Chris McAlister vs. Jaguars WR Jimmy Smith -- McAlister has shadowed the opponent's top receiver the past two weeks, holding Cincinnati's Peter Warrick and Denver's Rod Smith to a combined eight catches. Smith, who was suspended for the first four games, has caught 17 passes for 262 yards in three starts.
- Ravens pass rush vs. Jaguars QB Byron Leftwich -- The Ravens have two of the league's top rush ends in Peter Boulware and Terrell Suggs, who have totaled six sacks this season. A pure pocket passer, Leftwich has been sacked eight times in four starts.
INJURY IMPACT: Cornerback Corey Fuller (hamstring and groin) did not practice and is not expected to play. ... Nickel back Tom Knight (hamstring) could be a game-time decision.