AFC South: Nate Webster
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
|Doug Pensinger/Getty Images|
|Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard delivers a pass during the Jaguars' 24-17 win over Denver Sunday.|
DENVER -- Jay Cutler may lead the Denver Broncos to a second era of Super Bowl glory, but today in the rain in Invesco Field at Mile High, the third-year quarterback was very much the second-best signal-caller at work.
In a game of huge significance for Jacksonville, the Jaguars answered in virtually every way, getting the sort of efficient and effective quarterbacking that makes them go.
Down only a touchdown, Denver got the ball with 6:50 left. But a defense that had given up a late fourth-quarter scoring drive in every game this season finally did the job, presenting David Garrard and the offense with a three-and-out.
"We were able to get back on the field and run the clock out," Garrard said. "That is back to Jaguar football. This game today really looked exactly like Jaguar football and it felt good to get back to it."
Jaguar football is built around running backs and defense and creates an atmosphere where Garrard can be minimized as a game manager. He downplays his role, suggesting his job is merely to get the ball to his playmakers.
But a locker room full of teammates talks of him as their tone-setter. His poise can be contagious. He threw to eight different targets, connecting on 74 percent of his attempts en route to a 107 passer rating.
He threw one touchdown and no interceptions while coughing up a fumble when he was mauled through no fault of his own. (See details below.) He rolled comfortably in either direction, by design or out of necessity, buying time to search the field and helping tire out Denver's defense.
It was cleaner and crisper work than Cutler's.
He was 7-for-7 on his opening touchdown drive but only 47 percent from there while losing a fumble, throwing an interception (that was basically a punt) and struggling to work with an injury-depleted receiving corps that was over-reliant on Brandon Marshall. The performance -- and the supporting cast -- didn't live up to the hype that is building around Cutler, who's clearly better than the two quarterbacks drafted ahead of him in 2006 but may have been overly optimistic in an interview published recently in The Sporting News.
He said he didn't see why the Broncos couldn't score 30-plus points a week and didn't think there was an AFC team with a better chance at the Super Bowl than his.
"Of course Dave outplayed him," running back Fred Taylor said. "That's all to the receivers, the line giving him time. Dave's a good quarterback and Jay Cutler is a good quarterback. We created a little more pressure for Jay, he wasn't able to get settled in after he started out great, bang-bang-bang. He's a good quarterback, he's young, he has a lot of upside."
"Dave was better today, we won."