Jaguars Upend Falcons, 13-7

The Jaguars used a fourth quarter rally to avoid beginning the season 0-2, as they scored 10 unanswered points to defeat the visiting Atlanta Falcons 13-7, before an announced crowd of just 61,821, nearly 7000 shy of a sellout.

Defense was the order of the day for the Jaguars, as the team bounced back from the record-setting futility of a week earlier, to stand firm against the powerful Falcons running game, and allow just one drive to end in points on what would be the hottest home game in Jacksonville history, as the mercury crept up to 88 degrees with 81% humidity.

The Jaguars defense was led by linebacker Mike Peterson, who had two of the team's seven sacks, to go along with seven tackles. The Jacksonville defense bounced back from allowing 282 yards on the ground just a week ago, to just 82 yards for the Falcons backs. The Jaguars seven sacks were the second-most in team history for one game, just two shy of the team record of nine, which ironically came against the Falcons in 1999. In the second half, the Jaguars defense surrendered just 54 total yards, and just four first downs while pitching a shutout. Other stars on the Jaguars defense were the Pro Bowl tackles, Marcus Stroud and John Henderson, who combined for eight tackles and two sacks, as well as designated pass rusher Brent Hawkins, who finished with two tackles and two sacks. Veteran safety Sammy Knight filled in admirably for an injured Gerald Sensabaugh (shoulder), and recorded seven tackles, as well as rookie safety Reggie Nelson, who tallied one tackle. When Mike Peterson was asked about the injuries to the defense and the difference of how they played Sunday, compared to a week earlier, he said--

"It's a different defense and that's the excuse we could've used last week, but no excuses."

Offensively, the Falcons forced the Jaguars to pass, and pass is what they did. Statistically, quarterback David Garrard had a career day, completing 17 of 25 passes for 272 yards and a touchdown. Garrard led the team on a fourth quarter drive to take the lead for good, completing four passes in four attempts for 79 yards, capped by a 14-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Williams. Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio was asked about that game-clinching drive, and said--

"The key third down in the red zone; a really well-thrown ball by David, a key catch by Reggie and a well-designed play by the offensive staff."

When Garrard had time to throw, he was sharp, hitting most of the Jaguars receivers in stride. Dennis Northcutt led all Jaguars receivers for the second consecutive week with five catches for 75 yards, and the Jaguars first round draft picks from 2004-2006 (Reggie Williams, Matt Jones, and Marcedes Lewis) combined for seven receptions for 116 yards and a touchdown.

The Jaguars made more of a commitment to the running game than a week earlier, as they rushed the ball 34 times for 113 yards, led by Fred Taylor's 56 yards on 16 carries. Maurice Jones-Drew added 31 yards on 11 carries, as well as catching one pass for 10 yards. David Garrard rushed five times for 20 yards, including an 11 yard scramble.

There was plenty to like if you were one of the few and proud Jaguars fans that were in attendance. The defense returned to the form of a year ago, and the passing game showed some significant improvement.

"We had to have a win. We worked so hard over the offseason. It was a situation that we had to find a way to win. Played hard, played tough, found a way to overcome some penalties," Del Rio said.

Although the Jaguars notched a much needed victory, there are still some major causes for concern. The offense struggled for most of the first half, and as good as Garrard's stats were, he often held the ball too long as evidenced by the Falcons four sacks, not including an intentional grounding penalty. The Jaguars were plagued all day by infractions, committing 11 penalties for 91 yards. Through two games this season, they've racked up just 23 points, ranking them 28th in the league in the all important statistic of scoring offense. Although the team's record is now evened at 1-1, they still find themselves in last place in the AFC South. The Jaguars have two tough road games ahead, before returning home for two difficult division games against the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts, who are both undefeated.

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