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Ravens survive Jags at last

The scenario was all too familiar to the Ravens and their fans.

Baltimore had rallied from a 17-point deficit, only to fall behind with 1:45 left when Mark Brunell led a drive that seemingly doomed the Ravens' bid for their first win over Jacksonville.

This time, however, Baltimore had an answer. Tony Banks' career-high fifth touchdown pass, a 29-yarder to Shannon Sharpe with 41 seconds left, lifted the Ravens to a rousing 39-36 victory Sunday.

Baltimore's first win over the Jaguars in nine tries enabled the fifth-year team to reach another significant milestone: sole possession of the AFC Central lead for the first time.

The victory seemed improbable when the Ravens trailed 17-0 in the first quarter and 23-6 at halftime. It seemed virtually impossible when Brunell hooked up with Jimmy Smith for a 41-yard touchdown to make it 36-32.

"In most situations, that's a victory," Brunell said.

"How many fans looked at that score and said, "Here we go again?' " Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "And I can't blame them. But our guys were not going to allow that to happen."

Banks moved the Ravens 75 yards in seven plays. Sharpe, signed in the off-season for his prowess as a tight end and his playoff experience, caught the ball inside the 5 and bulled into the end zone.

"You've got to give credit to Tony Banks and his offense," Brunell said. "It was two very good teams going head to head, and Baltimore was better than we were today."

Those are words the Ravens have long been waiting to hear from a Jacksonville player.

"It was like we won the Super Bowl," Banks said.

Sharpe's score ruined a magnificent performance by Smith, who had 15 catches for a team-record 291 yards and three touchdowns.

"The stats are good, but it doesn't matter when you don't win," Smith said.

Baltimore has never had a winning record or participated in the playoffs. This season is supposed to be different, and the Ravens might have announced their arrival by ending their skid against the playoff-toughened Jaguars.

"Confidence is very huge in the NFL. We have great players, we have great coaches. But if you don't believe you can win, that you can beat a team, you'll never do it," Baltimore linebacker Peter Boulware said.

The Ravens made one blunder after another in falling behind 17-0 in the first quarter. Smith had 10 catches for 194 yards and two touchdowns by halftime.

The second half was all Baltimore.

Rookie Travis Taylor caught his second touchdown, and Obafemi Ayanbadejo reeled in a 5-yarder to cut the deficit to 26-22 entering the fourth quarter.

Jacksonville third-string running back Chris Howard, playing ahead of injured Fred Taylor and Stacey Mack, then lost his second fumble on the Jaguars 12 with 10:09 left. Banks hit Jermaine Lewis in the end zone to give the Ravens their first lead.

It was 32-29 when Brunell led a 61-yard drive that ended when Smith caught a deflected pass and broke a tackle by Duane Starks to score.