Ravens shut out fumbling Jaguars

It is often said that offences win games while defences win championships. If that holds true, then the Baltimore Ravens must be considered legitimate title contenders, following their ugly 15-10 win in Jacksonville.

It is often said that offences win games while defences win championships. If that holds true, then the Baltimore Ravens must be considered legitimate title contenders, following their ugly 15-10 win in Jacksonville.

The Ravens have won five of their first six games, during which they have failed to score a single touchdown. They do not need to, it seems, thanks to a brutal, stifling defence. Jacksonville, themselves pre-season Super Bowl favourites, were never able to escape from their grip. The Jaguars gave up seven fumbles, while the quarterback Mark Brunell mishandled three snaps and allowed two interceptions before being replaced in the second half.

Inspired by the veteran Rod Woodson, the Ravens converted five field goals, while frustrating and confusing their opponents. The Jaguars' coach, Tom Coughlin, was less than impressed. "I've never seen anything like it in my life," he said. "I'm not going to offer any kind of excuse for that. The fumbles, the turnovers and that business, it's pathetic." With two wins from six outings, the Jaguars are in trouble. In contrast, the Ravens may not be winning many style points, but remain on course for the most successful season since the franchise was founded in 1996.

Defence was similarly to the fore in Miami, where the Dolphins cruised to their fifth win in six games, 22-13 over the Buffalo Bills. Following the retirements of the head coach, Jimmy Johnson, and the quarterback Dan Marino, most expected the Dolphins to struggle this season. Instead, as with the Ravens, they are winning with defence. The Bills' quarterback, Rob Johnson, was harried throughout, and his replacement, Doug Flutie, fared little better.

The Pittsburgh Steelers ended the unbeaten record of the New York Jets in similar fashion. Jason Gildon crushed the Jets' quarterback, Vinny Testaverde, on the game's first play. As he sought treatment for a pinched nerve, his replacement, Ray Lucas, threw three interceptions in the surprise defeat. The improving Steelers prevailed 20-3.

Detroit's 31-24 win over Green Bay was also built around a defensive effort. Green Bay's quarterback, Brett Favre, was forced into five turnovers, the most costly of which was Lamar Campbell's 42-yard interception return for a touchdown, which proved to be the difference between the two.

Offence was clearly evident in Oakland, where the Raiders and their neighbours, the San Francisco 49ers, engaged in a 62-point local dispute that was only settled in the home side's favour in overtime. The 49ers had few problems scoring points, the quarterback Jeff Garcia throwing four touchdowns and the receiver Terrell Owens catching 12 passes. However, their defence could not stop Oakland matching them. Both teams missed a game-winning field goal in the extra period, but then Rich Gannon threw a 31-yard touchdown to Tim Brown to give the Raiders an important 34-28 win.

The Cincinnati Bengals, still looking for their first victory, were unable to stop Eddie George, the Tennessee running back, rushing 36 times for 181 yards and a touchdown as the Titans prevailed 23-14.

Problems are looming for the Indianapolis Colts, who looked anything but Super Bowl favourites as Peyton Manning threw three interceptions in the 24-16 reverse in New England. Likewise, the Washington Redskins looked less than impressive, their 17-14 squeeze past Philadelphia, owing much to Darrell Green's late interception return, which set up a game-winning field goal with only four seconds remaining.

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