Panthers 17, Jaguars 10
Jacksonville’s backup quarterback mostly struggled with—and against—the starters Saturday night, fumbling three times, throwing an interception and getting sacked once in a 17-10 preseason loss to the Carolina Panthers. He threw another interception in the third quarter against Carolina’s second-team defense.
It was hardly the outing Garrard wanted when he was given a chance to showcase his skills with the first-team offense. It also solidified his spot behind Leftwich, essentially ending a mild quarterback controversy that began last season when Garrard went 4-1 in place of an injured Leftwich.
“A real tough night,” Garrard said. “I haven’t one of those in quite a while. I guess it happens to the best of us. It does hurt a little bit more when you’re trying to get these valuable reps because you don’t get many of them, and when you do, you’ve got to seize the moment.”
Coach Jack Del Rio decided to let Garrard play extensively with the first-team offense to better evaluate the fifth-year quarterback. But Carolina’s defense, which was dominant in its preseason opener against Buffalo last week, proved to be more than he could handle.
Leftwich started the game and played two series. He was 4-for-4 for 52 yards and was sacked twice. Garrard fared much worse in four series of relief.
He fumbled his second snap of the game and was intercepted three plays later when his pass sailed over the head of Ernest Wilford and into the hands of Colin Branch. Garrard fumbled another snap on Jacksonville’s next possession but completed three passes to put the Jaguars (1-1) in position for Seth Marler’s 50-yard field goal that tied the score at 3.
Carolina (2-0) made it 10-3 after Nick Goings scored from a yard out with 26 seconds to play in the first half. The short TD run followed a pass interception penalty against Scott Starks, who was draped all over Keyshawn Johnson in the end zone.
Instead of taking a knee and ending the first half, the Jaguars tried to move the ball downfield with about 20 seconds remaining. But Julius Peppers, who also had a sack against the Bills, beat right tackle Maurice Williams and sacked Garrard deep in the backfield. Garrard fumbled for a third time, and defensive lineman Mike Rucker picked up the loose ball and ran 31 yards for a score and a 17-3 lead.
“For us to come out here and do a couple of good things was a positive move in the right direction,” Rucker said.
Del Rio stuck with his first-team offense to open the third quarter, giving Garrard a chance to redeem himself against Carolina’s backups. Garrard led the Jags to the 19-yard line, but Richard Marshall intercepted his pass to Wilford in the end zone.
“Everything was great besides those three plays,” Garrard said, referring to the two interceptions and the sack. “You take those three plays away and we’re moving the ball and we’re doing everything that’s asked of us. It was just some poor throws and not holding onto the ball good enough on the sack. But those are all things I can correct.”
Garrard finished 7-for-11 for 86 yards.
“It wasn’t as sharp as I know he can be,” Del Rio said.
Jake Delhomme was much better for the Panthers, who played again without Steve Smith. The All-Pro receiver sat out for precautionary reasons after missing 17 days of training camp because of a strained left hamstring.
Delhomme led the Panthers to a score on their opening possession for the second time in as many games. He completed a 40-yard pass to Keary Colbert on third-and-7, and John Kasey kicked a 22-yard field goal.
Delhomme played the entire first half and was 10-of-18 for 129 yards, but he also had two passes nearly intercepted.
“Certainly there’s a lot more work to be done. That was evident,” Delhomme said. “It wasn’t our crispest game. But it’s going against that defense. That’s a pretty impressive defense. They did some good things and we were a little sloppy in some areas.”
Panthers coach John Fox said he wasn’t sure whether Smith would play Thursday night against Miami. … Jags DT Marcus Stroud bruised his left heel and was wearing a walking boot after the game. … The Jags were without eight players, including WR Matt Jones (ankle), PK Josh Scobee (hamstring) and TE and first-round draft pick Marcedes Lewis.