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World of Sports: Jaguars Bounce Back

The Jacksonville Jaguars (4-4) brought quarterback David Garrard back for a peak performance. Garrard, who suffered a concussion against the Tennessee Titans two weeks ago, threw four touchdown passes and ran for one more. Entering halftime, Garrard was holding on to a perfect quarterback rating – 158.3. After completing 12 straight passes, his first incompletion was tossed out of bounds with 12:22 left in the third quarter. Not to overlook Garrard, but Sunday’s 35-17 win over Dallas (1-6, 0-4 home) was a combination of many elements working for Jacksonville.

The Cowboys had to replace starting quarterback Tony Romo, who broke his left clavicle last Monday night in a game against the New York Giants. With Romo out for at least eight weeks and most likely the season, 38-year-old Jon Kitna threw four interceptions to a Jacksonville defense ranked nearly dead-last in the league.

Three of the interceptions hit the hands of Kitna’s receivers. Running back Felix Jones and wide receivers Miles Austin and Roy Williams had their hands on the passes, but could not produce receptions from them. Also, the Jaguars’ offensive line kept Garrard fairly well protected. Playing against a Dallas defense with rushers DeMarcus Ware, Marcus Spears and Anthony Spencer, Garrard was sacked three times and hit eight times.

The Jaguars were able to take advantage of mismatches and weaknesses in Dallas’ defense. Cornerbacks Mike Jenkins, a 2009 Pro Bowl selection, and Terence Newman were Garrard’s main prey. A first-round pick out of South Florida in 2008, Jenkins has a bright future ahead of him. However, following eight catches for 153 yards and an end-zone trip, Jenkins allowed Jacksonville wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker to resemble Jerry Rice. Dirk Koetter and the Jaguars’ offense went after Newman, who has been dealing with a rib injury. At the very least, it’s obvious Jacksonville read the injury report.

Stopping the Cowboys inside the 5-yard line prior to halftime closed the door on the ball game. It was the deciding factor that fueled the Jaguars’ defense. Jacksonville stuffed back-to-back runs by Marion Barber III. The second rush was slowed because Kitna and Barber collided on the handoff. The failure was a combination of a backup quarterback and a one-win team.

The Jaguars took a similar attitude towards Miles Austin that they did against Indianapolis Colts receiver Reggie Wayne during Week 4. Wayne compiled 15 receptions for a stunning 196 receiving yards. On Sunday, the extremely talented Austin caught seven passes for 117 yards. Jacksonville realized there was no chance at stopping Austin. They could only hope to contain him.

Heading into the bye week, this victory protects the jobs of Garrard and head coach Jack Del Rio for another couple weeks. Enjoy no quarterback controversy and hot-seat talk while it lasts.

The goal for the remainder of the season will be lifting the blackouts for the Jaguars’ four remaining home games versus Houston, Cleveland, Oakland and Washington. Those matchups don’t necessarily yell, “Sellout!” With the Texans coming to EverBank Field on November 14, Jacksonville still needs to sell 4,066 non-premium tickets to keep the blackout-lifted streak intact.

Savor the Jaguars’ victory this week. But, understand Jacksonville faced a team that lost its heart and soul a week ago. That would be Tony Romo. Dallas looked injury-plagued and down in the dumps. From what I saw, Jacksonville continues to possess an inferior secondary. On a day in which Garrard, Sims-Walker, Maurice Jones-Drew, Marcedes Lewis and Mike Thomas stepped up on offense, any major faults are overshadowed. With everything clicking, the Jaguars are a wild-card contender, at best. The work the team and coaching staff put into this bye week will speak volumes as to whether the teal and black finish 8-8, 7-9, 6-10 or better or worse.

Does anybody truly believe that Dallas owner Jerry Jones will stick to his word of keeping head coach Wade Phillips through this season?

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Richard Miller is the host of “Miller On Sports” weekdays on talk radio 600 WBOB from 1 until 2 p.m. On Mondays and Tuesdays, he broadcasts live from City Hall Pub. You can listen live at www.600wbob.com.

On Sundays, Richard covers the Jacksonville Jaguars for Sporting News Radio. Currently, Richard is writing David Lamm’s biography entitled Lamm at Large: The David Lamm Story, which will be available in 2011.

Follow Richard’s daily blog on MillerOnSports.com or join him on Facebook and Twitter.

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