- The Washington Times - Monday, October 29, 2001

BALTIMORE The Baltimore Ravens call it character. No, call it a potential quarterback controversy.
Staring at their third straight loss, the Super Bowl champions called upon savvy, 16-year veteran Randall Cunningham to bail them out of what seemed like certain defeat.
Cunningham, who made his first start in nearly a year because of an injury to starter Elvis Grbac (ribs), rallied the Ravens from an 11-point, fourth-quarter deficit with two touchdown drives in an exciting come-from-behind 18-17 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars before 69,439 yesterday at PSINet Stadium.
The win snapped a two-game losing streak and keeps the Ravens (4-3) in a tie with the Cincinnati Bengals (4-3) for third place in the competitive AFC Central behind the Pittsburgh Steelers (4-1) and Cleveland Browns (4-2).
Trailing 17-6 in the fourth quarter, Cunningham directed a nine-play, 71-yard scoring drive that consumed 5:05 and cut the Jaguars lead to 17-12. On the Ravens' next possession, an eight-play, 56-yard drive, Cunningham delivered an improbable victory with a 2-yard touchdown strike to receiver Qadry Ismail with 4:01 left.
In the fourth quarter, Cunningham was 7-for-7 for 76 yards. Cunningham finished with a 91.1 passer rating. For the game, Cunningham was 23 of 31 for 222 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Grbac, the Ravens' $30 million offseason free-agent acquisition, has thrown more interceptions (eight) than touchdowns (six) and has lost four fumbles.
"[Cunningham] kept telling us, 'I don't care what they have over there. I don't care if they're sacking me, we're going to win this ballgame. Just hang in here together, give me a little time, and we're going to make some plays,' and the guys were able to step up and make some plays for him," said Ravens tight end Shannon Sharpe.
Ravens coach Brian Billick said he will start Grbac this week at Pittsburgh if he is healthy.
The Ravens running game also came to life in the second half behind the hard running of rookie Jason Brookins, who started for Terry Allen (ankle). Brookins rushed for a career-high 82 yards on 19 carries and added a 2-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown plunge off left guard that cut the Jaguars' lead to 17-12.
On the Ravens' final two drives, Brookins rushed for 40 yards and a touchdown on seven carries. With Brookins running effectively and Cunningham on fire, the Ravens offense expertly mixed the run and pass down the stretch. As a team, the Ravens rushed for 114 yards on 32 carries.
"When Terry comes back next week and they say he is the starter, I go back to what I was doing," Brookins said. "We just wore them down in the second half. I knew in the third and fourth quarter if the game was close, [the Ravens] were going to come to me, and I was going to step up."
The Ravens' top-rated defense came up with two huge fourth-quarter stops to preserve the victory. On a third-and-7 at the Jaguars' 23 with 9:03 left, Baltimore defensive end Michael McCrary sacked quarterback Mark Brunell for a 5-yard loss and forced the Jaguars to punt. The Ravens ensuing offensive possession proved to be the game-winning drive.
Brunell, who completed 25 of 37 passes for 306 yards and two touchdowns, got the ball back with four minutes left in the game at the Jaguars' 20. Trailing 18-17, Brunell moved the ball down to the Ravens' 43 by the two-minute warning and needed a few more yards to get the Jaguars into good field goal position.
That didn't happen. On second-and-4 at the Ravens' 43, Brunnell completed one pass for a 1-yard loss to running back Stacey Mack and threw back-to-back incompletions and the Jaguars (2-4) turned over the ball on downs.
After a lackluster 3-3 first half, the Ravens took a shortlived 6-3 lead in the third quarter on a 28-yard field goal by Matt Stover. After that, the Jaguars jumped to a 17-6 lead. Jacksonville took a 10-6 lead when Brunell found wide receiver Jimmy Smith for a 35-yard touchdown strike. Smith, who finished with 119 yards and a touchdown on seven receptions, burned Ravens cornerback Duane Starks on a short sideline hitch.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Brunell rolled left and found Mack for an 11-yard touchdown to give the Jaguars a 17-6 lead with 14:53 left.
"What supercedes it all is character. This team has proven character," Billick said. "Don't know where that will lead, we'll find out. But we're coming up into a time in November and December where that character tends to show up."

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide