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Jaguars in playoff race


The Jaguars ended a three-game losing streak. They're back in the playoff race. Their first-round draft choice scored his first touchdown. Coach Jack Del Rio was pleased by it all.

"All in all, I'm pleased with the performance," Del Rio said of the Jaguars' 22-3 win over the visiting Chicago Bears. "We'll enjoy this thing tonight, look at it tomorrow, then put it away and get ready for the Packers."

When the Jaguars more closely examine their performance against the Bears, they'll see some good, some bad and some in between. They won't get a big head but, after three weeks of feeling bad, they'll enjoy a week of feeling good. Hey, it's a win.

"It takes tension off," quarterback Byron Leftwich said of playing most of the fourth quarter with a 19-point advantage. "It's good to get a win of this nature."

For four consecutive weeks, the Jaguars found themselves in "pressure-cooker" fourth quarters. They blew a lead to Detroit and had to win in overtime. They blew a lead to Tennessee and lost; failed in the red zone late against Minnesota, then repeatedly in the red zone against Pittsburgh.

This was a team that needed a win; any kind of a win.

"We needed it big-time," Del Rio said. "I'm hopeful it can serve as a breakout game for us."

It might be a stretch to term rookie wide receiver Reggie Williams' performance a "breakout game," but his six-yard touchdown catch and 26-yard grab over the middle in the first half left the Jaguars hopeful Williams might become the playmaker in December they drafted him to be.

Another area of concern, the Jaguars' pass-rush, came to life with five sacks. It is another source of late-season hope for the Jaguars.

"We talked about the need to win to stay in. That needs to be the case each week," Del Rio said, referring to the team's playoff hopes.

Indianapolis clinched its second consecutive AFC South title on Sunday. The Jaguars are left to contend for one of the AFC's two wild-card spots. At 7-6, the Jaguars are tied with Buffalo and trail Baltimore (8-5), Denver (8-5)and the New York Jets (9-4).

"We understand the scenario. We're closer than everybody thinks. Now is the time you start looking to see what everybody else is doing," quarterback Byron Leftwich said.

The Jaguars will face their second big-game atmosphere in three weeks when they play the Packers in Lambeau Field on Sunday. It is a game that is critical to each team's playoff hopes, especially for the Jaguars. It is the next thing to a must-win game.

"It's going to be exciting to get a chance to go up to Lambeau Field. I hope it's about 10 degrees. It's exciting to play in these stadiums you saw as a kid," Leftwich said.

Leftwich attempted 45 passes against the Bears. He completed 25 of those passes for 242 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and a 76.3 passer rating. Del Rio said the reason for so many pass attempts was the fact that Chicago "loaded up the box" against the run.

Fred Taylor gained 79 yards in 21 rushing attempts. Taylor went over 1,000 yards in a season for the third consecutive year and for the fifth time in his seven pro seasons.

Jimmy Smith caught six passes for 85 yards and one touchdown. Smith went over the 1,000-yard mark in receiving for the eighth time in the last nine seasons.

"I expected to see a blowout, honestly; from what we saw on the tapes," Taylor said of his expectations against the Bears.

Defensively, the Jaguars held the Bears to 210 total net yards and just 31 on the ground. Del Rio praised defensive tackle John Henderson.

" 'Big John' has just been dominant. 'Big John' was tremendous," Del Rio said.

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