DENVER (AP)—The Jacksonville Jaguars didn’t need to play keep-away from Denver this time, just takeaway.
Playing their best all-around game of the season, the Jaguars got superb performances from David Garrard and Maurice Jones-Drew, plus three takeaways in a 24-17 win over the bumbling Broncos on a cold, misty Sunday.
They also got a little help from the officials with two judgment calls that left the Broncos irate. One of them kept a touchdown drive alive and the other allowed the Jaguars (3-3) to run out the clock.
“This game today looked exactly like Jaguar football and it was good to get back to it,” said Garrard, who completed 25 of 34 passes for 276 yards. “To come into somebody’s house, and to have done it last year, too, to come back knowing they want our blood, the way this team fought today was awesome.”
Jones-Drew rumbled for 125 yards and two TDs on 22 carries after Fred Taylor got hurt.
The Jaguars won at Invesco Field last year thanks to a franchise-record 18-play, 80-yard drive that chewed up nearly 12 minutes and set the tone for a thumping in which they maintained possession for nearly 40 minutes.
This time, they wasted no time in sending the Broncos (4-2) to their first home loss since last Oct. 29 against Green Bay—the Jaguars took the second-half kickoff and covered 80 yards in just three plays and 73 seconds with Jones-Drew bolting up the middle untouched for a 46-yard touchdown that put Denver in a 17-7 hole.
After Jay Cutler and a wide-open tight end Nate Jackson failed to connect on a 26-yard touchdown pass and the Broncos settled for Matt Prater’s 39-yard field goal, Jacksonville scored again, on Marcedes Lewis’ 30-yard TD catch that made it 24-10.
On the drive, cornerback Dre’ Bly was whistled for illegal contact even though he was tossed to the grass by wide receiver Reggie Williams, turning a potential fourth-and-13 into an automatic first down. Five plays later, Lewis hauled in Garrard’s pass at the 6 and spun into the end zone when safeties Marlon McCree and Marquand Manuel collided.
The Broncos realize they have caught their share of breaks from the officials, notably on Ed Hochuli’s blown call in the San Diego slugfest that allowed Denver to eke out a 39-38 win, and Bly suggested things were evening out now—on purpose.
“I guess they’ve been evaluating us and say we won games we shouldn’t have won. So, I guess they’re going to get a call against us,” Bly said of referee Bill Carollo’s officiating crew.
Denver pulled to 24-17 on Daniel Graham’s 11-yard TD catch with 9 minutes remaining, but they went three-and-out on their next possession and the Jaguars chewed up the final 5:46—with a little help from field judge Scott Edwards.
He flagged McCree for pass interference on tight end Greg Estandia that gave Jacksonville a first down at the Denver 32 in the waning minutes. Replays appeared to show no inference on the play.
“No, I didn’t think it was interference, and I was right there, right on the spot,” Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. “… In fact, being right there looking at it, I would have bet a dollar to the doughnut it wasn’t. But it doesn’t really matter. That didn’t lose us the game.”
Yet, it sure prevented them from having a chance to come back.
“Just watching the replays, it’s kind of hard not to say anything without getting fined,” Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey said. “So, I’m not going to say too much about it, but we didn’t feel like they were good calls.”
Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio also dodged questions about the questionable calls.
“I can’t recall anything,” Del Rio cracked. “I have a bad case of amnesia.”
The Broncos were without three of their offensive playmakers in rookie receiver Eddie Royal (ankle), tight end Tony Scheffler (groin) and tailback Selvin Young (groin) and they lost slot receiver Brandon Stokley to a concussion shortly after his 11-yard touchdown catch that capped Denver’s opening drive.
The Broncos turned the ball over on their next four possessions, twice on fumbles, once on an interception and once on downs.
In the first quarter, Taylor left the game with a head injury after fumbling on Nate Webster’s wicked hit, and D.J. Williams recovered for Denver. But Cutler didn’t tuck the ball on a scramble on the next play and former Broncos defensive end Reggie Hayward slapped it away to cornerback Rashean Mathis.
Brandon Marshall fumbled away another scoring chance when he tried to fight his way into the end zone but lost the football inside the Jaguars 5. The Jaguars capitalized on that turnover with Jones-Drew’s 1-yard TD run put Jacksonville up 10-7.
The Jaguars are just the third team since 1999 to post wins in Denver in consecutive seasons. … Broncos RB Michael Pittman’s 109 yards on 20 carries marked his biggest workload since 2004.