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Jaguars begin 11-week push


Fresh from their bye week and weekend of watching football, the Jaguars returned to practice on Monday to begin an 11-week push for the playoffs.

"It makes you anxious. It makes you want to get back to doing it," quarterback Byron Leftwich said of watching games on TV Sunday afternoon. "You realize why it's the greatest sport in our country. It's exciting."

Sunday's games included several upsets and heart-stoppers. Tennessee, Tampa and Detroit all rose from the ranks of the winless, with Tennessee upsetting the Redskins and the Bucs scoring on a fourth-down play in the final seconds to upset the Bengals. Seattle rallied to beat St. Louis with a field goal on the final play of the game and New Orleans did the same to Philadelphia, while a furious Miami rally fell short against the Jets when Olindo Mare missed a kick that would've sent the game into overtime.

"It shows how close the teams in the league really are," Leftwich said of Sunday's results.

That's a thought the Jaguars will no doubt take into this week's game in Houston. The Texans are 1-4 and coming off a 34-6 loss to the Cowboys, a team the Jaguars already defeated, but the Jaguars won't take the Texans lightly.

"I'd like to win the next 11. We have to make sure we come back with the same intensity," Leftwich said, referring to the team's performance in a 41-0 win over the Jets two Sundays ago. "We will do that. By the looks of today, everybody came back into it."

The absence of Mike Peterson is the main concern. The Jaguars lost their middle linebacker for the season to a torn pectoral muscle in the win over the Jets, which means the Jaguars defense will be without two of their biggest stars the rest of the way. Defensive end Reggie Hayward was lost in the season opener.

Can the Jaguars remain a playoff contender without Peterson and Hayward? That's the main question confronting this team as it returns to action.

"This system is set up to be more for role players instead of having stars," safety Donovin Darius said. "You can't replace (Peterson and Hayward) but you try to have more of a group effort. You try to make up with the system what you lost in talent."

"We're going to try to score one more point than the other team," Leftwich said when asked if the burden falls on the offense to score more points. "Whether it's 10-9 or 23-22, that doesn't matter to us. When you lose players like Reggie and Mike Pete, that hurts you, but that defense is still going to be dominant."

The Jaguars are immediately confronted by another question: Down two games to the Colts in the AFC South title race, can the Jaguars take advantage of scheduling over the next month of the season to close the gap on the Colts?

"We have to worry about ourselves. We can't begin in week (seven) to worry about some other team. It's not like it's week 12. It's too early to worry about anybody but our football team," Leftwich said.

The Jaguars will play at Houston and at Philadelphia, then return home for three games: Tennessee, Houston and the Giants. At the same time, the Colts host Washington, travel to Denver and New England, host Buffalo and travel to Dallas.

"We just need to continue the direction we're going in. We have to make sure the little time we had off doesn't change the direction we're going in," Leftwich said.

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