The frustration that accompanies the fourth three-point loss of the season was evident tonight after the Baltimore Ravens fell to the Jacksonville Jaguars, 6-3, before 67,391 at Alltel Stadium.
Ravens Coach Brian Billick took players to task on the sideline and criticized them in his postgame comments to the media, but he said he had no answers for the team's lack of offensive production.
"For whatever reason, we are short by that one thing," Billick said. "Whether it's three points to Tennessee, three points to Pittsburgh, three points to Buffalo, three points to Jacksonville--I'd love to lose by four points--I'm tired of losing by three points.
"This team, there's plenty of effort. We're just that one thing short. If I knew what that one thing was, I would change it."
Baltimore (3-6) contained the league's top rushing attack and befuddled quarterback Mark Brunell, but failed to generate enough offense to defeat Jacksonville (8-1). The Ravens held the Jaguars to 132 yards of total offense and kept them out of the end zone for the first time in Jacksonville history.
However, Baltimore could only manage 242 yards of offense and a field goal.
The Jaguars broke a 3-3 tie with a 28-yard field goal by Mike Hollis with 1 minute 52 seconds left in the third quarter to take the lead. But the restless fans remained disgruntled by Jacksonville's lack of offensive production throughout the game.
As good as the Ravens' defense was, it could not make up for the offense's errors and ineptitude. Billick was particularly displeased with wide receiver Jermaine Lewis and tight end Aaron Pierce. Lewis, the Ravens' big playmaker last season, has been ineffective this season and has yet to catch a touchdown pass.
"My answer to getting Jermaine Lewis into the offense is that I have no comment," Billick said tersely. "I don't want to hear the question. I'm not going to answer it anymore. Jermaine has to take responsibility for it. I have to take responsibility for it. You can't drop passes. You can't run the wrong route. You can't [not] know where to line up. You can't jump offsides. And I evidently can't find a way to get him consistently in the offense."
In the fourth quarter with the Ravens on their 14-yard line, Ravens quarterback Tony Banks was forced to take a timeout when Lewis wrongly went into motion. Lewis was penalized for a false start, backing Baltimore up to the 9-yard line. When he came to the sideline, Billick gave Lewis an earful.
Lewis was not the only player in Billick's doghouse tonight. On fourth and two in the second quarter, Pierce caught a seven-yard pass, then lost the ball when he was hit by Lonnie Marts. Pierce never went back into the game.
"If someone turns the ball over, I've got to find somebody who can go in there and not turn the ball over," Billick said. "That's exactly what it comes down to. At some point players have to understand and coaches that there are consequences for your actions and you are disciplined for [lack of] focus. I can't throw a fuzzy warm arm around him and say, 'Go back in there and win one for the Gipper, son' and have another mistake. I can't do it."
The Ravens' defense, which ranks second in the league behind Jacksonville, has yet to give up 100 yards to a running back this season. The Jaguars averaged 141.9 rushing yards per game, but managed just 47 yards against Baltimore.
Brunell appeared out of sync against the Ravens' defense, which ranks third in the league against the pass. Jacksonville went six consecutive drives without a first down before Brunell engineered the Jaguars' longest possession of the game, a 15-play, 47-yard drive that resulted in the winning field goal.
Banks missed most of the second quarter after injuring his left ankle when he was sacked by Marts with 12:09 remaining in the second quarter. He came back to start the second half but failed to lead the Ravens on a scoring drive. Banks completed 10 of 21 passes for 73 yards and no turnovers.
Backup Stoney Case, playing for the injured Banks, turned in a solid effort. He completed 7 of 12 passes for 103 yards and set up the Ravens' game-tying field goal--a 23-yarder by Matt Stover with two seconds remaining in the second quarter.
The Jaguars took possession on Baltimore's 14-yard line after a blocked punt with a chance to swing the momentum their way. But the Jaguars gained only three yards in three plays before settling for a 28-yard field goal by Hollis to take a 3-0 lead with 10:16 remaining in the first half.