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Time to hit the road


They are 6-3 and in the driver's seat for a playoff berth. Where will they stand following three consecutive road games?

The Jaguars reached that point in their season on Sunday, with a 30-3 win over the visiting Baltimore Ravens. It's time to hit the road; at Tennessee, at Arizona, at Cleveland. They are three games that could determine the Jaguars' fate this season.

"For us, this is the start of the second half of the year, the start of the third quarter (of the schedule)," coach Jack Del Rio said. "We get three trips in a row on the road. It is going to require a lot. We are going to have to get better as a football team. It's a big challenge and it starts next week."

That's not to say the Jaguars didn't approach Sunday's game against the Ravens with a bit of anxiety. They were facing the league's second-ranked defense. You'd never know it by the score, however, as the Jaguars hit the 30-point mark in a game for the first time since Dec. 23, 2001. The streak ended at 58 games.

"This was a very solid, convincing win," Del Rio said.

It was a win in which two new players emerged as offensive stars. With Fred Taylor sidelined by a sprained ankle, Greg Jones rushed for 106 yards, marking his first-ever 100-yard game. Rookie wide receiver Matt Jones was the game's number one star, catching five passes for 117 yards and one touchdown.

Do you know who that was you beat, Matt Jones was asked?

"Was it Deion?" he said.

Yeah, it was Deion Sanders.

"I was in the first grade when I first heard of him. To say I caught a pass against Deion Sanders is something I'll be able to remember the rest of my life," Jones added.

He caught more than one pass against Sanders. One of them, however, was for a 32-yard touchdown that opened the scoring for the Jaguars in the second quarter.

"I have spoken in the past about the fact that we need to go beyond Fred (Taylor) and Jimmy (Smith), which is what this offense has been about for so long," Del Rio said. "Some young, talented players that we have selected in the draft are growing up and blossoming right now for us and they are producing for us. We think this is the start of something."

Maybe last week was the starting point. The Jaguars offense exploded for 21 points in the second half of a 21-14 win over Houston and, after another slow start on Sunday, the Jaguars offense came to life with touchdown drives of 78 and 92 yards against the Ravens.

It was the Jaguars defense, however, that allowed Byron Leftwich and company the time they needed to get their feet on the ground. The Jaguars dominated the Ravens offense, sacking Kyle Boller four times and forcing him into three interceptions. Terry Cousin intercepted two passes – the first one killed a potential Ravens scoring drive early in the third quarter with the score 10-3 – and Mike Peterson capped the day by returning an interception 26 yards for the score that produced the 30th point.

"I wanted to come here because Jack (Del Rio) knows how I can play," said Cousin, a free-agent acquisition who played for Del Rio in Carolina in 2002. "Contract wasn't a thing. I just wanted to play for him. I just thank him for coming to get me when I was free."

The loss dropped the Ravens to 2-7 and left coach Brian Billick in a resigned mood.

"We just wore out; couldn't hold up on what they were able to do against us offensively, defensively. I have to go back and try to find some answers for it. It starts individually," Billick said.

Billick was asked if he was angered that the Jaguars passed the ball with five minutes to play and leading by 17 points. "No, that team is a competitive team that is trying to make the playoffs; trying to create an identity. I have no problem with that," Billick said.

The Jaguars will determine more than an identity over the next three weeks. They will determine where they stand in the playoff race heading into the final month of the season.

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