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Jags had to stop George

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NASHVILLE--Right away there were the obvious questions about the effect of having lost Mark Brunell to a concussion in the first quarter. Was that the difference in the game?

No.

And what about the failure to call a time out when the Titans presented the Jaguars with a crazy fake-punt formation that resulted in a drive-sustaining first-down run and, eventually, another field goal? Was that the difference in the game?

No.

This one's easy, folks. The Jaguars lost to the Tennessee Titans Sunday because they couldn't stop the run; they couldn't stop Eddie George.

The Titans know what George means to them. Tom Coughlin will tell you what the Titans' winning percentage is when George rushes for 100 yards. It's next to never lose.

"We were 26th in the league against the rush. There wasn't any question what they would do," Coughlin told reporters following the 23-14 loss at The Coliseum, where the Jaguars haven't won in four tries.

It's the way the Titans want to play football; pound George into the center of the line and control tempo and time of possession. Once, the Titans were very successful at playing that style of football. Then, last year, George began struggling with a foot/toe injury that just wouldn't heal. Five games into this season, there were those -- a lot of those -- who believed George was no longer capable of gaining 100 yards in a game, let alone carry the Titans offense.

"I don't think we need to ask any more questions about Eddie George," Coughlin said sarcastically to reporters who had spent the week leading up to the game inquiring as to the reasons for George's ineffectiveness.

He was averaging 2.7 yards per carry. He hadn't rushed for a hundred yards in a game since the previous season, and then he had only done it once.

Now, George has his first 100-yard day of 2002, a 113-yard, 31-carry, turn-the-clock-back performance that turned the "Cinderella" Jaguars into pumpkins just one week after the Jaguars stepped into the ranks of the NFL elite by having beaten the Philadelphia Eagles.

Respect was at the Jaguars' fingertips. Peter King of Sports Illustrated was on hand in Nashville to do a story about these improbable Jaguars, who would've been one of two or three teams last March everyone would've picked to have no chance of making the playoffs this year, but five games into the season had ascended to the ranks of the league's upper crust. Then the clock struck midnight on the Jaguars and King.

Oh, well, that's life in the NFL, where everything will change if you can wait just seven days.

So why doesn't the Jaguars' run-defense change? Why can't this team stop the run?

"It wasn't our best game. We weren't as physical. The obvious is the obvious," Coughlin said.

The obvious is the Jaguars' defensive front was out-played by a Titans offensive line that had come under major criticism this year. In fact, the Titans' offensive line was being blamed for George's failures.

"We tackled pretty well all the way up to the game. This team and this quarterback," Coughlin said of the Titans and Steve McNair, Coughlin's voice trailing off into a perplexed shake of his head.

"The style of game they play is time of possession. If you're going to beat them, you have to do something about that," Coughlin added.

It was thought the Jaguars had taken dramatic steps in doing something about that, drafting defensive tackles Marcus Stroud and John Henderson with the 13th and ninth picks of the last two drafts. They are good-looking, young players, but this past Sunday they were humbled.

It was the difference in the game; that simple. Don't bother looking deep into the play-by-play or creating scenarios of what might've resulted if this had happened or that had happened. Just accept the facts. The Titans win when George hits the 100-yard mark.

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