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Defense crumbles in loss to Seahawks, 24-15


SEATTLE--Jimmy Smith wasn't buying into the theory that a lack of emotion and energy were the reasons for the Jaguars' 24-15 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. All around Smith, those were the claims of his teammates, who collectively bowed their heads and admitted to the guilt of not being emotionally prepared to play a football game.

Smith took a more logical approach to the problem of a performance that left the Jaguars in a tie for fourth place in the AFC Central Division.

"Yeah, it's more than that," Smith said of the "no emotion" theory. "We left too many people in Jacksonville on the injury list. On top of that, you're turning the ball over. Guys are playing hard, but you gotta have your starters on the field."

The Jaguars defense was without four starters on defense Sunday at the University of Washington's Husky Stadium. Defensive end Tony Brackens, strong safety Donovin Darius, middle linebacker Hardy Nickerson and cornerback Fernando Bryant were back in Jacksonville nursing injuries.

As a result, a team that didn't allow a touchdown through the first nine quarters of the season was ravaged for 395 total yards, 21 first downs and a 176-yard rushing performance by reserve running back Shaun Alexander, who set an all-time, single-game rushing mark for a Jaguars opponent.

"Who are you going to say wasn't in the game on offense?" Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin said. "In the second half, we had no offense at all."

Well, the Jaguars were without star running back Fred Taylor, but Mark Brunell was back under center following a concussion that chased him from the previous week's game in the second quarter, and Tony Boselli was back in the lineup at left tackle, though he had to leave the game with a right foot injury following the final play of the third quarter.

Actually, the offense started out strong, with a nice mixture of run and pass, but a fumble by Taylor replacement Stacey Mack in the second quarter sent Mack to the bench for the rest of the game, and the Jaguars' ability to rush the football deteriorated from that point forward.

"That really hurt," Coughlin said of Mack's second-quarter fumble, his second of the game. This one, the Jaguars lost, and at a bad spot on the field, 11 yards from the Seahawks goal line.

The Jaguars' inability to rush the football came to a head early in the fourth quarter, when they faced a fourth-and-one play at the Seattle 35-yard line, trailing 21-15. Coughlin nixed a field goal attempt due to a strong wind into the Jaguars' face. He opted to send rookie running back Elvis Joseph into the line, but Joseph was stopped dead in his tracks, then lost the ball as he attempted to stretch it out for the first down.

"We did some real good things in the first half. In the second half, we got one-dimensional and didn't move the ball," said Brunell, who was in a homecoming game on a field where he helped lead Washington to a share of the national title in 1991.

Brunell said he was physically sharp following a week of recovering from headaches, and he was on top of his game statistically in the first half, posting a 102.1 passer rating with 164 yards passing and one touchdown toss. As the game wore on and the Jaguars were unable to maintain balance between run and pass, the Seahawks began dropping their defensive backs into coverage on every play, and having their defensive linemen tee-off on Brunell. Linebacker Chad Brown led a fierce rush on Brunell.

"They were better than we were today and it showed by the score and by their emotion," Brunell said, supporting his coach's claim that the Jaguars' energy levels were beneath the Seahawks'.

"Everybody is responsible for how they approach the game. It's something we need to think about and talk about trying to find out how to get back that intensity," Brunell added.

The Seahawks deserve credit for a game plan that attacked the Jaguars where they were most vulnerable. That was especially true at middle linebacker and cornerback, where Nickerson and Bryant were missing.

Trent Dilfer made his first start at quarterback, replacing an injured Matt Hasselbeck, and Dilfer had the hot hand in the first half, leading the Seahawks to 63-yard touchdown drives the first two times they had the ball. The Seahawks ripped off yardage in chunks, and Dilfer only had to covert one third-down situation in each of the two drives.

The Jaguars cut the Seahawks' lead to 14-12 on an 18-yard catch-and-run play by Joseph that followed the Jaguars' recovery of a Seahawks kickoff-return fumble in the second quarter. Coughlin opted for a two-point try to tie the game, but Joseph's rushing attempt failed.

Dilfer stormed right back with a five-play, 62-yard touchdown drive that included a 41-yard pass to tight end Itula Mili. Linebacker Kevin Hardy deflected the pass into Mili's hands.

"We're without four starters, but that's not an excuse," Hardy said.

Seattle coach Mike Holmgren caught the Jaguars in a lot of disadvantaged personnel packages on defense, as the Jaguars used several combinations to atone for their losses to injury.

"Last year, they did the same thing to us; the substitutions they were putting us in. At times, they caught us in different personnel, but we just lost the physical battle today and that's the bottom line," Hardy added.

"If you can run the ball, you can pretty much do anything else," defensive end Renaldo Wynn said. "We expected to come out with fire and emotion, and it didn't seem like that at all. I'm embarrassed. We definitely need leadership; guys to step up and show what it takes to get a win."

The Jaguars will follow this weekend's bye with a nationally-televised game at Alltel Stadium against the 0-4 Buffalo Bills on Thursday, Oct. 18. At 2-2, the Jaguars will have an opportunity to get above .500 before they begin a stretch of schedule that will see them play in Baltimore, Tennessee and Pittsburgh during a four-week period.

"We flopped to Cleveland, a team we shouldn't have lost to, and then we flopped to this team. We should be 4-0; easily 4-0," Smith said.

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