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Reason to frown, 23-7


There was an edge to Jack Del Rio's voice. This one didn't "fit" well, from the 176 yards rushing the Jaguars allowed to their 13 penalties to a rash of dropped passes to the final score, 23-7 in favor of the visiting Atlanta Falcons.

Other than for Fred Taylor's 13-yard run on his first carry of the preseason and Matt Jones' one-handed grab of Byron Leftwich's 48-yard pass, Del Rio's mood was as wet as the Alltel Stadium turf. Fortunately, it was just a preseason game.

"Sloppy field and I thought sloppy play with the number of yellow flags. The coach is not going to be pleased and I'm not. We would've liked to have had a better showing for the nation," Del Rio said of Thursday night's game, which was shown nationally on ESPN.

"There were two things I was happy about. One was Fred's run and the other was Matt Jones making that catch down the middle. The guy has unbelievable hands. There were other things that put a frown on my face," Del Rio said.

Taylor burst up the middle on the Jaguars' third offensive play of the game. The run ended with Taylor taking a helmet on his surgically-repaired left knee, without incident, and that may have been the best news of the night for the Jaguars. On his first live action since a win in Green Bay in week 15 of last year, Taylor carried four times for 18 yards and caught two passes for eight yards, and gave Del Rio reason to believe his star running back will be ready to go when the regular season opens on Sept. 11.

Jones' catch late in the first quarter was a "SportsCenter" special. Forget the description, just go take a look.

The rest of the Jaguars' performance, however, will not make the highlights. When the night settled into a steady rain, the Jaguars sloshed to a halt.

"We expect to be better than that. People are going to score. I think it was a good thing to experience," Del Rio said of what was a humbling performance by a proud defense.

In a four-possession effort, Falcons quarterback Michael Vick produced 13 points against the Jaguars first-team defense. Vick completed five of 10 passes for 44 yards, one touchdown and a 95.4 passer rating. Vick also rushed four times for 30 yards. His 18-yard touchdown strike to Michael Jenkins, who appeared to beat rookie cornerback Scott Starks on an inside move, was the game's first score.

The key play in that seven-play, 80-yard touchdown drive was a 42-yard run by running back Warrick Dunn, who gained 65 yards on eight carries on the night.

"If you don't fit properly and you don't tackle crisply … Warrick Dunn took a draw play and, boom, he scampers 40 yards. We don't like giving up 170 yards rushing ever, but if you're going to give it up, give it up in the preseason," Del Rio said.

The Jaguars first-team offense and defense played into the third quarter. The first-team offense scored its first touchdown of the preseason, while the first-team defense allowed a touchdown for the first time.

Defensive end Reggie Hayward, the Jaguars' expensive free-agent acquisition, flashed early with a hard rush on Vick, but did not appear on the stats sheet.

"Reggie early in the game hit the quarterback and stood out, then jumped offside and stood out," Del Rio said.

The Jaguars receivers struggled mightily to catch the ball in the wet weather. Dropped passes have been a recurring theme this summer and when asked what the remedy might be, Del Rio said: "Play the guys who don't drop it. That's probably the biggest thing we can do. We're not going to allow excuses."

Leftwich began his night with two beautiful throws to Jimmy Smith, but Smith dropped the first one. Leftwich turned in his best statistical performance of the preseason – 11 of 20 for 179 yards, one touchdown and an 85.2 passer rating – but the offense didn't threaten the end zone often enough. Josh Scobee also missed a 38-yard field goal attempt.

"I think he played well tonight. He hasn't put it all together for four quarters, but I remain encouraged by the way he's directing the offense. He's developing as a young quarterback and I continue to be encouraged by that," Del Rio said.

"We took a step," Leftwich said of the offense. "The mistakes you can correct."

What about the dropped passes?

"That's the last thing I'm worried about. With the receivers we have, they're going to catch the ball. I'm going to miss more passes than they drop," Leftwich said.

Garrard played nearly the entire second half and completed nine of 20 passes for 108 yards, one interception and a 41.2 passer rating.

The Jaguars' preseason win streak ended at five games. At 2-1, the Jaguars will close the preseason next Thursday in Dallas. The team must pare its roster to 65 by four o'clock next Tuesday. The Jaguars distributed 60,596 tickets for Thursday's game, which was blacked out in Jacksonville.

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