It was up to the Baltimore Ravens' defense to deliver a victory. As usual, Ray Lewis and his gang made it happen.
The Ravens took a 13-10 lead into the fourth quarter, then converted Leftwich's two fumbles into 10 points before Lewis secured the win by picking off a tipped pass with 44 seconds left.
"When you play a team like we played today, you have to find a way to get your hands on the football," Lewis said. "We did exactly what we needed to do to come out and win."
The Jaguars (1-7) held the NFL's leading rusher in check and limited Baltimore to nine first downs, but the Ravens (5-3) won anyway.
Jamal Lewis gained 68 yards on 21 carries, ending his run of successive 100-yard games at six. Lewis did, however, surpass 1,000 yards (1,045) by the halfway mark of the season.
"It all starts with stopping No. 31," said Jacksonville first-year coach Jack Del Rio, who spent three years as linebackers coach of the Ravens. "We had to have that to have a chance. That was the No. 1 goal. Without doing that, we have no chance to beat this football team."
Stacking eight players near the line of scrimmage on almost every play, Jacksonville put the clamps on the league's top-ranked rushing attack.
But the Jaguars couldn't overcome their own miscues, especially those of Leftwich, the seventh overall pick in the 2003 draft.
Leftwich went 22-for-34 for 208 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown to David Allen with 3:11 to go. Then, after a Baltimore punt, he took the Jaguars to the Baltimore 29 in the final minute before Ray Lewis clinched the victory.
A deflection could happen to anyone. The fumbles, however, are becoming a serious problem.
"It's something we have to look at and something we have to work on," Leftwich said. "It's got to get better."
Baltimore led 13-10 when Anthony Weaver forced a fumble by hitting Leftwich in the pocket, then pounced on the loose ball at the Jacksonville 24. That led to a field goal by Matt Stover and a six-point cushion with 10:30 left.
On the Jaguars' next series, Leftwich again fumbled when hit in the pocket, and Tom Knight recovered at the Jacksonville 27. Three plays later, Chester Taylor scored on a 29-yard run, and the 2-point conversion made it 24-10 with 7:33 left.
That was enough for the Ravens, who remained in first place in the AFC North.
Baltimore attempted to get Leftwich in the draft, but a trade fell through and the Ravens settled for Boller at the No. 19 slot. Baltimore has no complaints, even though Boller came into the game as the lowest ranked quarterback in the AFC.
Boller went 10-for-23 for 156 yards. He lost a fumble to set up a Jacksonville touchdown, and threw an interception.
But he was better than Leftwich, whose turnovers doomed the Jaguars.
"He's just got to grow," Jaguars receiver Jimmy Smith said. "He's human, but in my mind he's doing well. It's best for him to be out there in the heat of the game."
Stover gave Baltimore a 10-3 lead early in the third quarter, kicking a 23-yard field goal three plays after Travis Taylor outleaped Fernando Bryant to catch a floater from Boller for a 47-yard gain.
The Jaguars tied it when Boller botched a handoff and the ball squirted outside, where linebacker Akin Ayodele picked it up on the Baltimore 15 and scored.
Lamont Brightful returned the ensuing kickoff 58 yards, setting up a 33-yard field goal by Stover for a 13-10 lead late in the third quarter.
Baltimore led 7-3 at halftime despite making only four first downs, half of them on its opening drive.
The Ravens needed only four plays and 86 seconds to take a 7-0 lead. Boller went 3-for-3 during the 59-yard march, including a 33-yard touchdown pass to Todd Heap that was deftly placed between three defenders.
- Ravens CB Corey Fuller (hamstring) was inactive.
- Jacksonville has been outscored 54-10 in the first quarter.
- Bryant left the game in the third quarter with a concussion as a result of a helmet-to-helmet collision with teammate SS Donovin Darius.
The Associated Press News Service
Copyright 2003, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved