Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Defense Leads Jaguars' Rise from the Dead

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Defense Leads Jaguars' Rise from the Dead

Article excerpt

Byline: Gene Frenette

If the Jaguars are "dead team walking," as one prominent NFL national writer recently opined, maybe all they needed was a prime-time stage to finally awaken.

Saddled by a five-game losing streak and the head coach's future a constant story line, a vastly improved Jaguars' defense rose up to possibly save the 2011 season. Or at least pump some much-needed life into it.

Jacksonville's 12-7 victory over the Baltimore Ravens could be just a temporary feel-good moment, but there's no question about the timing. The Jaguars needed a lift in the worst possible way, and coach Jack Del Rio's stingy defense delivered for a revved-up EverBank Field crowd of 62,976.

It didn't matter that the league's No. 32-ranked offense spent a good part of "Monday Night Football" sputtering and self-destructing with fumbling issues, especially Maurice Jones-Drew. It didn't matter that a Blaine Gabbert-led offense failed to score a touchdown. Not with kicker Josh Scobee nailing four field goals, including three from beyond 50 yards.

And certainly not with a swarming defense playing its most physical football of the season, successfully counter-punching a Baltimore Ravens team that defined NFL ferocity for the past decade.

The Ravens, who came in averaging 29.6 points per game, were stoned at every turn by a defense that played just about a perfect game. Baltimore hadn't been shut out since Sept. 15, 2002 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a streak of 155 games. The Jaguars came within 2:02 of pulling it off, but a 13-play, 90-yard scoring drive that ended with a 5-yard touchdown catch by Anquan Boldin ruined it.

That late score, however, couldn't extinguish 58 minutes of the Jaguars imposing their will. Linebackers Daryl Smith and Clint Session were able to make plays all over the field because the defensive front abused Baltimore's offensive line.

Fourth-year Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco looked like a stage-frightened rookie. When he wasn't being hurried into poor throws, he was getting put on the ground by Jeremy Mincey, Smith and blitzing safety Dwight Lowery.

On a night filled with red-challenge flags, most of them successful in getting calls overturned, nobody answered the challenge more than a Jaguars' defense that spent the past three seasons getting pulverized, even by mediocre quarterbacks. …

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