The haze of the Army-Navy game hung over M&T Bank Stadium. There were empty seats all around the enclosure at game time and neither the crowd nor the team felt playoff urgency looming. Wind swirled off Russell Street and the gray skies muted the crowd. Much of the game was like watching purple paint dry or being trapped in an endless television timeout. Not even the “Game of Thrones” theme song, a show in which Ravens play a symbolic and major role, could fire the boys up.
Sometimes a bad team is the worst one to play. Those guys are playing for their careers next year. And yesterday, the Jags pulled out all the stops to get a win with an onside kick and a fake punt. Toby Gerhardt and Blake Bortles came to play as did the Jaguars defense.
Bruce Cunningham’s introductions featured the Ravens offense and the spotlight on Coach Kubiak’s unit didn’t have the desired effect. It was the special teams who got the Ravens on the board first with a blocked punt by Darian Stewart that went for a touchdown. Kamar Aiken, kept for his special teams play as well as his hands as a wide receiver scooped up the ball and raced into the end zone. Aiken was everywhere on special teams.
Rookie quarterback Blake Bortles and the Jaguars moved the ball well in the first half and took the lead 9-7 and then 12-10 on four field goals at the half. His quick release was effective early on, getting the ball to his receivers before Suggs and the wrecking crew of Dumervil, Jernigan and McPhee dropped him to the turf eight times. He had difficulty finding the touch on deep balls and sideline passes all afternoon—a blessing for the Ravens.
Terrence Brooks and Asa Jackson were injured during the game. Jackson made a great defensive play on Cecil Shorts III in the third quarter, getting inside position on a route down the sideline. Shorts dove over Jackson’s back and was called for offensive pass interference. The Ravens corner injured his knee on the play. Another practice squad refugee from the Dolphins signed last week, Rashaan Melvin took his place and immediately made some critical tackles and deflections.
How good would the Ravens defense be with a secondary?
The Ravens lacked inspiration on offense, running into a strong Jaguar defensive line. Joe Flacco wasn’t as sharp as he has been, with balls sailing over receiver’s heads or low to the ground. There were plenty of drops too.
In the third quarter, “Real Fan Dan” took off his shirt in Section 531 and led the R-A-V-E-N-S cheer. The stadium sprang to life and so did the offense. Flacco found old faithful, Owen Daniels deep in Jaguar territory coming across the ten yard line. A few plays later he found Daniels again, this time alone in the right corner of the end zone for a 17-12 lead. The Ravens extended the lead on a Justin Tucker field goal to make it 20-12.
On a 3rd and 5 from the Ravens 42 with a little over 3 minutes remaining, Flacco took the snap and raced around right end for 11 yards and a first down. It was the most surprising play of the game.
Still the Jaguars had a chance to tie the game until Bortles threw a long pass to Ravens safety Jeremy Miles—ending the game.
“Winning ugly is a beautiful thing,” said Baltimore writer Charles Cohen. We’ve been doing it since 1996.