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Smith reaches 700-catch milestone

12/1/2003

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Two friends reached milestones Sunday
night. Only one felt like celebrating.

Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell both passed the 700-reception
mark, but Smith capped his big night with a diving catch for the
decisive touchdown to lift Jacksonville to a 17-10 victory, and
send Tampa Bay reeling toward playoff elimination.

"I couldn't have dreamed this any better," Smith said.

Smith's 48-yard touchdown catch from Byron Leftwich with 10
minutes left was a devastating blow to the Bucs (5-7), who fell
three games behind NFC South leader Carolina, and three behind
Seattle and Dallas for the last wild-card spot.

"Everybody's going to be talking about the playoffs," Bucs
defensive lineman Anthony McFarland said. "We can't even think
about the playoffs. We've got to try to win one in a row."

The winning catch was only one of the night's nice moments for
Smith, who caught a season-high 10 passes for 136 yards to lead the
struggling Jaguars (3-9). In the first quarter, he caught three
passes to become the 16th player in NFL history to reach 700.

McCardell applauded from the sideline and, a few minutes later,
he caught the second of his eight passes to join Smith at 700.

"I just said, `Congratulations," McCardell said. "We knew it
was going to happen sometime during the game. We were just out
there trying to help our teams get a win."

Tampa Bay needed it worse, but didn't really play with any sense
of urgency. The Bucs were outgained 359-221 by one of the league's
worst teams. For the second time in three games, they were held
without a sack. Besides a good performance by McCardell, none of
the defending Super Bowl champs put in anything resembling a
memorable performance.

"It was an unacceptable performance," Bucs cornerback Ronde
Barber said.

Both teams seemed to slog through this game, but that made
Smith's catch stand out even more.

Isolated outside against Bucs cornerback Tim Wansley, Smith was
beginning to separate on the right sideline when Wansley started
limping with a pulled hamstring. Smith moved under Leftwich's high
throw and dived to catch the ball for the 54th touchdown of his
career.

"I'd have pulled up too if I didn't want to be in the
highlight," said Smith, both arms caked in mud and grass stains.

Tampa got the ball twice after that, but never got into scoring
territory. The last drive ended when defensive tackle John
Henderson batted down two straight passes by Brad Johnson at the
line.

Jacksonville wrapped up the game with 2:45 left, when Jack Del
Rio chose to go for it on fourth-and-inches from the Bucs 40. Fred
Taylor split through the line for 3 yards, then the Jaguars ran out
the clock.

"I loved that" call, Leftwich said. "Plays like that bring
teams together. A play like that could be the turning point of your
season."

Taylor finished with 118 yards and went over the 1,000-yard mark
for the fourth time in his six-year career. The Bucs fell to 0-5
this season, 1-14 over the last five, when allowing a 100-yard
rusher.

"To close out the way we did against the defending champs, who
are desperate to stay in the playoff hunt, is impressive," Del Rio
said.

In fact, it might be the highlight of the season for the
Jaguars.

They got the win on the 10th anniversary of the NFL's surprise
decision to award Jacksonville its 30th franchise. Commissioner
Paul Tagliabue was in town; all night, the team's "greatest
moments" were played on the scoreboard.

There were no highlights from this difficult season, although
Sunday was certainly a welcome relief. The Jaguars are now just one
win from matching their total from their 1995 expansion year.

Leftwich, the rookie Del Rio considered benching earlier in the
week, finished 20-for-34 for 224 yards and a pair of touchdowns,
the first to Kyle Brady in the second quarter.

"He responded like a pro," Del Rio said. "Byron went a long
way toward showing that the coach made a pretty good decision."

While Leftwich played well, Johnson went 21-for-38 for 156 yards
for the Bucs.

Jon Gruden's team needs to win out just to finish above .500,
but even that might not keep them from joining last year's Patriots
as the second straight Super Bowl winner to fail to make the
playoffs the next year.

"We won't quit," McCardell said. "Jon won't let us, and a lot
of guys in this locker room won't let us. There are too many great
players on this team to mail it in."

Game notes
The Jaguars got the ball to either Taylor or Smith on each
of their first 22 offensive plays ... Referee Tony Corrente used
replay to overturn two calls in the final four minutes. The first
nullified a lost fumble by Michael Pittman. The second overturned a
juggling interception by Ronde Barber. ... New Jaguars receiver
Kevin Johnson caught a pass in his 75th straight game. ... Two of
the most inaccurate kickers in the league, Seth Marler and Martin
Gramatica, combined to miss three of five attempts. Marler missed
from 46 and 41, while Gramatica missed from 45.