JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) Shannon Sharpe knew Elvis Grbac could play better. Yesterday, Sharpe did his best to help the quarterback prove that point.
Grbac drove the Baltimore Ravens 74 yards in the final 90 seconds and Sharpe made a foot-dragging catch in the back of the end zone to rally the defending Super Bowl champions to a 24-21 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
It was Sharpe who criticized Grbac last week after his five turnovers in a loss to the Cleveland Browns, prompting coach Brian Billick to muzzle his players.
What Billick didn’t do was completely rule out a change at quarterback. But now that debate is over.
“Anyone want to ask me who my quarterback is next week?” Billick said. “Again, remember now, that’s why owners own, coaches coach, players play and writers write.”
Grbac threw for 259 yards, and his winning touchdown pass with nine seconds left kept the Ravens (7-4) 11/2 games behind AFC Central-leading Pittsburgh.
It ruined quite a comeback by the Jaguars (3-7), who used the no-huddle offense to rally from a 17-0 deficit for a 21-17 lead on Stacey Mack’s 3-yard run with 1:32 remaining.
This is the third time in five games the Jaguars have blown a fourth-quarter lead, and none could have been as disappointing as this.
“It’s extremely frustrating extremely frustrating to watch that take place, then talk to these kids about losing another football game we should have won,” Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin said.
Tony Brackens recovered a fumble at the Baltimore 38 with 4:19 remaining and Jimmy Smith drew a pass-interference call to keep Jacksonville’s go-ahead drive going at the Baltimore 5. Two plays later, Mack sliced in and the Jaguars thought they had a victory that might have kept their slight playoff hopes alive.
But Grbac started doing his Joe Montana impression, hitting Qadry Ismail for 25 yards, Brandon Stokley for 17 more, Sharpe for 10 and Ismail again for 16.
On second-and-goal from the 1, T.J. Slaughter tackled running back Jason Brookins for a 2-yard loss. Then came the game-winner.
Sharpe slid behind safety Ainsley Battles and Grbac lobbed a perfect ball to the back of the end zone over Sharpe’s head.
Sharpe dived to make the catch, dragging his feet just inbounds, and ended up flat on his back beyond the end line. He was smothered by his teammates, who helped celebrate the Ravens’ fourth straight victory over the Jaguars.
It was a fitting ending for the outspoken tight end, who became the NFL’s all-time leading pass catcher at the position last week. He said the back-and-forth between himself, Grbac and Billick was overplayed.
“Elvis is the guy who can get us to where we need to go,” said Sharpe, who finished with six catches for 55 yards. “You saw today, when he is protected, he can throw the football as good as anyone in this league.”
The Jaguars, who have griped all year about the soft defenses they’ve lined up in during the fourth quarters of these losses, were as outspoken as ever.
They complained that defensive coordinator Gary Moeller called soft zones during most of Grbac’s late-game march, then went for an all-out blitz on the game-winner, leaving Battles in single coverage on Sharpe.
“You guys know as well as anyone that the ball is going to the money man in that situation, and we had one guy on him,” cornerback Aaron Beasley said.
Mark Brunell finished 23 of 38 for 259 yards in a good return from the torn leg muscle that kept him out of last week’s 20-7 loss to Pittsburgh.