JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP)—Linebacker Mike Peterson grabbed the football, took two steps toward the sideline and heaved it as far as he could. His toss fell a few feet short of the stands.
It was the most noticeable thing the Jacksonville Jaguars did wrong in the season opener.
Jimmy Smith caught seven passes for 130 yards and two touchdowns, Fred Taylor ran strong in his return from a serious knee injury and the Jaguars beat the Seattle Seahawks 26-14 in draining heat and humidity Sunday.
“My gloves were wet, man,” said Peterson, trying to explain his wobbly pass intended for friends and family members. “At least I don’t have to pay the fine now.”
Peterson was the only Jacksonville player feeling he had something left to prove.
Smith, 36, showed he hasn’t lost a step. Taylor broke tackles, took hard hits and gained 76 yards despite a bulky brace on his left knee. And quarterback-turned-receiver Matt Jones emerged as a triple threat in Jacksonville’s new offense.
The defense returned to form, too.
After giving up consecutive 100-yard rushers to end last season, the unit vowed to not let Shaun Alexander loose. He ran 14 times for 73 yards.
The defense also intercepted three passes and forced a fumble. Special teams forced a fumble on the opening kickoff that led to a field goal.
“Today wasn’t our day, that’s for sure,” Seattle coach Mike Holmgren said. “When you play a team like that on the road, you can’t turn the ball over. That’s an overused term, but it’s appropriate today. That was probably the story of the game.”
The Seahawks kept the game close until two costly errors in the final seven minutes.
Linebacker Daryl Smith intercepted a sidearm pass by Matt Hasselbeck that led to a 29-yard field goal by Josh Scobee. Akin Ayodele sacked Hasselbeck on the ensuing drive, caused a fumble and set up another field goal—Scobee’s fourth of the day.
“When you’re plus-five on the turnover ratio, it shouldn’t be that close,” Jags coach Jack Del Rio said. “For us to be that close at the end of the game was a direct result of not finishing in the red zone with touchdowns. … We want to be stronger and punch it in down there.”
Hasselbeck found some early success with short drops and play-action passes. He connected with Joe Jurevicius and Darrell Jackson for touchdowns, but once the Jags got a double-digit lead, he didn’t have nearly enough time to throw.
Hasselbeck finished 21-of-38 for 246 yards, with two touchdowns and three interceptions. He was sacked twice.
“You’re going to have games like this,” Hasselbeck said. “You just have to sulk about it tonight and then get over it.”
Jacksonville’s Byron Leftwich was sacked three times, but finished 17-of-31 for 252 yards with two touchdowns and looked sharp.
The Jaguars unveiled several trick plays and some long passes—elements missing last season. They took advantage of four- and five-receiver sets, used Jones at quarterback and on running plays, and had one formation with Pro Bowl defensive tackles Marcus Stroud and John Henderson at tight end.
They got great results and kept pressure off Taylor, who had surgery in January to repair two partially torn knee ligaments.
“It’s just one game,” Taylor said. “I want to be here for the long haul, playing in December and January. It’s a good start. I’m happy, but I’m not content.”
Smith was feeling better about answering his critics.
After dropping balls often during preseason, Smith beat cornerback Marcus Trufant numerous times and possibly put to rest questions whether his best days are behind him.
“The old man’s still got it,” Peterson said.
Added flamboyant receiver Reggie Williams screamed, “He’s been doing it since the ’80s.”
Smith smiled through it all.
“I don’t have to say anything. You guys know,” he said. “Now is the time to make plays. That’s exactly what I do. That’s why I’m here.”
First-round pick Jones ran twice for 28 yards, completed a 6-yard pass and caught two passes for 22 yards.
“We had a great mix of young and old today,” Peterson said.
Hurricane Ophelia wasn’t a factor. The storm had moved well past north Florida and left behind plenty of sunshine. Seattle players sat on the bench with numerous fans blowing and two guys holding a makeshift shade over their heads. The Jags complained to the NFL that the shade gave the Seahawks an “unfair advantage.” The Seahawks said they were granted permission to use the shades. … All four of Jacksonville punter Chris Hanson’s kicks landed inside the 20-yard line.