Testaverde puts stock in Zeier after injury Team had better chance with replacement, QB says

THE BALTIMORE SUN

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Quarterback Vinny Testaverde has suffered injuries to his thigh, ribs and wrist this year, and except for the night he gave way to backup Eric Zeier during a 37-0 defeat in Pittsburgh last month, Testaverde usually has returned to action.

Not yesterday. With 1: 54 left in the first half of a close game, Jacksonville safety Travis Davis sacked Testaverde for an 8-yard loss, sending him to the sideline with a posterior cruciate ligament strain of his left knee.

Testaverde told Zeier that he probably could not continue, and he watched Zeier stage a two-touchdown rally in the fourth quarter of the Ravens' 29-27 loss.

"My knee is still a little sore," said Testaverde, who will undergo an MRI exam or X-rays today. "I felt like if I had to go back in there, I would have. If Eric had gotten hurt, I would have played. But I thought with him in there, it gave the team a better chance to win.

"I told Eric what to expect. I tried to help him with coverages. I think Eric fought hard and made some big plays."

Langham 'up and down'

You could say Antonio Langham had an up-and-down day, beginning with the second play of the third quarter, when the cornerback suffered an injury to his lower back.

On the play, Langham was defending Jacksonville's Keenan McCardell. As McCardell turned to catch quarterback Mark Brunell's pass near the right sideline, Langham leaped high in an attempt to reach over McCardell to break up the pass.

Langham came down hard on his buttocks. McCardell scampered down the sideline for a 26-yard gain. Langham lay on the Alltel Stadium turf in pain for several minutes, before giving way temporarily to rookie John Williams.

Langham returned and played with considerable pain the rest of the way. His missed tackle of McCardell with five minutes left in the third quarter led to a 19-yard gain that put the Jaguars in position for Mike Hollis' fourth of five field goals on the day, giving Jacksonville a 26-14 lead.

Then again, it was Langham who put the Ravens on the scoreboard first with the first touchdown of his four-year career.

It happened on the Jaguars' first possession, as Langham was chasing wide receiver Jimmy Smith across the middle of the field. Smith bobbled Brunell's pass up in the air. Langham snared it at the Jacksonville 40, then -- with the help of blocks by safeties Ralph Staten and Stevon Moore-- weaved his way down the sideline and back across the middle of the field, before diving across the goal line.

"It felt like I ran about six or seven times across the field. Somebody even asked me if I wanted to be a running back [after the play]," Langham said. "I haven't done that since I was at Alabama. It felt great, but I was up and down today. I made some plays, but I missed some tackles and made some mistakes."

Secondary questions

With the Ravens' secondary decimated by injuries, the Jaguars figured to exploit its inexperience through the air, particularly by picking on second-year man DeRon Jenkins, who started in place of Eugene Daniel (hamstring tear). And Jacksonville did not disappoint.

Brunell, who passed for 317 yards and a touchdown, threw at Jenkins constantly, often with McCardell (seven catches, 97 yards) and Smith (four, 93) on the receiving end.

"This is a league where nobody is perfect. They [Smith and McCardell] are professionals, just like I am," Jenkins said. "They made some good plays, I made some good plays. I'm still a young corner who is still learning. I'm going to get better."

On the receiving end

The Ravens' receiving corps had a different look: Second-year man James Roe started in place of veteran Derrick Alexander, and fellow second-year man Jermaine Lewis returned after missing most of the past three games with an ankle injury.

Roe, making his second start of November, led the receivers with 80 yards on four catches, including a 29-yarder that ignited the Ravens' fourth-quarter comeback.

"James stepped in, did the things he was told to do, and then some," wide receiver Michael Jackson said. "I hope he has a better feel for the game now, and he's ready to continue helping us win in the future."

Lewis caught his first touchdown pass in two months, when he hauled in a 15-yard strike from Testaverde with 13: 37 left in the second quarter, giving the Ravens a 14-3 lead.

"Great throw by Vinny. It felt good to get in the end zone. I haven't been there in a while," Lewis said.

Meanwhile, Alexander, benched for dropping too many passes and being late for team meetings, never got off the bench.

"I don't remember [the last time that happened]. I thought I would play," Alexander said. "I'm a starting receiver. I was the leading receiver. I didn't think I'd be out of the whole game."

Cotton gets call

Rookie fullback Kenyon Cotton scored the first touchdown of his career, a 1-yard plunge that pulled the Ravens within 29-21 in the fourth quarter. Cotton, usually called upon to block in the Ravens' two-back, goal-line offense, carried from that formation for the first time all year.

"Since I've been here, I've made so many errors and have been called everything under the sun," Cotton said. "I just had one thing in mind -- get the ball in the zone. If you can't get 2 inches with 250 pounds, you probably shouldn't be in this league."

Mixing it up

Rookie linebacker Cornell Brown earned some points for one of the game's notable hits -- albeit on special teams.

After a Brunell-to-Damon Jones touchdown pass that gave the Jaguars a 23-14 lead with 10: 54 left in the third quarter, the Ravens received the ensuing kickoff. On the return, Brown got tangled up with Jaguars fullback Ty Hallock. And after the whistle blew to end the play, Brown continued to drive Hallock -- all the way to the Jacksonville bench, where Brown dumped him.

Amazingly, no penalty flags flew, partly because Brown retreated to the field, while throwing a few choice words in the Jaguars' direction.

"We got mixed up on the field, and I tried to ease up, but [Hallock] tried to flip me over," Brown said. "Plus, he had my face mask. I had inside position on him, and I just kept driving him until I put him on his back. I had to finish him off."

Lewis piles up tackles

Linebacker Ray Lewis, leading the league in tackles, boosted his total to 176 with an 11-tackle performance. He now seems headed for a 200-tackle season.

But Lewis made one critical mistake in the third period when he tackled James Stewart at the Jacksonville 47 on a third-and-seven play at the 45. That would have forced Jacksonville to punt except that Lewis got Stewart's face mask and was nailed for a 15-yard penalty that gave Jacksonville a first down on the Baltimore 38 and helped set up a touchdown.

"I was trying to get him on top [shoulder pads], but I got his face mask. I'll just have to deal with it," Lewis said.

Et cetera

They're a long way from catching Art Monk's 183-game record for consecutive games with a reception but Smith and McCardell have a good head start. Smith has caught a ball in 37 consecutive regular-season games and McCardell's streak is at 35, the past 29 with Jacksonville. Ravens tight end Eric Green dropped three passes, Jackson dropped two, and slot receiver Ryan Yarborough dropped one. Jermaine Lewis and running back Jay Graham aggravated ankle injuries, and Jenkins and Langham each suffered bruised pelvic bones. Graham and Bam Morris were ineffective, leaving 14-year veteran Earnest Byner to lead the Ravens with 26 rushing yards.

Pub Date: 12/01/97

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