Behind enemy lines: Jacksonville
The 49ers are 2-11 and lost 41-3 last week in Seattle. The 49ers don't appear to travel well. They also lost at Philadelphia, 42-3; to Arizona, 31-14 in Mexico City; at Washington, 52-17; at Chicago, 17-9; and at Tennessee, 33-22. Traveling across country and playing at 10 a.m. San Francisco time would not seem to help the 49ers' chances of posting their first road win of the season. They also have a rookie quarterback in Alex Smith. The Jaguars should be able to stop the run and then go after Smith, who has nine interceptions and nine fumbles in just six games. But Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio was trying to pump up the game this week. "We've got a big home game this weekend. An opportunity to win our 10th game and increase our chances of earning and qualifying for a postseason berth, so it's a big game for us," he said. He even tried to pump up the 49ers. "You look at this team, they beat Tampa Bay and they came within two points of tying up Seattle, two teams that are playing real well in the league. So, like we always say, every team has ability, has good coaches and good players," he said. The key for the Jaguars is to keep their focus against losing teams, and Del Rio admitted they've done that. They're 6-1 against losing teams and 3-3 against winning teams. "I do think that's an area where we have improved," Del Rio said of performing well against undermanned foes. "I think we have been more consistent in our preparation and our understanding of what an opponent can beat you at." Of the Jaguars' final 10 games, only the game against the Colts last week was against a winning team. They had beaten five consecutive losing teams before they lost to Indianapolis. If they can keep beating losing teams - they play Houston on Christmas Eve and Tennessee on New Year's Day in their final two games - they'll end up in the playoffs this year. They can clinch this week if they win and Pittsburgh, Kansas City and San Diego all lose and Denver wins or ties. It's more likely they'll clinch next week in Houston. --- Fred Taylor has decided he doesn't want to make waves. Taylor returned to the starting lineup against Indianapolis after a two-week layoff with an ankle injury Sunday and had just 10 carries for 19 yards. He had just two carries in the second half of a 26-18 loss. After the game, Taylor gave the impression he was upset about the situation when he said, "I'm still trying to figure it out." He also said, "I do want an opportunity to get in there and play, but they just didn't call my number." Taylor then got a lot of questions about those remarks. "Everybody wants to get me into this, 'What's happening with you? Are you being demoted or something like that?' People are asking why I didn't play (more). (They've even asking) on the street," Taylor said. Taylor clarified those remarks Wednesday as the team began preparations for Sunday's game against the 49ers and said he wasn't upset about his situation. "You have to back up and put things in perspective. The game had just gotten over and we lost, and you don't always take time out and put things in perspective at the end of a tough loss like that against a very good team," he said. "After the game, I was probably frustrated. It's not typical for me to be feeling healthy like that and not playing. I've never been in that situation. That's all I was really getting into." Taylor now realizes he's going to share time with Greg Jones. Of his decreased role Sunday against the Colts, when Jones had 43 yards in seven carries, Taylor said, "That's what the game situation and the personnel called for. "The coach's mentality is if it's not broken, don't fit it. We've been having a win streak, and me, being as unselfish as I can be, I never want to interfere with that. We've been winning with a certain formula, that's all I want to do is win. If it calls for me to take less reps here and there, that's fine. It's definitely not a problem with me." While Taylor is averaging 4.0 yards a carry with 625 yards on 155 carries, Jones is close at 3.8 yards a carry with 531 yards on 139 carries. Taylor said he understands the coach's mentality because if it weren't for the long hours the coaches work, he could envision himself as a coach. "If our running back coach got sick, I can go into the staff meeting and get all the information and coach the other running backs," he said. When Taylor was told that star players rarely become coaches, he said, "I'm not a star. I came up in the Jacksonville Jaguars market. This market doesn't make you a star. I'm not a superstar. I might be a role model to some people. A star and a role model are two different things, I think." --- Byron Leftwich now seems unlikely to play again this year. He was still on crutches Wednesday after cracking a bone in his ankle in Arizona on Nov. 27. Leftwich said he doesn't even have a schedule for getting off crutches, much less returning to the field. With the final regular-season game on Jan. 1 and the team's first playoff game likely to be a week after that, Leftwich seems unlikely to be ready. That means David Garrard probably will carry the team the rest of the way. Garrard will make his third consecutive start in Leftwich's place against the 49ers. --- For the Jaguars to host the AFC title game, they'd have to get the fifth seed and win their first two playoff games on the road. And the sixth seed would have to win its first two playoff games on the road. That's never happened, but the league has given the Jaguars permission to sell tickets for that game. --- The Jaguars have dropped from first to eighth in pass defense while giving up 301, 205 and 300 yards passing the last three games. --- The Jaguars had a late addition to the injury report Thursday when defensive end Paul Spicer was added with a hip injury. Spicer, who apparently suffered the injury in the game last Sunday against Indianapolis, practiced Wednesday but was sore Thursday. He was held out of Thursday's drills and was listed as questionable. If the Jaguars decide to keep him out of the San Francisco game, Bobby McCray likely will get the start. Spicer, who missed most of last year with a broken leg, is tied with Reggie Hayward for the team lead in sacks with 7 1/2. The Jaguars can afford to let Spicer rest because they're heavily favored by 15 points over the 49ers. There were no other changes on the injury report. Rich Alexis remained doubtful with a groin injury, and Rashean Mathis is probable with a broken finger. But they should be able to improve their ranking going against rookie QB Smith this week. --- C Brad Meester was placed on the injured reserve list last Friday with a torn biceps in his right shoulder. To replace him, the Jaguars signed center Brett Romberg from the practice squad to be a backup. Dennis Norman is now the starting center. --- QB David Garrard gives the team a running dimension and has 21 carries for 105 yards in three games. Byron Leftwich carried only 31 times for 67 times before he was injured. --- MLB Mike Peterson, bidding for a Pro Bowl berth, is leading the team in tackles with 169. He hopes for a big game against the 49ers to impress the voters.
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