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It was worth some smiles


There was nothing remarkable about their performance and they made no special mention of the game's place in history, but coach Jack Del Rio and his Jaguars players left the Metrodome with smiles on their faces.

"I think a victory is good anytime; preseason, regular season, postseason, chess, checkers," Del Rio said following his team's 16-14 win over the Minnesota Vikings, in what was the preseason beginning of this new era in Jaguars football.

But Del Rio was quick to head-off any questions that hinted at something dramatic having happened on this otherwise forgettable night. "There are a lot bigger things we're after than a preseason game," Del Rio said.

So, what was good about this win?

Well, for starters, quarterback Mark Brunell did an about-face from last summer's dreadful preseason performance. Brunell didn't lead the Jaguars to a touchdown, but he completed 10 of 13 passes for 110 yards and a 101.4 passer rating. And Brunell showed he and Jimmy Smith are still capable of producing the big play, which they did on a 37-yard pass down the right sideline in the first quarter.

"Mark looked sharp. If it wasn't for a couple of mistakes, we would've gotten more production," Del Rio said, referring to one promising drive that moved from the Jaguars 30-yard line to the Vikings five-yard line before it was sabotaged by false-start penalties against guard Chris Naeole and tackle Mike Pearson.

"If you get no points out of it, it's all for naught," Brunell said.

But Brunell's spirits were buoyed by the fact the first-team offense moved the ball on two of his four drives. The first drive culminated in a missed 29-yard field goal attempt by Danny Boyd. The second drive resulted in a 29-yard field goal by rookie Seth Marler. It cut the Vikings' lead to 7-3.

Marler struck a significant blow to Boyd and James Tuthill in the placekicking competition. Marler was also good from 43 yards. Boyd's lone field goal was from 32 yards, and Tuthill's lone attempt resulted in a miss from 53 yards.

"I felt comfortable. I was happy to get something to Jimmy down the field. That go route was pretty impressive," Brunell said.

Brunell was replaced by David Garrard late in the first half. Playing with the second team, Garrard struggled against a heavy rush and did not fare well statistically. He completed three of eight passes for 38 yards and a 53.1 passer rating.

"I started out a little tough. I had a nice drive going but it got stopped on a run," Garrard said.

His best drive was in the fourth quarter, when Garrard completed a 17-yard pass to Jimmy Redmond that carried to the Vikings 32-yard line. On third-and-one at the Vikings 25, rookie running back Joe Smith was dropped for a two-yard loss.

Offensively, the Jaguars' effort was limited to 60 yards rushing and 215 total net yards. They allowed three sacks.

Defensively, they allowed the Vikings' first-team offense an 11-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. Daunte Culpepper threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to D'Wayne Bates, who beat Kiwaukee Thomas in the back-right corner of the end zone.

But it was the defense that scored the Jaguars' only touchdown. Ike Charlton raced 97 yards with a fumble, after defensive end Paul Spicer forced that fumble with a jarring hit on running back Larry Ned.

With Gus Frerotte at quarterback, the Vikings had moved from their 34-yard line to the Jaguars one in the second quarter. On first-and-goal, Spicer stopped Ned for a three-yard loss. On the next play, he stripped Ned of the ball.

"I'm at that point that you have to come out and make something happen. That's what the preseason is all about; come out and show these coaches I can get it done," said Spicer, a journeyman veteran who is attempting to win the starting left defensive end job.

"I think he can be a solid player in this league," defensive coordinator Mike Smith said.

Another "old" Jaguar who made his mark in the win over the Vikings is linebacker T.J. Slaughter. He was very active, making a couple of big hits at the line of scrimmage and defending expertly on at least one short pass.

"I have one goal, to start. I'm trying to learn the system and I'm competing. I'm not afraid of the challenge," Slaughter said.

The challenge that confronted the Jaguars following the win in Minnesota was to improve their play significantly. With the preseason underway, the regular-season beginning of this new era in Jaguars football is just around the corner. And regular-season games are not unremarkable and easily dismissed.

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