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Leftwich outduels McNair as Jags move to 7-3

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- The Tennessee Titans dared Byron Leftwich to beat them. The Jacksonville quarterback responded with
a career performance.

Leftwich threw for three touchdowns Sunday for the first time in
his NFL career and ran for a fourth score in the Jaguars' third
straight win, 31-28 over Tennessee.

"We have no problem doing that," Leftwich said. "You wish as
a quarterback you get dared every week. But I don't look at it as a
dare thing or a disrespectful thing. I think that's what they
wanted to do."

In the process, Leftwich helped the Jaguars take a big step
toward their future by clearing an even larger obstacle from their
past.

The Titans (2-8) had dominated this series between the former
AFC Central and now AFC South foes, winning six of seven, and 11 of
the last 14. They ruined the Jaguars' best season in 1999 a step
short of the Super Bowl.

"I think things have turned now," Jaguars receiver Jimmy Smith
said.

Only three Jaguars are left from that 1999 team, and they are
busy concentrating on their current opportunity. Fred Taylor
pointed out he was 30 minutes from the Super Bowl and hadn't been
back to the playoffs since.

"If I continued to hold onto that, it probably would've messed
up what I'm trying to do now. It's a new team," Taylor said.

This one wasn't as close as the final score, thanks to Leftwich.
He shook off a very slow start and helped the Jaguars (7-3) win for
the second time in three games in this rivalry -- both in Tennessee.

The Titans left their rookie cornerbacks in man coverage, and
Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio credited Leftwich with taking
advantage of that.

"Very smart with the ball all day, making good decisions and
leading our offense," Del Rio said.

Now, Jacksonville, with two more road games just ahead, is off
to its best start since the 1999 season.

Tennessee had one last-gasp attempt after Steve McNair tossed an
8-yard TD pass to Roydell Williams with 10 seconds left. Typical of
this season for the Titans, however, Craig Hentrich's onside kick
attempt went out of bounds.

"We had no excuses whatsoever," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said.
"The bottom line is we were not good enough to win the ballgame."

Leftwich connected on only one of his first 10 passes, and his
only completion was a deflection to the left guard. The Jags went
three-and-out on their first five possessions.

The Titans sacked Leftwich twice and hit him repeatedly. He even
had to leave the game for a play early in the fourth quarter. He
returned and connected with Matt Jones two plays later on an
18-yard TD pass that gave Jacksonville its first lead at 28-21.

"Byron made plays," Fisher said. "We put him on his back, and
he put the ball up and Matt made the play and we didn't."

Leftwich finished 22-of-38 for 258 yards with TD passes to Kyle Brady and Ernest Wilford.

Jacksonville sacked McNair three times and intercepted him once
in handing Tennessee its fifth straight loss.

The Titans last led 21-14 after Kyle Vanden Bosch sacked
Leftwich and knocked the ball out of his hand. Antwan Odom picked
it up and ran 27 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 7:08 left in
the third.

Leftwich needed only three minutes before tying the score again
on an 18-yard TD pass to Wilford, who easily beat the shorter
Reynaldo Hill in the right corner for the ball.

Taylor started for Jacksonville after being listed as doubtful
all week with a badly bruised right ankle that kept him out of last
week's victory over Baltimore. He didn't help, as the Jags had
minus-2 yards rushing in the first half. He bruised his right thigh
on the fumble and didn't play again, finishing with six attempts
for minus-8 yards.

Adam "Pacman" Jones, the Titans' top draft pick, had a messy
game for Tennessee. He set up the go-ahead touchdown just before
halftime with an 85-yard kickoff return. But with the Titans
trailing 28-21 with 6 minutes left, Jones failed to catch a Chris Hanson punt, which took a big bounce and went 74 yards.

With the ball at their 1, the Titans went three-and-out.

McNair did toss the 150th TD pass of his career, a 15-yarder to
Chris Brown. The running back also scored on a 1-yard run just
before halftime.

Game notes
Smith's 24-yard reception in the third quarter gave him 827
for his career and moved him into eighth all-time on the NFL
receiving list. ... Jacksonville scored 30 or more points for a
second straight game after going 58 games without topping that
mark. ... Brown's TD catch was the first of his career.