Ravens rookie receiver Travis Taylor proved he was a fast learner when he went from training camp holdout to starter in less than a month. But yesterday, Taylor soared in his latest crash course.
After the Ravens lost their top receiver, Qadry Ismail, to a knee injury, Taylor switched from flanker to Ismail's spot at split end, a position he had never played as a Raven. Taylor didn't blink, catching four passes for a team-best 80 yards as well as the first two touchdowns of his NFL career.
"It was a learning process for me today," said Taylor, the 10th overall pick of April's draft. "I just tried to do my best. If you make a mistake, make it at full speed."
Between offensive series, Taylor had to new learn his new routes from Ismail on the sideline. But he relied on his physical skills to pull him through it.
He scored his first touchdown - a 14-yard catch - early in the second quarter, breaking the tackles of Aaron Beasley and Rayna Stewart. Taylor added his other touchdown by faking out rookie Kiwaukee Thomas on a double move early in the third quarter, when the Ravens narrowed their deficit to 23-15.
Still, Taylor showed that he was playing in only his second game the next series. On a pattern going over the middle, Taylor had a pass deflect off his hands, leading to a Stewart interception.
But the Ravens gave Taylor high marks on his latest test, the ability to adapt.
"He showed he's not the typical rookie," quarterback Tony Banks said. "To be able to play a position he hasn't played and play it as well as he did, he made some great plays to help us get this win. Hopefully, we won't have to put him in this position again, though."
Ismail questionable next week
Ismail suffered a second-degree sprain of the medial collateral ligament in his left knee on a kickoff return less than four minutes into the game. He will have a magnetic resonance imaging test today and is listed as questionable for Sunday's game at Miami.
After getting hit flush on the knee by Shyrone Stith, Ismail only laid on the ground for a few minutes before jumping up on his own power and running over to the sideline. Ismail, who didn't make a catch for the first time in his 18-game Ravens career, had initially intended on returning to the game.
"I really don't believe in getting injured," said Ismail, who led the Ravens with seven catches last week. "You kind of have to have that mentality. I heard the guys say, 'Oh my God.' I even heard the crowd on the replay. But I said, 'I'm not going to accept this. I worked too hard, I've come too far, I know my divine purpose.' "
Duane Starks found himself in a cornerback's nightmare.
The Ravens' third-year defender was thrown at 10 times in the first half, giving up seven completions and two long touchdown passes. He was in position for both the 45- and 43-yard scoring passes to Jimmy Smith, but failed to deflect either one after thinking both were going to sail down.
"We made them look a lot better than they were," Starks said. "I misjudged the deep ball twice. I should have learned from the first one. They hurt us early. I fought hard. ... It's not how you start, but how you finish. And I think I finished pretty well."
His biggest mistake of the second half occurred late in the fourth quarter, when Starks couldn't wrap up Smith after a tipped pass. Starks blamed pulling his left hamstring before Smith's catch for the missed tackle.
Smith's 40-yard touchdown catch put the Jaguars ahead 36-32 with 1:45 left in the game.
"My leg was in so much pain and I couldn't continue running my legs," Starks said. "So I stopped running my legs and he slipped through."
Rod Woodson won't be savoring the memory of yesterday's victory as much as his teammates. The 14-year free safety left midway through the fourth quarter with a mild concussion after pulling Jaguars 237-pound running back Stacey Mack on top of himself on a tackle.
"I don't remember the game," said Woodson, who did not return. "I don't remember anything."
Boulware back in sack
Continuing his success against the Jaguars, strong-side linebacker Peter Boulware collected his first two sacks of the season and ended a six-game drought. He has recorded 10 sacks in seven career games against Jacksonville, including two in three consecutive meetings.
Boulware, however, hadn't registered a sack since Nov. 28 against Jacksonville after his shoulder injury limited his play late last season.
Jacksonville center Quentin Neujahr had a unique perspective on the Ravens' historic victory. The former Raven left Baltimore after the 1997 season to sign with the Jaguars. Back then, the Ravens were in the midst of an eight-game losing streak to Jacksonville.
In the wake of the Ravens' 39-36 victory, in which Jacksonville blew leads of 17-0 and 23-7, Neujahr saw a Baltimore team that has the talent and maturity to sustain a serious playoff run.
"I've been on both sides of the fence. I remember how Jacksonville used to get us when I was playing for [the Ravens)," Neujahr said.
"The rivalry took a big step forward today. Confidence will be a big thing for those guys. They were down 23-7 and close to being knocked out and they came back. My hat is off to them. I feel sorry for whoever plays them next week."
Smith: no gloating
Smith, fresh off his 15-catch, 291-yard, three-touchdown effort, refused to gloat when asked about the way he overmatched Ravens cornerbacks Starks and Chris McAlister.
"Those two guys are definitely better corners than they were a year ago. They've gained confidence, and you can see them growing," Smith said.
"Chris McAlister is going to be one of the premier corners in this league if he keeps working. He's big, fast, strong."
Other than Ismail (knee strain), Starks (hamstring pull) and Woodson (mild concussion), the other Ravens injuries were tackle Jonathan Ogden (back strain) and receiver Billy Davis (shoulder contusion). ... The Ravens are 2-0 for the first time in team history and 6-2 at home in September. ... The 39 points were the third-highest in Ravens history. All three have come in the team's past 11 games. ... It was the most points allowed by the Ravens since the Minnesota Vikings scored 38 on Dec. 13, 1998. The Vikings' offensive coordinator then was Brian Billick, now head coach of the Ravens. ... Tight end Shannon Sharpe's 29-yard, game-winning touchdown reception was the 45th scoring catch of his career. Sharpe, who had three catches for 50 yards, surpassed 7,000 career receiving yards. ... The Ravens inactives were receivers Patrick Johnson and Brandon Stokley, cornerback Clarence Love, defensive ends Adalius Thomas and Carl Powell, safety Anthony Poindexter and offensive lineman Kipp Vickers. The decision to place Johnson as inactive was a strategic one and not related to any injury.
The Ravens' 2-0 start bodes well for their playoff chances. Last season, eight NFL teams won their first two games, and six of them advanced to the postseason:
Team W-L Fin.
Jacksonville 14-2 Won div.
St. Louis 13-3 Won div.
Tennessee 13-3 Wild card
Miami 9-7 Wild card
Dallas 8-8 Wild card
Detroit 8-8 Wild card
New England 8-8