Ravens gut out sloppy win over Jaguars

BALTIMORE - The pain was starting to subside in Ray Lewis' chest from the football being jammed between his solar plexus and the ground.

Ravens coach Brian Billick, an outspoken critic of the replay system, walked over to Lewis and told him to get ready to stop Leftwich again.
"I told Brian, 'As much as my chest hurt, I promise you I caught that football,'" Lewis said. "When you grab the ball so hard to make sure the referee doesn't take it away from you, you kind of squeeze it to your chest. The ground doesn't give, and I forgot that."
Lewis' faith that he secured safety Will Demps' deflection was fulfilled. The interception was upheld as the Ravens completed a sloppy 24-17 victory over the Jaguars on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium. 
There would be no fourth-down try for Jacksonville (1-7) in losing its sixth consecutive game to Baltimore (5-3). Ravens rookie quarterback Kyle Boller kneeled twice to run out the clock.
In extending their lead in the AFC North to two games over the Cincinnati Bengals, the Ravens exploited Leftwich's miscues in the fourth quarter for the deciding 10 points.
By comparison, Boller's mistakes, a botched handoff for a fumble when he collided with fullback Alan Ricard and an incorrect read for an interception, were relatively benign.
The Ravens overcame NFL rushing leader Jamal Lewis being held to 68 yards on 21 carries. Lewis gained 1,000 yards for the third time (1,045 yards) while his string of six consecutive 100-yard rushing performances was halted.
"We understood coming in that he was that engine that runs their train," Jacksonville safety Donovin Darius said. "There's no such thing as a moral victory."
Tight end Todd Heap staked Baltimore to a 7-0 lead with a 33-yard touchdown catch down the middle of the field as he easily sprinted past linebacker Akin Ayodele. Then, Baltimore sealed the game with Lewis' interception.
The Ravens acknowledged that this wasn't a sterling performance heading into demanding road games against the St. Louis Rams and the Miami Dolphins. They'll accept the result, though.
"I told Ray, 'I started it. Why don't you finish it?'" Heap said. "However we played in between those plays doesn't matter because we came out with a win.
"We're not where we want to be. This is a game we were supposed to win. It wasn't in the exact manner that you want, but we won it."
The Ravens' defense contained two traditionally troublesome foes in Jaguars receiver Jimmy Smith and running back Fred Taylor
Smith gained 72 yards on five receptions, but never scored. Taylor was impressive in going for 108 all-purpose yards, but never reached the end zone, either.
Containing Leftwich was equally critical to the Ravens' cause.
Defensive end Tony Weaver burst through the pocket to knock the football out of Leftwich's hand and scooped up the fumble to open the fourth quarter.
This set up Matt Stover's third field goal for a 16-10 advantage with 10:30 left in the fourth quarter.
"I was fortunate to get a hand out and tip the ball," Weaver said. "It landed right in my hands."
One drive later, outside linebacker Peter Boulware zoomed in on Leftwich for another sack and fumble. Nickel back Tom Knight's recovery led to running back Chester Taylor's 29-yard touchdown run three plays later.
Boller lobbed the football to Heap for two more points and a 24-10 lead.
The Ravens sacked Leftwich four times. He fumbled three times, losing two.
"He looked like Dan Marino sitting in the pocket because he's not that quick, but he gets rid of the ball fast and has a great arm," linebacker Cornell Brown said. "He's so big and he knows he's not fast and he's willing to take those hits. 
"You've got to make him make mistakes because he's a young guy who is still learning the game. We took advantage of that to put them away."
Leftwich would answer, though, finding David Allen from five yards out with 3:11 to go. The seventh overall pick marched to the Ravens' 29 before his interception to Lewis.
He passed for 208 yards in completing 22 of 34 passes for one touchdown, the costly interception and a 79.0 quarterback rating.
"We might have won sloppy, but it's still a win," defensive back Gary Baxter said. "We had to fight, scratch, bite and crawl and it might have been ugly, but we'll take it."
Boller completed just 10 of his 23 attempts for 156 yards and a 63.0 rating. He's the lowest-rated passer in the AFC, but he owns a win over Leftwich and Jacksonville.
Boller, who was drafted 19th overall after Baltimore executed a trade with New England, delivered a 47-yard pass to Travis Taylor to set up Stover's 23-yard field goal for a 10-3 lead in the third quarter
Jacksonville tied through Boller's fumbled handoff as Ayodele ran back the fumble 15 yards for a touchdown.
The Ravens had just four first downs in building a 7-3 lead at halftime.
"I feel a 5-3 record is awesome," Boller said. "How we handle that is going to really dictate what kind of team we are."

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

Ravens Insider Top Stories