Jacksonville Jaguars

Head Coach Jack del Rio cannot pinpoint exactly what part of last season turned it to the dark side.  Was it the loss for the season of two starting guards in the first quarter of the first game of the season or, the vicious attack and murder of tackle Richard Collier or center Brad Meester going down for the first two months of the season.  Even the replacement guard signed at mid season( Chris Naeole) was injured in pre game warm ups.  This would enough to take the strongest of teams down and the franchise is lucky the team finished at 5-11 and not further down. 

The franchise looked upon the disappointing season with more than just apathy.  They went through in the offseason and cleaned house of every player who was not a “character” guy. The team said goodbye to Fred Taylor, Paul Spicer and Mike Peterson.  They also unloaded on ineffective players Jerry Porter, Dratyon Florence, Matt Jones, Reggie Williams, Khalif Barnes and Gerald Sensabaugh.

The team has plugged most of the holes but are still unsure if a 32 year old Torry Holt is the answer at receiver and if Sean Considine can handle the strong safety position (which most every scout in the league says no).

Be sure to catch the preseason and get your season tickets to root your Jaguars on to the playoffs.

Jones-Drew Returns With TD as Jaguars Top Titans

It wasn’t the view Jones-Drew wanted, certainly not the one he expected.

Jones-Drew got the message, though. Loud and clear. The Jacksonville Jaguars are going to be cautious with their star player, even if it means upsetting the 5-foot-7, 210-pound bruising running back.

Jones-Drew ran for 97 yards and a touchdown in his return from knee surgery, and the Jaguars took advantage of a fast start and some clutch plays late to beat the Tennessee Titans 16-14 in the season opener Sunday.

The victory prompted warm and fuzzy feelings in the locker room — for everyone except Jones-Drew.

“He wasn’t happy,” coach Jack Del Rio said. “He ended up carrying the ball 24 times, which is OK. We got up early in the second half and he already had 21 carries. I’m not wild about the prospect of him taking it 35 times in the opener, so that was my call. We had talked about a play-count for him.

“He’s so competitive and he’s not happy about it. But that’s going to happen as we monitor and try to keep him to a certain number of reps as we go throughout this season. Hopefully he can channel that energy in a positive way for us. It’s not about any one person here. We want to utilize our best players. It’s about the Jacksonville Jaguars winning football games.”

Jones-Drew had a 21-yard touchdown run on the team’s opening possession and even carried the ball on six consecutive plays late in the third quarter.

But coaches turned to Karim for much of the final 17 minutes. Karim ran 14 times for 33 yards, a 2.4 yards-per-carry average that had Jones-Drew itching to get back on the field.

“I feel like I could have played more,” said Jones-Drew, who had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in January. “Last year I played on one leg. Now I have two. … That was the coach’s decision. They made it and I had to abide by it. We talked about it and they know I’m very unhappy about that.

“Every player on this team wants to play and I felt like I had more in the tank, more to give to the game, to my teammates and I just couldn’t give it to them because I was on the sideline.”

Jacksonville’s game plan was to run the football early and often. Not only is it what the Jaguars do best, but quarterback Luke McCown was starting his first game in four years and Tennessee was playing without defensive ends Jason Jones and Derrick Morgan.

The Jaguars ran 47 times for 163 yards. They dominated most of the first three quarters, shutting down Titans running back Chris Johnson, forcing seven punts and applying steady pressure on Matt Hasselbeck.

Johnson, who joined the team a little more than a week ago following a holdout, was pretty much a non-factor. He ran nine times for 24 yards and caught six passes for 25 yards.

The Jaguars were up 13-0 and could have enjoyed a bigger lead if not for having to settle for field goals. Tennessee made it close with a pair of second-half touchdown passes from Hasselbeck to Kenny Britt.

“They came out of the box with the crowd and the enthusiasm and they got points on the board and we didn’t,” new Titans coach Mike Munchak said. “We were flat early and there’s no reason for that.”

The Titans finally got things going late. They made it 16-14 on Britt’s second score.

Jacksonville did just enough to hold on. Mike Thomas made a leaping grab on McCown’s third-down pass over the middle. The 26-yard gain helped Jacksonville take time off the clock. The Jaguars ended up punting, but they pinned Tennessee at the 3-yard line. The Titans still had a shot, but Dwight Lowery intercepted Hasselbeck’s deep pass in the closing seconds.

“The smarter play probably would have been to hit Chris and see what he could do and hopefully spike it and give our field goal team a chance,” Hasselbeck said. “I’m sure the coaches will come up with some positives, but right now it’s hard not to focus on the negatives.”

Giants Beat Jaguars and Stop Losing Streak

The team had been booed off the New Meadowlands Stadium field by an audience weary of late-fall reruns. The defense was getting berated by defensive ends Osi Umenyiora and for an inexplicable lack of intensity. The depleted offense, patched largely by medical tape and newly stitched jerseys, was trying to figure out how to punctuate drives with touchdowns, not field goals, which were adding up to another loss.

