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Dallas "star" goes down


By the time Jaguars players report to the team meeting room on Monday, the Dallas Cowboys "star" will be peeled off the wall and replaced by the Pittsburgh Steelers' right-side only helmet patch. It's Jack Del Rio's new creation for delivering his one game at a time message.

The Cowboys' "star" fell on Sunday, 24-17, as the Jaguars rallied from a 10-0 deficit in the first quarter with 24 unanswered points. The season-opening win was cause for great celebration, but it was also a Pyrrhic victory in as much as the Jaguars probably lost defensive end Reggie Hayward for the season.

"We lost a really good football player. We believe he ruptured his Achilles (tendon), which will end his season," head coach Jack Del Rio said.

It was a bitter pill for Del Rio to swallow on a day when two of his star defensive players refused to be sidelined by injuries. Mike Peterson made his return from a knee sprain and clinched the win with a final-minute interception. Marcus Stroud continued his consecutive-games streak by playing on an ankle sprain he sustained in practice last week.

"There were a couple of guys who fought this week to make it back. They showed incredible courage and determination," Del Rio said of Peterson and Stroud.

Determination was the buzz word for the Jaguars' performance against the Cowboys. After quickly falling behind 10-0, the Jaguars appeared to be overwhelmed but rallied to tie the game by halftime and then ran away from the Cowboys in the second half.

"Focus on finding a way to scratch out a win as a team," Del Rio said of the challenge the Jaguars faced. "The way this game started, it required that.

"That comes down and the Steelers emblem goes up real soon," Del Rio explained when asked about the Dallas "star" on the Jaguars' team meeting room wall.

Dallas marched 70 yards for a touchdown on the Cowboys' opening possession. Terrell Owens was immediately featured and burned the Jaguars for two quick catches, then running back Julius Jones capped the drive by blazing up the middle for a 23-yard touchdown run.

The next time the Cowboys had the ball, they marched right down the field again, eventually settling for a field goal and a 10-0 lead. The Jaguars were beleaguered.

"We preached and talked about doing your job, playing fast and trusting your teammate to do his. As the game wore on, we got better. We stuck with the run," Del Rio said.

Fred Taylor rushed for 74 yards and a touchdown, as the Jaguars had nearly perfect balance between run and pass. It was Byron Leftwich, however, who was the offensive star.

After a slow start, Leftwich caught fire in the second quarter and took that into the second half. At one point he completed 10 consecutive passes, and finished the game with 237 yards passing, one touchdown, one interception and an 85.0 passer rating.

Dallas quarterback Drew Bledsoe was a picture in contrast. Bledsoe started fast but his performance deteriorated into three interceptions and a 45.8 passer rating.

The Jaguars' pass-rush was the reason Bledsoe went downhill. Bledsoe was sacked twice and hurried repeatedly. Eventually, he became rattled by the pressure.

"I don't think he felt comfortable today. He got hit a lot," Del Rio said of Bledsoe.

The Jaguars offense, a source of great disappointment in the preseason, was very comforting against the Cowboys. There was no reason to boo Leftwich or his offensive line on Sunday. He got solid pass-protection and he delivered the ball on time and accurately.

"Byron was very efficient. He was sharp all (game). I really believe we're going to be an effective offense," Del Rio said.

"It confirmed what I believe about the football team. There is a genuine closeness about this team. The team that stuck together for 60 minutes would win this game," the coach added.

The Jaguars will host the Steelers on Monday, Sept. 18, in a clash of 1-0 teams.

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