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Win lifts Jags' morale


Jack Del Rio second-guessed himself. Fortunately, he could joke about it when the game was over.

"We got the 'W.' Just put the 'W' at the end of the story," Del Rio joked to reporters of his decision not to punt on a fourth-and-one play at his 33-yard line, trailing the Kansas City Chiefs 16-14 with 3:52 to play in the game.

The Jaguars didn't get the first down, but the Jaguars defense held and the Chiefs missed a 42-yard field goal attempt, and then second-year quarterback Byron Leftwich led the Jaguars to victory.

"Big win," Del Rio said, almost shouting, of the Jaguars' 22-16 victory at Alltel Stadium. Del Rio's mood was charged, to say the least, and there was good reason.

The Jaguars were on a two-game losing streak. They were in danger of seeing their 3-0 start washed away. They were in danger of falling two games behind the Colts and that would not have been a good way to go to Indianapolis for next Sunday's game.

Del Rio's team, 4-2, will travel to Indianapolis, 4-1, with first place on the line. The Jaguars needed that to happen for morale's sake. This was a win that revitalized this team. It could give them back the energy they lost in San Diego a week earlier.

At the root of the Jaguars' win over the Chiefs is their game-winning touchdown rally in the final 2:16 of the game. Leftwich led the Jaguars downfield, then pitched a 14-yard, game-winning touchdown pass to Cortez Hankton when only a field goal was needed.

But this game was not all about Leftwich. Yeah, Leftwich turned in a phenomenal performance – 24 of 36 for 298 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 110.6 passer rating – but how about that Jaguars' pass-rush? The Jaguars sacked KC quarterback Trent Green six times for 42 yards; the Jaguars had recorded only five sacks for 20 yards in the first five games of the season.

"Let's talk about those defensive ends," Del Rio said, referring to a position that had been the subject of intense criticism during the week leading up to the game. "Can we finally congratulate those guys for playing well? They did not run the ball down our throats on the edges. Our guys played very well today. Greg Favors played very well. Marcus Stroud stood out. We played well up front."

It was, however, a sack that got away that almost caused the Jaguars to lose.

With the Jaguars attempting to protect a 14-10 lead with about five minutes to play in the game, Green was under a heavy rush from Favors and defensive end Rob Meier. As Green was going down, he flipped a pass a few yards forward to running back Priest Holmes, who took the ball 28 yards for a touchdown.

Del Rio "challenged" the call. He contended Green's knee had touched the ground before he released the pass. Replay review upheld the call, but that didn't satisfy Del Rio.

"Not only one knee but both knees were down," Del Rio maintained.

That's not how referee Ed Hochuli saw it. All of a sudden, a game the Jaguars had led since their first possession had fallen into the Chiefs' control.

First came a four-down folly by the Jaguars. On second-and-one they threw incomplete. On third-and-one they threw incomplete. On fourth-and-one, with Leftwich limping painfully, Del Rio hesitated in his decision, then sent the punt team onto the field, then called the punt team off. Then Leftwich threw incomplete.

The Jaguars got the ball back with no further damage, but now there was only 2:16 to play and about 35-40 yards between them and a game-winning field-goal try.

Leftwich went to work: six yards to Jimmy Smith twice, then 12 yards to Smith, three yards to Fred Taylor, 12 yards to Cortez Hankton and 14 yards to Ernest Wilford to the 14-yard line. Sit on it, right? Move the ball to the center of the field, let the clock tick down to one last play then send rookie kicker Josh Scobee onto the field, right?


Leftwich lobbed a perfect 14-yard strike to Hankton and after a two-point pass to Reggie Williams the Jaguars defense found itself having to protect a six-point lead for 45 seconds.

"The thing we have as a team is we never give up. It's not me, it's the players around me making plays," Leftwich said.

Fred Taylor made one of those plays. Though Taylor's rushing accomplishments remain mired in a slump, Taylor took a swing pass from Leftwich in the second quarter and out-raced three Chiefs defenders 64 yards to a touchdown that left the Jaguars with a 14-3 lead.

The Jaguars scored a touchdown on their first possession of the game, which marked the first time they had done so in Del Rio's 22 games as head coach. Leftwich led a magnificent opening drive, scoring on a six-yard quarterback draw.

KC cut the Jaguars' lead to 14-10 on the Chiefs' first drive of the second half. Tight end Tony Gonzalez' first catch of the day was a 24-yard touchdown strike from Green.

"We weren't going to play like we did last week," Stroud said.

Having dusted off last week's disappointment, the Jaguars will be on a high when they go to Indianapolis.

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