The Jaguars strengthened their position in the playoffs race with a 24-17 win over the San Diego Chargers but, in the process, lost middle linebacker Mike Peterson with a broken hand.
Coach Jack Del Rio wasn't able to provide details of Peterson's injury other than to say it is a significant injury and Peterson is out of action indefinitely. Peterson fractured his hand in several places.
On all other fronts, the news on Sunday was positive. The Jaguars improved their record to 7-3 and could take sole possession of the wild-card lead should the Titans lose in Denver on Monday night. The Colts, 8-2, were able to cling to a one-game lead in the AFC South.
The Jaguars defense took pride in holding running back LaDainian Tomlinson to 62 yards rushing and kept Tomlinson from reaching the 10,000-yard career rushing mark. Del Rio knew, of course, that his offense's ability to get an early lead and build on it throughout the day turned the Chargers toward their passing game and away from the run.
"He ended up with only 16 carries. That's good," Del Rio said.
Jaguars quarterback David Garrard was making his return to action after three weeks of inactivity due to a high-ankle sprain, and Garrard staked the Jaguars to a 24-10 lead in the third quarter with his second touchdown pass of the day.
"In the first half, they did a great job of keeping the football, converting third downs and making plays. Offensively, we only had three drives," Chargers coach Norv Turner said.
The game boiled to one final thrust by the Chargers to attempt to tie the game and send it into overtime. On second-and-10 at the Chargers 41, however, safety Sammy Knight read quarterback Philip Rivers' eyes and made a game-saving interception.
Rivers threw for 309 yards and a touchdown, but he was intercepted twice and hurried into several throw-aways. Rivers finished the day with a 67.6 passer rating, as compared to Garrard's 114.8.
Fred Taylor led the Jaguars in rushing with 85 yards and tight end George Wrighster led in receptions with five for 47 yards. The Jaguars held the ball nearly six minutes longer than the Chargers, who fell behind 10-0 in the first quarter.
"We did a good job of getting upfield and getting penetration," Jaguars defensive end Paul Spicer said.
In addition to the loss of Peterson, cornerback Rashean Mathis sat out the second half after straining his groin. "We decided to hold him back in the second half. Scott Starks did a solid job (in place of Mathis)," Del Rio said.
"That team wasn't going to go down easily," Del Rio added of the Chargers, who fell to 5-5 and will drop into a tie with Denver for the AFC West lead, should the Broncos beat the Titans on Monday.
The Jaguars are 5-2 vs. AFC teams and 3-0 against the AFC West, both of which put the Jaguars in a strong tiebreaker position. Garrard improved his record as a starter to 15-10.
Star pass-rusher Shawne Merriman was demonstrative in his postgame interview. "This game is played with violence. It's played with an attitude (that) I have no friends out there so don't talk to me. You have to go out there and play aggressive for 60 minutes. That's how you win a football game and that's how you play the game. You have to want it and you have to hate to lose," Merriman said.
The Chargers are the most disappointing team in the league this year, coming off the best record in the league last season, 14-2. The weekly question the Chargers have faced is: What's wrong?
"All I know is that we have to come out and play like it's the last game. Whatever we're not doing, we have to fix it," Merriman added.
Del Rio set the tone of the game early by ordering two go-for-its on fourth down. The Jaguars converted both, in the same drive, the second one a one-yard touchdown run by Maurice Jones-Drew.
"I think the ankle held up well," Garrard said. "My offensive line did a great job of keeping guys off me. I can only remember just a couple of times when they actually had pressure on me.
"The guys were running great routes. I was just hoping I was getting the right coverage every time and I was. I couldn't help but put the ball in the right place. It was a good job to show how explosive the offense can be," Garrard added.