JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- When Fred Taylor is ready to play, the Jacksonville Jaguars go from struggling to sizzling.
Jacksonville's brilliant but injury-prone running back erupted for 237 all-purpose yards and a touchdown Sunday. Stacey Mack added three more scores as the Jaguars flexed their muscles in a 28-3 victory over the New York Jets before 55,670 at Alltel Stadium on Sunday. With the win, Jacksonville (2-1) snapped a four-game home losing streak and moved into a first-place tie in the AFC South with idle Indianapolis.
Taylor previewed the day's coming attractions on the Jaguars' first offensive play from scrimmage with a 72-yard reception. The third option in a five-wide set, Taylor took a deep strike from a scrambling Mark Brunell, juked past cornerback (and former teammate) Aaron Beasley and appeared to reach the end zone. Instead, he was ruled down at the Jets 1 and Mack punched into the end zone on the next play. With Hayden Epstein's PAT, Jacksonville led 7-0 just 90 seconds into the game.
"(Beasley) was more concerned about Jimmy (Smith)," said Taylor. "He knows what kind of speed I have, but of course he has to cheat over to Jimmy."
"We got a defense we didn't expect," said Brunell, who had a streak of 14 straight games with a touchdown pass snapped. "We tried to go to some inside hook routes to either Bobby Shaw or Jimmy Smith but it wasn't there. I ran out of the pocket a little bit and Fred Taylor made a nice play."
New York entered the game allowing over 400 yards a contest on defense and proved every bit as porous Sunday. Taylor piled up 142 rushing yards an armful of broken tackles, including whiffs by Beasley and Josh Evans on a 25-yard romp prior to Jacksonville's second score. Not content to let Mack have all the touchdown fun, Taylor added a 22-yard score at the end of the third quarter following a Kevin Swayne fumble.
"It's like they tell you in Pop Warner 'Keep moving,'" said Taylor. "I just kept running. I'm sure I missed a couple of cuts, but I made more than I missed."
When Taylor missed the last 14 games of the season last year with a groin tear, Mack was the back Jacksonville relied on, but the fourth-year player out of Temple had only five carries in the Jaguars' first two games of 2002. Sunday, head coach Tom Coughlin used both backs extensively, and Mack responded with 70 yards on 15 carries.
When asked why Mack got the bulk of the short yardage work, Coughlin had a succinct reply: "240 pounds. Hard runner."
"We're not even close to being where we want to be at," said Mack. "It's going to be scary in another season because this team is going to be a lot better than what you're seeing now."
Mack's second 1-yard touchdown was set up by a comical special teams breakdown. Jets punter Matt Turk dropped a snap on fourth down from the Jaguar 43. Desperate to find a receiver, he instead tossed the ball to Donovin Darius for an interception. Seven plays and 52 yards later, the Jaguars had a 14-0 lead.
Meanwhile, the Jets (1-3) sputtered on offense throughout the day, getting only a 46-yard John Hall field goal with 5:54 left in the first half. Vinny Testaverde misfired on all four of his pass attempts before leaving in the first quarter with a shoulder bruise suffered on Marcus Stroud's first career sack. Although cleared to play, Testaverde sat the rest of the way in favor of Chad Pennington. That left head coach Herman Edwards to answer questions about who his starting quarterback will be next week at home against Kansas City.
"(There is) no situation at this point," Edwards said. "Vinny got hurt, and we'll see where this was at. I thought Chad went in there and did some good things, but he turned the ball over too."
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