Returns Are In for Jaguar Special Teams

From Associated Press

With Mark Brunell and his two receivers not in sync, the Jacksonville Jaguars found another way to win--big kick returns and a punishing running game.

Reggie Barlow had an 85-yard punt return for a touchdown and Tavian Banks had a 65-yard kickoff return to set up another score Sunday as the Jaguars held off the Kansas City Chiefs for a 21-16 victory.

James Stewart rushed for 103 yards in 26 carries to become the first back to record consecutive 100-yard games rushing for the Jaguars (2-0).

In all, it was a formidable group of weapons to add to a list that has been headlined by Brunell and receivers Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell.

"It was important for every phase to be able to contribute and help out, especially when you're going against a team like that," Barlow said. "The special teams wanted to make a statement and we came out and improved and helped the team."

The meeting was built up as a potential preview of the AFC championship game, but both teams came in with several injuries, most notably on the Jaguar defensive line and with the Chiefs (1-1) without quarterback Elvis Grbac and receiver Andre Rison.

That left Kansas City linebacker Derrick Thomas against Jacksonville offensive tackle Tony Boselli, and the Jacksonville receivers against Kansas City's defensive backs as the best potential matchups. Instead, the game was decided by Stewart and a two young special team players.

"We said to ourselves, we just need to keep pounding, to keep trying and hope some things open up," said Stewart, who had 115 yards last week against Chicago. "As long as you keep hitting it and you get the number of carries to work the defense a bit, it's going to open it up and you're going to get some yards in there."

But before the Jaguars started grinding, they made some big plays.

Barlow opened the scoring with the first punt return for a touchdown in Jaguar history. He fielded the punt at his own 15-yard line, sprinted to the right and quickly hit the open field, beating the last man in his way, punter Louie Aguiar.

Banks, a fourth-round draft pick from Iowa, started the third quarter with a 65-yard kickoff return. That set up a 31-yard touchdown drive, helped by cornerback Dale Carter's 19-yard pass interference penalty, to give the Jaguars a 21-6 lead.

Without Grbac, Rison, guard Dave Szott and return specialist Tamarick Vanover, the Chiefs were not in a good position to make a big comeback.

Still, Rich Gannon made a valiant effort. He was 23 for 37 for 263 yards and led an 80-yard touchdown drive to pull the Chiefs within five points with 3:39 left.

But the Jaguars answered with three consecutive first downs to run out the clock. Stewart rushed three times for 25 yards on the drive, and rookie Fred Taylor sealed it with a 20-yard run.

Gannon is now 5-2 when starting in place of Grbac; both losses have been to the Jaguars.

Brunell, who led Jacksonville's game-winning drive last week, was unspectacular in going 11 for 18 for 126 yards and one touchdown. Smith had four catches and a touchdown and McCardell had one catch for 14 yards.

Brunell was sacked three times, although two appeared to come on plays in which he slipped in the backfield. Thomas, who had six sacks against Oakland last week, got shut out by Boselli and right tackle Leon Searcy.

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