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Jaguars' desperation continues


The Monday Night Football cameras were trained on his face, and for reasons Tom Coughlin wouldn't acknowledge but couldn't deny. His name was linked to the head coach's vacancy at Notre Dame.

Etched on Coughlin's face was the stress of a coach desperate for a win. It remains that way, following a come-from-behind win by the Green Bay Packers, 28-21.

Almost everything about this season has gone wrong for Coughlin and his Jaguars. Injuries have decimated their ranks; fourth-quarter collapses have become an unbearable embarrassment.

On this night, the Packers rallied from a 21-7 deficit, then, with the game tied and 2:03 to play, quarterback Brett Favre led the Packers on a game-winning, 56-yard touchdown drive that required only four plays and 33 seconds.

"It's horrible. I've never experienced anything like this in my life. In 1995, we had an excuse," wide receiver Jimmy Smith said.

So ended what may have been the worst week in Jaguars history. It was a week that began with Smith's name being smeared in a cocaine charge. There was finger-pointing and the controversial return of troubled wide receiver R. Jay Soward, then, of course, came Notre Dame and the Coughlin rumors.

It was a week of distractions, but somehow Coughlin managed to keep his team together so it might distinguish itself by its effort on national television. It did.

Thirteen penalties and four turnovers were the final distractions. The Jaguars were unable to overcome their errors and a pass-interference penalty toward the end of the first half that left Coughlin and cornerback Fernando Bryant bewildered.

"They get paid, too," Bryant said of the officials, who cited Bryant for a pass-interference penalty that nullified an interception and provided the big play in the Packers' first touchdown drive, which cut the Jaguars' lead to 13-7.

"I don't think I did anything. He's going to have to explain that one to the head official. From the line of scrimmage, I didn't touch (Bill Schroeder)," Bryant added.

The Jaguars increased their lead to 21-7 in third quarter when defensive end Tony Brackens sacked and stripped Favre of the football and safety Ainsley Battles raced 60 yards with the recovery. Mark Brunell's pass to Keenan McCardell provided the two-point conversion.

Back stormed Favre, burning Bryant with a 43-yard touchdown pass to Schroeder. Then, Elvis Joseph fumbled away the ensuing kickoff and Favre beat Bryant again with a 29-yard toss to Antonio Freeman, and two plays later Favre threw a one-yard touchdown toss to tight end Bubba Franks.

The game had become a shootout between Favre and Brunell, but Brunell was betrayed by a costly holding penalty against rookie right tackle Maurice Williams and a grabbing-the-facemask violation against left tackle Todd Fordham. Both penalties nullified major gains.

Williams experienced the first bad game of his pro career. At one point in the first half, Brunell scolded Williams following a sack.

The Packers focused their pass-rush on the rookie. They employed Vonnie Holliday, John Thierry, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila and Jamal Reynolds against Williams, who was unable to get a feel for any of the four.

"I had all of them, so I was never able to get used to one of them," Williams said.

A strong finishing kick by Favre allowed him to claim the game's star role, as he threw for 362 yards and three touchdowns, but he was clearly off his game in the first half.

"He wasn't very good tonight," said middle linebacker Hardy Nickerson, who faced Favre twice a year when Nickerson played for the Bucs. "I thought we were doing a pretty good job against him. With what he had to work with, he got it done."

Brunell, who came to the Jaguars after serving as Favre's understudy in 1993 and '94, threw for 311 yards and a touchdown. But Brunell also threw two interceptions and was sacked five times and knocked down 12 times, and Brunell clearly had much less with which to work than Favre.

"Our guy was a warrior," Coughlin said of Brunell, who limped along on a right quadriceps injury that has plagued Brunell for a month. "He wouldn't let (the trainers) touch him. How about our guy? How about talking about our guy? Without any running game he has held his head up and has done a superb job," Coughlin said.

"Some of those throws were off because I couldn't get my feet right. That's unfortunate because there were some throws I needed to hit and I didn't hit," Brunell said.

The Packers (8-3) needed the victory to keep pace with the NFC Central-leading Chicago Bears. The Jaguars (3-8) were playing for pride. At that, they were successful.

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