Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jags Defense 'Prevents' Win Cunningham Exploits Conservative Late Play

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jags Defense 'Prevents' Win Cunningham Exploits Conservative Late Play

Article excerpt

Byline: Bart Hubbuch, Times-Union sports writer

BALTIMORE -- The Jaguars fell into the trap yesterday.

Seduced by an 11-point lead on the road over the Super Bowl champions, a Jacksonville defense that had been aggressive all day suddenly turned conservative in the fourth quarter.

Out went the relentless blitzes, stunts and tight coverage that had thoroughly frustrated the Baltimore Ravens for three quarters. In came soft zone coverage and a hold-on-for-dear-life mentality.

It's known as the "prevent" defense, but the only thing it ended up preventing was a Jaguars victory. The once-punchless Baltimore offense came alive with two touchdowns in span of only six minutes for an 18-17 victory.

"You could argue we were too conservative in the fourth quarter, but when we brought the blitz, we didn't stop them with that, either," Jaguars outside linebacker Kevin Hardy said. "We were trying to sit back, play [zone coverage] and shut down Shannon Sharpe. But it didn't work."

Hardy was right about that. Everything the Jaguars had done right for the game's first 45 minutes, they seemed to do wrong in the final 15.

A run defense that had allowed only 74 yards through three quarters was abruptly gashed for 40 yards on the ground -- the bulk of them by ex-Jaguar practice squad member Jason Brookins -- and a touchdown on Baltimore's two pivotal fourth-quarter drives.

Ravens quarterback Randall Cunningham, meanwhile, completed all seven of his passes on the two final-period possessions for 76 yards and the game-winning touchdown to Qadry Ismail.

In all, Baltimore accounted for almost half (127) of its 305 total yards in the decisive fourth quarter.

"Why couldn't we protect the lead? It's a very good question," Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin said.

Hardy refused to blame first-year defensive coordinator Gary Moeller, who Hardy said was scratching his head for answers in the fourth quarter. …

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