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Defense sparks first-half win


The big play was missing but that might've been more a product of design than a failure to get open. Either way, the Jaguars were satisfied with their performance in Saturday night's dink and dunk fest against the Tampa Bay Bucs. The Jaguars won "both" games; 10-7 and 23-17.

Both games?

Yeah, the Jaguars won the first half, 10-7, thanks largely to a missed chip-shot field goal attempt by the Bucs at the end of the half. The first half saw both teams play their starters and the Jaguars went out to a 10-0 lead when the combination of strong kick coverage and intense defense provided David Garrard and the offense with two short-field scoring opportunities.

The Jaguars' full-game victory required a final-seconds defensive stand by the number three defense. The game ended with rookie cornerback Trae Williams making a game-saving tackle on the Jaguars' 11-yard line.

"Defensively strong early; taking the short field and getting some points. I thought it was a nice job by our offense to go down the field and get seven points to start the third quarter," coach Jack Del Rio said.

Garrard moved the offense down the field in rapid fashion on the first drive of the third quarter. He completed passes of sizeable gains to Dennis Northcutt and Matt Jones and then found tight end Marcedes Lewis for the score. The drive, however, was against Tampa Bay reserves.

"David played pretty sharp," Del Rio said of Garrard, who played well except for one play; a forced throw that was intercepted. "In that situation, we'd like to chuck it up into the bleachers," Del Rio added.

Garrard completed 10 of 16 passes for 118 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and a 98.4 passer rating. Following the game, he pronounced the offense ready to open the season.

"I was very happy with the way things worked tonight. It was a good night and we need to build on it," Garrard said.

Garrard was asked if the high number of short passes were the result of a "vanilla" game plan.

"You just have to be patient. That's what we did last year. If you can stay patient, it's a long ballgame," Garrard said. "We had plays called a couple of times when we wanted to go down the field, but we had looks that wouldn't allow that.

"I was happy with the receivers. Hopefully, we can get Jerry Porter back and get him going," Garrard added.

Garrard was sacked twice and under a rather heavy rush for the second consecutive game.

"Tampa has played good defense the whole preseason. He's getting hit more than I'd like to see. We have to do a little better job and execute better," Del Rio said.

Wide receiver Reggie Williams and defensive end Reggie Hayward returned to action after having missed the first two preseason games with injuries. "It wasn't a monster performance by either one but we're glad to have them back," Del Rio said.

Williams made one catch for seven yards. Hayward forced Earnest Graham to fumble on the Bucs' first possession. The recovery led to a Jaguars field goal.

"I think I did all right," said Hayward, who had been out of action for two weeks with a hamstring injury. "The hamstring and the Achilles are still attached to my body. The big test is when I wake up in the morning."

Hayward is an important player in the Jaguars' defense since first-round draft pick Derrick Harvey remains unsigned. Hayward might be described as a "bridge" to the day Harvey is signed and able to play a full-time role.

"I think I'm an important piece but I'm just a piece. Today I felt like I got back into my role and helped the team and that felt good," Hayward added.

Running back Fred Taylor saw his most extensive action of the preseason. He carried seven times for 26 yards and looked sharp early in the game.

"I think we complement each other well," Taylor said when asked if the Jaguars have a passing game that can open the field for the run. "Yeah, we can pass it; of course we can. Will we develop a deep threat? We have guys capable of getting it done."

Running back Maurice Jones-Drew sustained an ankle sprain early in the game and did not return. The sprain was said to be mild. Linebacker Brian Iwuh sustained an ankle sprain of more significance.

Cleo Lemon replaced Garrard at quarterback in the third quarter and took it the rest of the way. Lemon completed nine of 12 passes for 96 yards.

The Jaguars are 2-1 and will close the preseason in Washington on Thursday.

"All in all, it was solid work," Del Rio said.

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