ATLANTA – The Jaguars got a few things they wanted Thursday.
They played well at times early – again – and perhaps as importantly, got out of the preseason without sustaining further significant injuries.
They also got a victory, beating the Atlanta Falcons, 20-16, at the Georgia Dome in the 2013 preseason finale, and with the starters playing sparingly, the Jaguars had impressive early moments and led at halftime for the third time in as many weeks.
Chad Henne started at quarterback for the Jaguars, and after being intercepted on the game's first drive, he completed 6 of 10 passes for 56 yards.
Running back Jordan Todman gave the Jaguars an early lead with an 18-yard touchdown run with 4:54 remaining in the first quarter.
"I thought it was good," Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said. "The offense came out and struggled right away with the interception, but then they came back with a scoring drive, which is good to see. Defensively we came out and got a couple three and outs.
"They got a chance to get ready for the game, come out and execute, which I thought was good."
The Jaguars finished the preseason 1-3, and led 10-9 at halftime Thursday, taking a 10-0 lead when kicker Josh Scobee converted from 29 yards out with 1:19 elapsed in the second quarter.
Two Jaguars turnovers late in the second quarter enabled Atlanta to cut the lead to one. First, defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi sacked reserve quarterback Matt Scott, forcing a fumble and returning it 9 yards to make it 10-6. Rookie kicker Jeremy Shelley missed the extra point, but converted a 42-yard field goal with 10 seconds remaining in the half to make it 10-9.
Shelley's field goal came eight plays after rookie cornerback Desmond Trufant intercepted Scott at the Falcons 43.
"I think we are ready to go," Jaguars defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks said. "We came out and had to fight through some adversity. We held up a couple of times. I think we are getting better and we are going to continue to do that leading up to the opening game."
Running back Josh Vaughn's 65-yard touchdown run in the third quarter gave the Falcons their first lead, 16-13. That came after Scobee's second field goal earlier in the quarter.
The Jaguars took their final lead with 14:11 remaining when reserve quarterback Mike Kafka threw 13 yards to wide receiver Jeremy Ebert.
Well, it was the preseason finale, so maybe turning point is stretching it, but the Jaguars responded well after a 65-yard touchdown run by Josh Vaughan gave the Falcons a 16-13 third-quarter lead. Jacksonville's defense stiffened after that, and Ebert's touchdown reception from Kafka in the fourth quarter gave the Jaguars a lead they never relinquished.
1.Todman not only scored the game's first touchdown on an 18-yard run, he finished with 60 yards on nine carries. On his touchdown, he ran through a huge hole in the middle of the line and broke two tackles as he neared the goal line.
2.Jaguars defensive end Pannel Egboh had a sack in the first half.
3.Defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks was active early, and continued to show good quickness off the ball.
4.Defensive end Tyson Alualu had two tackles for loss, and moved inside to rush the passer in passing situations.
5.Ebert made diving reception in the right corner of the end zone on his fourth-quarter touchdown reception.
6.Newly-acquired cornerback Will Blackmon defensed a pass in the first half and also had an interception in the second half.
7.Rookie cornerback Demetrius McCray also was active, defending two passes and making three tackles in the first haolf.
LOOKING ON . . .
*The Jaguars' second- and third-team units stabilized a bit Thursday. The team lost to the New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles in Preseason Weeks 2 and 3, respectively, after holding halftime leads. Jacksonville led 10-0 early against Atlanta before turnovers and mistakes from the starting unit allowed the Falcons to come back, but the reserves held the Falcons largely in check except for the 65-yard touchdown run by Vaughan midway through the third quarter.
*The Jaguars must cut the roster from 75 to 53 players, with releases possible as early as Friday. Veterans such as defensive end Andre Branch and defensive tackle D'Anthony Smith played extensively after the starters left the game, indicating coaches wanted to get a long look at those players. The Jaguars also have decisions to make at quarterback, where Blaine Gabbert and Henne figure to be on the roster, with Matt Scott and Kafka splitting time on Thursday and recently-acquired Ricky Stanzi not playing in his first game with the team.
The Jaguars sustained no significant injuries Thursday.
Guard Will Rackley missed the game with an ankle injury, with running back Justin Forsett (toe), safety Chris Prosinski (concussion), tight end Marcedes Lewis (calf), cornerback Kevin Rutland (quad), defensive end Jeremy Mincey (skin ailment), linebacker Russell Allen (ankle) and Gabbert (thumb) also missing the game.
Center Brad Meester, linebacker Paul Posluszny, defensive tackle Roy Miller and running back Maurice Jones-Drew also missed the game for precautionary/rest reasons.
The absences forced several changes in the starting lineup.
Defensively, Kyle Love started at tackle in place of Miller, with Brandon Marshall starting for Allen and LaRoy Reynolds starting for Posluszny. Henne started for Gabbert at quarterback, with Dan Gerberry starting for Meester and Mike Brewster starting for Rackley. Jordan Todman started for Jones-Drew and Allen Reisner started for Lewis.