This time, their effort wasn't the problem. This one was all about an inability to score with the goalposts in easy view.
The Jaguars were able to convert four red-zone possessions into only 10 points, and the Baltimore Ravens capitalized on a couple of tipped Mark Brunell passes in a 17-10 win over the Jaguars at Ravens Stadium Sunday. The loss left the Jaguars at 3-3 and desperate for a win this Sunday against the visiting Houston Texans.
"I asked for great effort and I got it," coach Tom Coughlin said of his players. "We had some opportunities. We didn't get the touchdowns."
In the second quarter, the Jaguars drove to the Baltimore 12-yard line where, on fourth-and-two, Coughlin ordered a wide receiver screen pass to Jimmy Smith that was stopped at the line of scrimmage. It was one of two unsuccessful fourth-down decisions to go for the first down instead of attempt a field goal, and on a third occasion Coughlin opted to punt instead of attempt a 48-yard, downwind field goal.
Those failures allowed the Ravens to execute a very conservative, Titans-like offensive strategy that produced just 143 net yards passing, 136 fewer total yards than the Jaguars and four minutes less time of possession. The Jaguars won the stats and lost the game, on a day when the Ravens were trying to get by one more week without the services of star middle linebacker Ray Lewis.
"We knew they weren't going to try to (pass)," cornerback Fernando Bryant said. "They used the formula Tennessee did. They used the tight end well."
Tight end Todd Heap caught four passes for 39 yards and two touchdowns. The second of those turned out to be the game-winner; a nifty play-action, bootleg pass by quarterback Chris Redman against a Jaguars defense that bit hard on the fake to running back Jamal Lewis.
"They ran so much on the early downs and in the red zone; I bit on the run," rookie outside linebacker Akin Ayodele said of having blown the coverage on Heap. Of course, Ayodele wasn't alone in accepting blame. Heap broke several tackles to finish the play.
The defense played well enough for the Jaguars to have won the game. Lewis gained 119 yards rushing and that marked the third consecutive game the Jaguars have allowed a 100-yard rusher (they allowed just two last season), but 10 of the Ravens' 17 points can be directly attributed to two interceptions deep in Jaguars territory.
"It's real frustrating because we moved the ball. We got into the red zone and couldn't put it in," Brunell said.
Brunell was playing just seven days after having suffered a concussion that forced him out of action in the first quarter of the Jaguars' loss to the Titans. "I feel fine. No problems from last week. Everything is very clear," Brunell said.
Coughlin criticized his team last week for what he considered to be a poor effort in Tennessee, but that situation was remedied in Baltimore. "Guys played hard. There was great effort out there. The attitude is fine," Brunell said.
What wasn't fine was the Jaguars' ball skills. Brunell threw his third interception in the desperate final seconds of the game, and the kicking game was also a problem in ways other than field goal attempts. On a second-half punt exchange, an illegal procedure penalty nullified a punt that would've left the Ravens to begin at their four-yard line. Following another procedure violation, Chris Hanson's punt was returned to the Ravens' 49-yard line, a difference of 45 yards.
Brunell warmed up late in the game, but the interceptions cost him one of the worst single-game passer ratings of his career, 39.3. Though he claimed to be recovered from the previous week's injury, he was clearly not on top of his game.
"He had some limited practice time this week. The frustration is over the tipped balls. (Kyle) Brady was open on the play. We just didn't make the throw and the catch," Coughlin said.
Running back Fred Taylor provided the bulk of the Jaguars' offensive thrust with 151 yards rushing and 46 yards in receiving.
"It's the same team (that beat Philadelphia)," Taylor said. "We didn't get the breaks we did the first few weeks of the season. You have to fight your way through adversity."
Coughlin complained bitterly of the officiating to Referee Bob McElwee and his crew, taking special exception to the failure to flag the Ravens for pass interference late in the game when wide receiver Patrick Johnson appeared to be tripped in the end zone.
"I thought it was interference all the way. (The official) said something about an uncatchable ball or some other nonsense," Coughlin told reporters.
"This one's a lot tougher than last week," Bryant said. "I don't know why we lost this game. There was no reason for us to lose this game."