The Jaguars started off sluggish as they turned the ball over twice (fumble, downs) in the first half against a Carolina Panthers team that had nothing that would even remotely resemble an offense. Carolina cashed in on those two turnovers to score their only points of the game on two John Kasey field goals.
The Jaguars drew first blood on their second drive of the game, as quarterback David Garrard hit the Jaguars newest playmaker, wide receiver Reggie Williams on a 22-yard slant which Williams split two defenders and jogged into the end zone for a 7-0 advantage. Williams had one of his best games of the season, as he led all Jaguars receivers with five receptions for 90 yards, including his seventh touchdown of the year. Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio commented briefly about the play of Williams--
"Reggie Williams made outstanding runs after the catch."
The Jaguars scored a field goal on their fourth possession of the game on a 12-play, 72-yard drive which stalled in the red zone when the Jaguars couldn't punch the ball in from the two-yard line. That drive ended the Jaguars first half scoring as they took a 10-6 lead into the locker room, despite outgaining their visitors from Charlotte, 204-67 in total yards. The Jaguars notched 14 first downs to the Panthers four, and had a 165-45 yardage advantage through the air in the first half.
The Jaguars put the hammer down in the second half as their statistical dominance made it's way to the scoreboard as Jacksonville outscored Carolina 27-0 over the final 30 minutes of play. The Jaguars scored on all four offensive possessions in the second half (two touchdowns, two field goals) before taking a knee to end the game on the final drive.
Defense was the story for the Jaguars, as they improved on their 27th ranked pass defense by only allowing the Panthers 99 yards through the air, and just 149 total yards of offense. Linebacker Daryl Smith filled up the stat sheet as he finished with six tackles, one sack, and one fumble recovery. Cornerback Brian Williams was flawless in coverage, and he added four tackles. Linebacker Clint Ingram had the biggest play of the game for the defense when he stepped in front of a Vinny Testaverde pass and took it down the sideline 39 yards for a touchdown, the first of his career. Jack Del Rio commented on the play of the defense--
"We were able to take them out of the run game and get off the field on third down."
The Jaguars followed their defensive effort of a week ago, when they allowed the Indianapolis Colts to convert on 10 of 13 third down conversions (77%), with an outstanding effort on Sunday. The Jaguars defense held Carolina to just two third down conversions in 12 attempts (17%).
Offensively, the Jaguars were led by their two captains, quarterback David Garrard and running back Fred Taylor. Garrard completed 20 of 36 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns, and stepped his game up in the second half to put the game on ice for the Jaguars. Fred Taylor had his third consecutive 100-yard rushing performance as he gained 132 yards on 18 carries, including an 80-yard touchdown run as he broke away from Carolina defenders that were nearly 10 years his junior.
The Jaguars were very sharp on this day, as they finished with 427 yards of total offense, 249 yards through the air, and 178 yards on the ground. Jacksonville held a 38:58-21:02 time of possession advantage, and converted on 9 of 17 third downs (52%). Aside from their red zone offense which yielded just one touchdown in four trips, and the Jaguars one fumble, the team played what was very close to a perfect game.
With the victory, the Jaguars move to 9-4, and hold a one-game advantage over the Cleveland Browns (8-5), and a two-game advantage over the Tennessee Titans and Buffalo Bills (both 7-6), for the final two wildcard spots with three games left. The Jaguars will take on their former division rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers, next Sunday at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, and they could clinch their second trip to the postseason in the last three years with a victory.
Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of JagNation.com, and a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports.com, Sirius NFL Radio, MySpace Sports and Sportsillustated.com. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers Association, and is a columnist for the New Smyrna Observer. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.
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