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Jags score one for Hooterville


Eleven years ago, on a field that's now a parking lot, Mark Brunell led the Jacksonville Jagwads to one of the greatest upsets in NFL postseason history. Sunday, David Garrard led the Hooterville Jaguars to an upset of those same Denver Broncos.

In the face of another slam by a Denver newspaper, the Jaguars rolled into town and humiliated the Broncos with a ball-control offense that made the final statistics look like a Rocky Mountain avalanche. The final score, 23-14, is not indicative of the beating the Jaguars put on the Broncos.

How about more than a 17-minute time of possession advantage? How about 21 first downs and eight of 16 on third down? How about 186 yards rushing to a measly 47 yards by the Broncos' vaunted running game?

"That was a great road win for us. I talked all week about it being an early-season test for us," Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio said.

Del Rio challenged his team last week. He challenged them to pass the test. They did and so did their quarterback.

"David Garrard continues to progress as a football player. He did some things with his feet. I thought he made some great throws. It was must-do time and he took the ball right down the field," Del Rio said of his quarterback's play at the most critical point in the game.

Who is this guy? Is this model of efficiency the same guy who nearly trashed his career with a barrage of turnovers late last season?

Three games into this season, Garrard has yet to throw an interception. A week ago, he keyed a 13-10 win over the Falcons by driving his team 80 yards for the eventual game-winning touchdown. This week, Garrard went one better. Sunday, he did it in a hostile environment.

"That was as loud as I've heard in the last 5-6 years," running back Fred Taylor said of the crowd at Invesco Field, as it aimed every decibel of energy it had at Garrard and the Jaguars offense.

Leading 20-14 with 12:41 to play and the Denver crowd howling following a Broncos touchdown, Garrard began the drive of his life. This was crunch time. The ball was in his hands to protect and preserve his team's lead.

Three and out? No way. Garrard responded with key drive-sustaining pass completions to Marcedes Lewis and Greg Estandia. Garrard got a 12-yard run from Fred Taylor and then Garrard followed with a 19-yard scramble to the one-yard line.

The only reason the outcome was still in doubt late in the game was because the Jaguars had squandered several scoring opportunities on the goal line. This drive would produce another example, as Maurice Jones-Drew fumbled the ball away while attempting to struggle to get into the end zone.

Late in the first half, with the ball at the two-yard line, Garrard spiked the ball with the clock stopped on third down following a Denver penalty. It was an inexplicable mistake that left the Jaguars to settle for a field goal.

"I'll take full responsibility for that," Del Rio said. "That was not good."

Asked what transpired to cause the error, Del Rio declined to provide details. "We didn't handle that well," he added.

Garrard was clearly the star of this win, which sends the Jaguars into the bye week with a 2-1 record and positioned to make a run at the AFC South-leading Indianapolis Colts.

In the Jaguars' first road game of the season, Garrard got the Jaguars off to a fast start with an 80-yard, 18-play touchdown drive. On the final play of the drive, Garrard scrambled to his right to avoid being sacked and then found wide receiver Reggie Williams in the back of the end zone for a three-yard touchdown pass.

Garrard actually beat a 12-man defense on that play, as the Broncos were flagged for too many men on the field. The Jaguars, of course, declined the penalty.

Every time Garrard was challenged, he responded. After the Broncos tied the game at 7-7, Garrard responded with a nine-play, 52-yard touchdown drive. His defining possession, of course, was the field-flipping, fourth-quarter drive that took the steam out of the Broncos' rally.

The Jaguars defense provided the final blow. After Denver recovered Jones-Drew's fumble, the Jaguars stopped the Broncos in four plays, regaining possession at the Denver four-yard line with 4:12 to play.

Denver coach Mike Shanahan decided not to punt on fourth down because his team had already used all of its times out. That's a decision that is no doubt being second-guessed in Denver.

"Historically, his teams start fast," Del Rio said of Shanahan and the Broncos. "I thought that was the key, when our offense was able to go 18 plays and push it in for the score. That set the tone of the day for us."

Despite playing without star defensive tackle John Henderson, the Jaguars defense held the Broncos to 47 net yards rushing. Del Rio agreed that was also key.

"We started the year banged up and we've fought through it," Del Rio said.

Now they have some time to rest and recuperate.

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