Work in Sports
JACKSONVILLE, Florida (Ticker) -- While the Jacksonville Jaguars are known for their offensive firepower, they used their season opener against the San Francisco 49ers to make a statement defensively.
Safety Jason Craft returned a fumble 23 yards for a touchdown and cornerback Aaron Beasley brought back an interception 90 yards for a score as the Jaguars embarrassed the 49ers, 41-3. The game also served as a coming out party for new Jacksonville defensive coordinator Dom Capers.
After a sluggish first half offensively, the Jaguars ripped off 35 unanswered points over the final 30 minutes. The 38-point margin of victory was the largest in the team's four-year history.
"It was a great opener," Jacksonville coach Tom Coughlin said. "It was a good win for us against a very good football team."
The loss was the worst for the 49ers since a 49-3 defeat at the hands of the New York Giants in the 1986 playoffs. It is the worst regular season pounding San Francisco has endured since a 59-14 loss to Dallas on October 12, 1980.
"We seemed helpless," 49ers coach Steve Mariucci said. "There didn't seem like there was much we could do about it. I told the players we have so much to correct, starting with me, starting with the coach. I've got to get better from the coaching standpoint."
The Jaguars got solid contributions all around offensively. Second-year back Fred Taylor gained 74 yards on 24 carries, Keenan McCardell had eight catches for 78 yards and Jimmy Smith added six for 139. Brunell was extremely efficient, completing 22-of-30 passes for 265 yards.
"We've had moments in our team history where we've had the defense shine," Brunell said. "We've had efforts like that. But today was special because it was our opener. We have a new style of defense and hopefully we showed something today that will continue the rest of the season."
Jerry Rice, the NFL's all-time leading receiver, was held to two catches for 17 yards.
Capers the former head coach of the Carolina Panthers, inherited a defense that was ranked 25th in total defense and managed just 30 sacks last year. Today they held San Francisco to 205 yards and recorded four sacks.
The teams swapped field goals in the first quarter and Hollis gave Jacksonville a 6-3 lead at the break by converting a 32-yard attempt with 1:49 left in the half. The Jaguars, who have won 22 of 25 at home, turned a three-point edge into a 21-point bulge in a span of six minutes midway through the third quarter.
Hollis capped an eight-play, 48-yard drive with a 50-yard field goal 5:39 into the second half. On the ensuing kickoff R.W.
McQuarters was hit by wide receiver Alvis Whitted and fumbled.
Craft scooped up the ball and returned it for a 17-3 lead.
San Francisco took the kickoff and drove to the Jacksonville 39.
On 4th-and-1 from the 39, Young was forced to scramble and tackled for a five-yard loss. The Jaguars capitalized on the momentum swing and put the game out of reach with a nine-play, 56-yard drive that Brunell punctuated with a four-yard scoring strike to tight end Damon Jones.
Hollis added a 42-yard field goal 14 seconds into the final quarter to extend the lead to 27-3 and Stewart added his one-yard scoring run 5:47 into the final quarter.
After another interception by Young, the 49ers went to backup Jeff Garcia with 5:48 left in the contest. He drove San Francisco to the Jacksonville 10 but Beasley stepped in front of pass intended for Terrell Owens and returned it for a 41-3 bulge.
"I can't put my finger on any one part of the game," Mariucci said. "Whether it was the run game, or throwing the ball, or catching the ball, or protecting -- I think it was a little bit of everything. We didn't do anything very well."
It was the first meeting between the teams.