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Cunningham, Brookins lead Ravens in fourth

10/28/2001

BALTIMORE (AP) -- If Randall Cunningham doesn't play another
down, he's already done plenty for the Baltimore Ravens in his
final NFL season.

Subbing for the injured Elvis Grbac, Cunningham directed two
fourth-quarter touchdown drives as the Ravens rallied to beat the
Jacksonville Jaguars 18-17 on Sunday.

Signed as an insurance policy in May, the 38-year-old Cunningham
paid big returns in his first start with Baltimore, going 23-for-31
for 222 yards -- including 7-for-7 for 76 yards and a touchdown in
the fourth quarter.

"Regardless of how confident you are or how poised you are,
there's something to having been there before," Ravens coach Brian
Billick said. "The great ones, that's what you rely on. There's a
sense of calm."

Cunningham might be on the bench next week, because Grbac is
expected to return from bruised ribs. But on this day, Cunningham
rescued the Super Bowl champs from dipping below .500 for the first
time since 1999.

"There was a lot of anxiety, because it's been a while since
I've been in this role," Cunningham said. "But for the first time
in my career I feel a different level of maturity, where I can lead
people."

A win is a win, but can Baltimore feel very good about this one?
I don't think so. Coming into this game, the Jaguars were beaten up and didn't really have a running game. Basically, the Jags' offense is Mark Brunell and the two receivers, and Jacksonville's defense isn't especially strong. But the Ravens could barely eke out a one-point win.

It's a win, and they needed a win desperately. But they weren't dominant on either side of the line of scrimmage. So they're happy with the win but not with the performance.

ESPN.com NFL analyst Vinny Cerrato has served as director of player personnel for the Redskins and 49ers.


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Baltimore trailed 17-6 before rookie Jason Brookins ran in from
the 2 and Cunningham threw a disputed 2-yard touchdown pass to
Qadry Ismail to help Baltimore (4-3) snap a two-game losing streak.

If it was the final performance of Cunningham's career, then so
be it.

"I don't know if I'll play next week or anymore," he said.
"I'm retiring after this season."

Brookins, playing for the injured Terry Allen, ran for 82 yards
on 19 carries, and the Ravens defense stiffened in the closing
minutes with the Jaguars driving for the go-ahead score.

"We've got to get out of this hole," defensive end Michael
McCrary said. "We're defending champions. We don't plan on losing
that championship easily. We've got to retain it."

The game was eerily similar to last year's shootout in
Baltimore, when the Ravens overcome a brilliant performance by
Jacksonville's Mark Brunell and Jimmy Smith in a 39-36 comeback
win.

Smith caught 15 passes for 291 yards and three touchdowns in
that game. This time, he had seven catches for 119 yards and a TD --
his sixth 100-yard game against Baltimore.

Just like last year, however, it couldn't produce a victory for
Jacksonville.

"We did some good things today, but not enough," Brunell said.
"It's unfortunate, because it was a game that was in our grasp.
We're leaving here with another loss, but we are improving."

Brunell went 25-for-34 for 306 yards and two touchdowns, but the
Jaguars (2-4) lost their fourth straight. Keenan McCardell had 10
catches for 118 yards, marking the ninth time he and Smith both
topped 100 yards in the same game.

Jacksonville trailed 6-3 before Brunell threw a 35-yard
touchdown pass to Smith late in the third quarter. Stacey Mack then
caught an 11-yard TD pass to give the Jaguars a 17-6 lead with
14:53 left.

Cunningham brought the Ravens back. First, he directed a 71-yard
drive that made it 17-12. Then, he capped a 56-yard march with a
pass to a sliding Ismail in the right side of the end zone.

The Jaguars called for a replay, but the evidence was not
conclusive enough to overrule the touchdown call.

"I won't comment until I see (a replay), but everyone tells me
the ball was on the ground," Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin said.

Baltimore snapped a 3-3 tie on its first possession of the third
quarter. Matt Stover kicked a 28-yard field goal to end a drive
that featured a 20-yard pass from Cunningham to Ismail and a
23-yard run by Brookins.

The 58-yard march amounted to almost half the 124 yards the
Ravens gained in a lackluster first half.

The Jaguars took the opening kickoff and moved to the Baltimore
8 before Brunell threw an incomplete pass on a fourth-and-1, the
third straight play that Jacksonville failed to gain a yard.

A 49-yard field goal by Stover on the first play of the second
quarter put the Ravens up 3-0. Mike Hollis answered with a field
goal after a career-high 38-yard run by Brunell, who sidestepped
blitzing linebackers Ray Lewis and Jamie Sharper before bolting out
of the pocket.

Jacksonville played the second half without starting running
back Elvis Joseph, who was sidelined after being poked in the eye.

Game notes
The Jaguars missed two fourth-down conversions and are now
0-7 for the year. ... McCardell's 34-yard reception and Brunell's
38-yard run doubled the number of Jacksonville's plays of at least
30 yards this season. ... Baltimore C Mike Flynn left the game in
the fourth quarter with a torn ligament in his thumb.