Scoring frenzy helps Jaguars beat Buccaneers 41-14
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Maurice Jones-Drew walked into Jacksonville's locker room long after his teammates and made his way to the center of the room for an announcement.
It wasn't about his four touchdowns. It wasn't about his franchise scoring record. It wasn't about the team's all-around performance against Tampa Bay.
It was about Mel Tucker, the interim coach who helped keep the Jacksonville Jaguars together after a tumultuous two weeks.
Jones-Drew presented Tucker with the game ball following Sunday's 41-14 victory over the turnover-prone Buccaneers.
"I think I did shed one (tear)," said Tucker, who replaced fired coach Jack Del Rio nearly two weeks ago. "I tried to get it back, but it was too late. I was exposed."
The Buccaneers (4-9) know the feeling, especially after turning the ball over seven times, losing their seventh consecutive game and blowing a 14-point lead to a team that came in averaging less than 13 points a game.
For the Jaguars (4-9), it was a nearly perfect game in a mostly miserable season.
Jones-Drew scored four times and set the franchise record for touchdowns. Jacksonville found the end zone on offense, defense and special teams — all in a 28-point second quarter. And maybe the most fun came in the closing minutes, when Tucker got doused with ice water and linebacker Russell Allen was forced into action as a place-kicker.
"We needed something like that as badly as badly can be," guard Uche Nwaneri said.
Jacksonville got plenty of help from Tampa Bay, which had seven turnovers. The Bucs' miscues set up three of Jacksonville's four touchdowns in the second quarter. The Jaguars, who hadn't scored more than 20 points all season, scored four times in a span of 7:32. They scored in all three phases in the same game for the first time since Nov. 1, 1998, at Baltimore.
That also was the last time Jacksonville had scored 28 points in a quarter.
"This is what we expected to have all year," defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said. "It didn't work like that, but hopefully it will be good momentum for us."
Josh Freeman and Preston Parker had a lot to do with Jacksonville's latest scoring frenzy.
Freeman, back after missing last week's game against Carolina because of an injured throwing shoulder, threw two interceptions and fumbled near the goal line. He completed 16 of 30 passes for 181 yards and was benched late in favor of Josh Johnson.
"Yeah, once again, turnovers," Freeman said. "It seems every time we started to get something going, we'd shoot ourselves in the foot. It makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to win a football game when you turn the ball over like we did."
Parker's day was nearly as bad. He fumbled two punts and had a costly penalty. Colin Cloherty, signed off the practice squad Friday, scooped Parker's second fumble and returned it 4 yards to give the Jaguars a spark.
Blaine Gabbert found Marcedes Lewis behind the defense for a 62-yard gain on Jacksonville's next drive, setting up Jones-Drew's 1-yard score that tied the game at 14.
Two plays later — after Parker was flagged for holding — Freeman fumbled at the 1-yard line. Nate Collins recovered in the end zone to make it 21-14.
Freeman threw an interception on Tampa Bay's next possession.
"This is Football 101 stuff," Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber said. "It's frustrating. It's happening every week. Turnovers, you've got to hold on to the football. It's hard to win a game with seven turnovers. Everybody's frustrated. We've got to get better."
Jacksonville turned the short field into a 28-14 lead when Gabbert found Jones-Drew with a short pass near the goal line. Drew stretched the ball over the pylon for his 71st touchdown in 90 career games, breaking the team record held by Fred Taylor.
"It means a lot," Jones-Drew said. "To break a record that Fred set, it means a bunch. Words can't explain how excited I am to have a guy that mentored me the whole time, taught me how to play this game the right way, how to take care of my body and do those things."
Jones-Drew wasn't done, either.
The player Bucs coach Raheem Morris dubbed a "rolling ball of butcher knives" earlier in the week made it 35-14 in the fourth when he caught a short pass near the goal line and plowed through two defenders for another score. He also scored from a yard out late.
But MJD wanted to share the spotlight with Tucker, who is using the final few games as an audition for the head job.
"It was a great showing for him, the way we came back after being down 14 shows the kind of coaching we've been getting," Jones-Drew said. "Keep fighting and always staying positive. That's what we did."
Notes: Parker declined to speak to reporters after the game. ... Bucs WR Arrelious Benn suffered a concussion. ... Tampa Bay led 14-0 after TD runs by LeGarrette Blount and Freeman. ... The Jaguars hadn't scored 40 or more points since Dec. 23, 2007, against Oakland. ... Jacksonville forced seven turnovers — the most in franchise history. The previous high was five.