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Smith leads Jags to win


Jimmy Smith proved he is still the player who ignites the Jaguars offense, and his teammates praised their troubled wide receiver following an eight-catch, 137-yard performance that pushed him up the list of all-time NFL receiving leaders and led the Jaguars to their first win of the Jack Del Rio era.

"Jimmy did a fabulous job … made some huge plays," Del Rio said following the Jaguars' 27-21 win over the still-winless San Diego Chargers. It marked Del Rio's and the Jaguars' first win in five tries this season.

"I'm relieved, I guess; more relief than joy," Del Rio said, choosing not to celebrate a win that left the Jaguars 1-4.

But it was certainly a satisfying win on several fronts:

• Quarterback Byron Leftwich turned in a sensational performance in just his second professional start; first-ever start at Alltel Stadium. Leftwich completed 19 of 28 passes for 336 yards, two touchdowns and a 132.4 passer rating.

• The Jaguars defense held LaDainian Tomlinson, the AFC's second-leading rusher coming into the game, to 38 yards on 10 carries.

"I'm probably most proud of what we did against that team's running game. That team knows how to run the ball," Del Rio said.

• The defense's much-maligned pass-rush came to life in the second half, when the Chargers were reduced to a catch-up role. The Jaguars sacked quarterback Drew Brees four times for 19 yards.

• Fred Taylor reached his season-high in rushing attempts, 27, and added a game-clinching 60-yard sprint on a third-down screen pass when the Jaguars were attempting to kill the clock.

But Smith's performance was the highlight. The team's all-time great pass-catcher turned the clock back on a career that had slumped last season, then seemed to come apart at the seams this summer when he sustained a four-game drug suspension. Today, Smith moved past Herman Moore and into 18th place on the NFL's all-time receptions list with 672 catches, and moved past Rob Moore into 20th place all-time in receiving yards with 9,424. It was also Smith's 38th career 100-yard game.

He was facing enormous pressure. He was facing a comeback game that would either quiet his critics or grow their ranks.

"I said on the sideline, 'I'm playing with a Hall of Famer,'" Jaguars cornerback Fernando Bryant said. "You can see the difference when he's in the game. You are in awe."

Smith wasted no time making his return felt. He made two key catches in the Jaguars' first touchdown drive. Then, late in the first half, he punctuated his return with a sensational one-hand grab along the Jaguars sideline.

"When he made that one-handed catch, I said welcome back. You gotta appreciate a guy coming in one week and doing what he did," Leftwich said.

The facts are undeniable. A week earlier, as the Jaguars were losing in Houston, Smith was in a rehabilitation clinic. Seven days later, he was leading the Jaguars to their first win. It was, truly, one of the most amazing and memorable performances in Jaguars history.

But winning the game required some heroics by his teammates in the second half. That's where recently-acquired wide receiver Troy Edwards enters. Edwards caught a touchdown pass for the second consecutive week, after having been signed off the "street" five days before the game in Houston. Edwards' 18-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter today staked the Jaguars to a 17-7 lead.

"He's been a very nice addition. He's been explosive; he's hungry. He came in here just wanting a chance," Del Rio said of Edwards.

The Jaguars were nursing a 20-7 lead lead in the game when the Chargers marched 73 yards, scoring on a 33-yard touchdown pass from Brees to wide receiver Eric Parker. That cut the Jaguars' lead to an anxious 20-14, and a minute later the Jaguars faced a critical third-and-three with 3:22 to play.

Leftwich threw a short pass to Taylor, who managed to wiggle past the first-down marker. Three plays later, the Jaguars faced a third-and-seven, and this time Taylor took a perfectly conceived screen pass and set sail for the end zone.

"We knew what they were going to be in. We got the play called that would give us a chance," Del Rio said of offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave's play-call.

The Chargers quickly scored, but missed on an onside-kick try.

"I'm just glad we won; I'm glad Jack got his first win," Smith said.

"There are a lot of good things going on. We have to find the ability to sustain those moments," Del Rio said of his team's performance.

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