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Jags accept challenge


Their quarterback is on fire and they are riding his red-hot arm. How far?

That's the issue following Byron Leftwich's performance in the Jaguars' 31-28 win over the Titans at The Coliseum. Leftwich threw three touchdown passes for the first time in his career and the Jaguars hit the 30-point mark for the second consecutive week.

Following a mini-slump in the second quarter of the season, Leftwich has since responded by playing the best football of his life, and Jeff Fisher and the Titans made the mistake of daring Leftwich to beat them. He did.

"Byron was especially sharp in the second half. They put their corners out on an island and blitzed and they really stuffed our running game. We made some adjustments," Jack Del Rio said.

The Jaguars abandoned their running game and went pass-happy, beginning with their final possession of the first half. They accepted the Titans' challenge. They put the game in the hands of their quarterback and he marched them to victory, which marked the third consecutive week he has done so.

It was reminiscent of five years ago, when the Jaguars used the same strategy on Steve McNair. Remember "Dare McNair?" Same thing except dare doesn't rhyme with Leftwich.

"They were loading the box with eight and nine people and we weren't able to get him much running room," Del Rio said of taking Fred Taylor out of the game. "There was no sense slamming him up into a loaded box like that."

Through the first quarter, the Jaguars had no yards rushing and no yards passing. Tennessee was dominating the line of scrimmage with blitzing bodies. It was decision time for the Jaguars.

"It was very good of Carl Smith and the offensive staff to adjust," Del Rio said.

The adjustment was obvious. Smith accepted the challenge.

"We said this isn't working. Let's shift it. So we went three-wide in our last possession of the half and we went down and scored, so we'll play that way until further notice," Smith said.

There was no further notice. The Jaguars played that way to the end, with Leftwich torching the Titans for 15 second-half completions, 193 yards and two touchdowns. It left Leftwich to finish the game with a 104.9 passer rating.

The significance to all of this is that in accepting the Titans' challenge and with Leftwich responding as he did, the Jaguars sent a message to future opponents: We got da man.

"It was just a matter of time," Jimmy Smith said. "They knew it was our game plan to run the ball first. We had to adapt and throw the ball; play pitch and catch."

They have the "man" to do that. How far will he take them this season?

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