But 30 minutes of football later, after a over the on Sunday afternoon, fans wore smiles and players evoked optimism. Tuck and the co-owner John Mara laughed about Tuck’s drop of an easy interception (You are paid to get sacks, not picks, the owner told the player); quarterback checked overhead televisions for scores of other games with playoff implications; and Coach was wearing the relieved, worn expression of a captain that had steered a listing schooner to port.

A sputtering offense came to life, and a soft defense stiffened, as the Giants (7-4) overcame a 17-6 halftime deficit and ended a two-game losing streak. Manning threw for two fourth-quarter touchdowns, the second a 32-yarder to tight end Kevin Boss with 3 minutes 15 seconds left, to keep the Giants amid a shifty mix of playoff hopefuls.

The Giants head to December as one of seven N.F.C. teams with at least seven victories; five of those teams (and the winner of the parity-riddled West division) will almost certainly make the playoffs. The Giants are tied atop the N.F.C. East with the Eagles, who beat them in Philadelphia a week ago. The teams play again Dec. 19.

“We needed to rise up and have a finish like that,” Coughlin said. “We’re well aware of the circumstance that we’re in, that the division is in, that the conference is in. And we needed to keep pace.”

The Giants reached the season’s midpoint this month at 6-2, but then losses to the and the Eagles led to unsettling memories of past late-season tumbles. Since Coughlin’s arrival in 2004, the Giants have always won fewer games in the second half of the season than in the first.

The Giants’ victory ended a three-game winning streak by the Jaguars (6-5), who had a final drive to try to win the game in the final minutes. Jacksonville reached the Giants’ 29-yard line before the Giants sacked David Garrard three times in a row. Cornerback Terrell Thomas forced a fumble on the third takedown with 1:25 left. Safety Antrel Rolle recovered, and the Giants ran out the clock.

Afterward, players admitted what they never say before a game — that it was a must-win for postseason hopes.

“Six wins after this probably isn’t going to be good enough,” defensive tackle Barry Cofield said. “We’d have to go on an unbelievable tear to get in.”

The teams arrived with identical records, but the Giants were third in the 32-team N.F.L. in total offense and second in total defense. The Jaguars were 19th and 27th.

But if the Giants were better on paper, they were only fractionally better on FieldTurf. For most of three quarters, the Giants’ offense was akin to 11 men pushing a stalled car. Three trips inside Jacksonville’s 10 yielded three field goals by Lawrence Tynes.

The ignition clicked on a five-play, 88-yard drive that ended with Manning’s 26-yard touchdown pass to Mario Manningham early in the fourth. The Giants went for the 2-point conversion, handed the ball to Ahmad Bradshaw and celebrated a 17-17 tie with 13:42 to go.

Manning completed 14 of 24 passes for 226 yards and 2 touchdowns. Most important, he and the Giants had no turnovers for the first time this season.

Fumbles cost Bradshaw his starting position last week, but he responded with nine strong-handed carries for 49 yards. Brandon Jacobs had 14 carries for 87 yards, both season highs.

Jacksonville nudged its way to the lead with 8:26 left on Josh Scobee’s 42-yard field goal. But when the Jaguars had a chance to win at the end, the Giants’ defense made the big plays that had eluded it most of the day.

Jacksonville scored on all three of its first-half possessions, gaining 16 first downs on drives of 75, 85 and 71 yards.

The Jaguars rushed for 207 yards, more than any Giants opponent. Maurice Jones-Drew bounced off Giants defenders on his way to 113 yards on 21 carries, his fourth consecutive 100-yard game. Garrard, too, used his legs to help Jacksonville convert 10 of 16 third downs. On third-and-goal from the Giants’ 5 in the second quarter, he was flushed right by pressure, had Umenyiora clawing at his heels, and reversed direction into the end zone.

Garrard completed 20 of 35 passes for 162 yards and an interception. He ran six times, sometimes leading the option, for an additional 41 yards.

“When you control the ball and run for over 200 yards, you should win that ballgame,” Jaguars Coach Jack Del Rio said.

The Giants’ defense slowly began to stiffen — not so much like clay into stone, but like liquid into gelatin. It forced Jacksonville into some second-half punts, allowing the Giants time to find the right gears on offense.

The winning touchdown pass, from Manning to Boss, came on a third-and-10 with the Jaguars blitzing. Manning unloaded early, and Boss stopped to catch it, stepped through a defender’s grip and ran to the end zone.

Three well-timed sacks later, the announced crowd of 78,533 was cheering madly and the Giants were back in the locker room, where the season’s outlook had appeared so bleak just half a game before.

“Hopefully, it is something that can get us steamrolling,” Tuck said of the finish. “Sometimes, you just have to win some games ugly.”