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Jaguars at high point

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Fred Taylor rushed for 142 yards, Mark Brunell topped out with a 105.7 passer rating, and the defense denied the Jets the end zone. It all added up to a surprisingly easy, 28-3 win Sunday that left the Jaguars 2-1 and tied with Indianapolis for first place in the AFC South.

"There's a lot of excitement around here. I think we'll be very successful," Jimmy Smith said in describing the state of the Jaguars following this past Sunday's win at Alltel Stadium.

These are good times for a franchise that hasn't had a winning season since 1999. Enthusiasm for the young Jaguars is growing and the appearance of Donovan McNabb and the Philadelphia Eagles at Alltel Stadium this Sunday will clearly establish a high point in excitement for the Jaguars since the '99 AFC title game.

"I'm not surprised," Brunell said. "I thought we could be really good. We've just got to stay healthy. If we could stay healthy, we could make a run at the end. We've got as good a shot as anybody else."

That's where the Jaguars' thoughts are today, following a win that began with the second-longest, non-touchdown play in Jaguars history, and concluded by turning the Jets away in a last desperate bid to score a touchdown.

On the Jaguars' first play of the game, Brunell saw running back Fred Taylor out in front of Jets cornerback and former Jaguar Aaron Beasley. Brunell dropped the ball on the mark and Taylor leaped high to make the catch. He was ruled to be down at the Jets one-yard line, from where

Stacey Mack scored on the next play.

Coach Tom Coughlin said the opening play was part of a script of plays that was assembled on Friday. Brunell was supposed to throw short and over the middle, but when he was forced to move away from the rush, his eyes found Taylor deep. It was a play similar to a 78-yard touchdown reception by Taylor in his rookie season, 1998.

The Jaguars methodically dismantled the Jets, who lost starting quarterback Vinny Testaverde to a shoulder injury in the Jets' second possession of the game. He was replaced by former first-round draft choice Craig Pennington, who completed 21 of 34 passes for 281 yards, no touchdowns and one interception.

Mack scored touchdowns on three short runs and Taylor capped the scoring in the third quarter with a 22-yard dash. Mack gained 70 yards on 15 carries, helping the Jaguars boast an impressive 223 net yards rushing.

The Jets used a lot of two-deep-safeties pass-defense, attempting to deny the long pass to Jimmy Smith and Patrick Johnson. That was the major reason for Smith having made only one catch for 10 yards, and for Johnson having been shut out.

"We were fortunate we were able to run the football," said Brunell, who completed 10 of 15 passes for 173 yards. Brunell and company were effective and efficient enough for rookie David Garrard to get some mop-up work in the fourth quarter.

"Every week we know we have to be the more physical team. We worked very hard," Coughlin said in praising his team's effort. "We pounded the ball good. We ran the ball in the tough territory. We had power running. There's nothing fancy about it. It's just slam it up in there and get some bodies in front of the ball and let's go."

"I guess we proved we can win at home. I guess we proved we can run the football," Smith said of the victory, which was the Jaguars' first win at Alltel Stadium since Nov. 11, 2001.

The win left Jaguars fans to consider a season of division title contention. Most fans had abandoned hope of playoff contention during a disappointing preseason.

"I never thought it was going to be a rebuilding year. I knew we had to re-stock things. The parity in this league is so level right now. The depth is not great," veteran tight end Pete Mitchell said.

What are the ingredients to success in this age of parity?

"Good to great players at key positions, then stay healthy and just get on a roll," Mitchell said.

In Brunell, Taylor and Smith, the Jaguars have great players at key positions. The offensive line is rapidly developing into a first-class unit and the defense has put together seven consecutive strong quarters of football, which began in a 23-16 win in Kansas City in week two. Kansas City has scored 40, 38 and 48 points in its other three games.

"We proved that when we play as a unit, we can't be beat," cornerback Jason Craft said.

"I think we're gelling; a lot of hustle and enthusiasm," Taylor said. "That's all you need. We have to keep it up. We started 2-0 last year and sort of fell off the earth."

"We're not there, yet, but we're making progress," Coughlin said.

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