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Griffin muffs handoff in final minute

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- The Jacksonville Jaguars are
accustomed to playing close games. Now they're finding ways to win
them, too.

The Jags lost three games in the final minute last season and
finished 5-11. They've won twice this season in the waning seconds.

Denver running back Quentin Griffin fumbled a handoff on the
23-yard line with about 30 seconds to play, allowing the Jaguars to
escape with a 7-6 victory over the Broncos on Sunday.

Last week at Buffalo, Byron Leftwich connected with rookie
Ernest Wilford for a 7-yard touchdown pass as time expired to give
the Jaguars a 13-10 win.

"We're keeping the cardiologists busy in town," coach Jack Del
Rio said.

Jacksonville (2-0) has played outstanding defense both weeks.
But the unit almost gave this one away down the stretch.

The Jaguars had Denver (1-1) pinned inside the 20-yard line with
a little more than two minutes to play when defensive end Lionel Barnes was flagged 15 yards for roughing the passer. The penalty came after an incomplete pass on third-and-4.

It gave the Broncos 15 yards and an automatic first down.

Jake Plummer then drove his team into field-goal range with
three completions and a 9-yard run. He spiked the ball to stop the
clock. Griffin then gained a yard, setting up third-and-9 at the 23
with 37 seconds remaining.

It would have been an 40-yard field goal for Jason Elam -- with
the wind at his back.

But coach Mike Shanahan opted not to kick on third down, wanting
to run more time off the clock and trying to get a shorter kick.

It backfired.

"We had plenty of time to hand the ball off and get a few more
yards," Shanahan said.

Griffin never really got the ball from Plummer. Akin Ayodele
recovered the fumble, and the Jaguars ran out the clock from there.

"I couldn't believe it," receiver Jimmy Smith said. "I laid
back on the bench and thought it was over. The last two weeks I've
done as much praying as anything. I don't know how it happens."

Playing good defense certainly helps.

The Jaguars held Griffin to 66 yards, extending their streak of
not allowing a 100-yard rusher to an NFL-best 17 games. The shifty,
undersized back had 156 yards last week against Kansas City,
drawing comparisons to Barry Sanders.

Griffin also fumbled in last week's game, but it was widely
overlooked because the Broncos won.

This one will get much more attention. Griffin left the locker
room without speaking to reporters. Shanahan, though, defended his
running back.

"I don't think he ever had it," Shanahan said. "It is
different if a guy has it in his stomach and somebody strips it. He
never got it from the quarterback. I'm not sure if Jake stumbled or
what happened."

Plummer said both players were at fault.

"We just kept shooting ourselves in the foot," he said,
acknowledging the fumble and the 33 percent success rate on third
down.

The Jags were even less efficient, converting just one third
down. But it was a big one -- Leftwich's 12-yard TD pass to Wilford.

Jermaine Lewis' 50-yard punt return set up the score. Lewis had
only punter Micah Knorr between him and the end zone, but Knorr
dived at Lewis feet and put up an arm. Lewis hurdled Knorr but fell
after he landed.

The Jaguars had better luck a few plays later when center Brad Meester recovered Greg Jones' fumble inside the 10-yard line.
Leftwich found Wilford across the middle two plays later.

It was Wilford's second career reception -- both for touchdowns.

Elam kicked the first of his two field goals on the ensuing
possession. His 44-yarder hit the left upright and ricocheted
through.

He added a 22-yarder as time expired in the first half to make
it 7-6. Elam had a chance to give Denver the lead late in the
third, but his 51-yard attempt into the wind fell short.

He wanted another chance but never got it.

"We should have put that game away earlier, and it should have
never come down to that," said Denver's Rod Smith, who caught
three passes for 69 yards. "We should have taken care of business
a long time before that. I don't want (Griffin) beating himself up
thinking he lost the game, because he didn't."

Game notes
Jacksonville defensive end Paul Spicer broke his right leg
near the end of the third quarter and had to be carted off the
field. He is likely out for the season. ... Jimmy Smith caught
three passes for 69 yards, including two over Champ Bailey, and has
caught at least one pass in 45 consecutive games. ... Bailey lined
up at receiver several times but didn't have a catch. He dropped a
ball on the final possession.