For a while, the rematch looked like it might be a rerun. But in the fourth quarter, the Denver Broncos went for the Jagular.
Terrell Davis ran for 184 yards and two touchdowns before leaving in the third quarter with bruised ribs, and backup Derek Loville added 103 yards and two fourth-quarter scores as the Broncos beat Jacksonville 42-17 in an AFC wild-card game Saturday, avenging last year’s playoff loss.
“This was a payback,” Loville said. “I wasn’t even on the team last year, but I know the emotion that surrounded this game.”
The Broncos, who squandered a 12-0 lead in their 30-27 loss last Jan. 4, nearly frittered away a 21-0 edge in this one, but pulled away with 310 yards on the ground. It was the third-highest rushing output in Denver history and its best in the postseason.
The Jaguars, seven-point underdogs, got to 21-17 in the third quarter, thanks to Travis Davis’ 29-yard blocked-punt return.
But with Denver’s Davis, who led the AFC in rushing with 1,750 yards, on the bench, Loville responded.
Loville bolted 25 yards for a touchdown that made it 28-17, then capped an 80-yard drive with an 8-yard run with 3:43 left. As the Broncos attempted to run out the clock, Vaughn Hebron scored on a 6-yard run.
Loville, who carried the ball only 25 times for 124 yards in the regular season, was the only healthy Denver tailback. Davis came in with a slightly separated right shoulder, and Hebron was slowed by a strained left hamstring. But none showed any effects from their injuries.
“Derek has a lot of talent,” Denver quarterback John Elway said. “But it’s tough to get a lot of reps when you have Terrell. We never missed a step when he went in there.”
Battling gusty winds, Elway completed 16 of 24 passes for 223 yards and a touchdown as Denver enjoyed a huge advantage in yardage (511-237) and time of possession (40:59-19:01).
“I mean this when I say it: That’s the best I’ve ever seen an offensive line play,” Elway said.
Jacksonville’s Mark Brunell was 18 for 32 for 203 yards. Natrone Means, who steamrolled the Broncos in the playoffs last year with 140 yards, had only 40.
The Broncos advanced to a divisional playoff game, either in Kansas City or Pittsburgh, depending on the outcome of today’s Miami-New England game.
“We got a couple of turnovers in the third quarter, which we did nothing with,” Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin said. “Then they put the ball on the ground and the rest is history. We just didn’t make any plays.”
The Broncos took advantage of a defense that was the worst in the NFL in allowing third-down conversions. Denver converted its first nine third-down opportunities en route to a 21-0 lead in the second quarter, scoring on its first three possessions.
Stung by the 21-0 deficit, Jacksonville mounted its only sustained drive of the first half late in the second quarter. Brunell completed a 16-yard pass to Jimmy Smith, and a 34-yard pass interference penalty on Denver’s Darrien Gordon put the ball at the 4. Means scored two plays later.
Jacksonville got to within 21-17 in the third quarter before Denver pulled away late.
Broncos 42, Jaguars 17 Jacksonville 0 7 10 0 17 Denver 14 7 0 21 42 First quarter DenTe.Davis 2 run (Elam kick), 7:39.
Den-R.Smith 43 pass from Elway (Elam kick), 2:37.
Second quarter Den-Te.Davis 5 run (Elam kick), 10:46.
Jac-Means 1 run (Hollis kick), 5:09.
Third quarter Jac-FG Hollis 38, 13:33.
Jac-Tra.Davis 29 blocked punt return (Hollis kick), 9:16.
Fourth quarter Den-Loville 25 run (Elam kick), 13:21.
Den-Loville 8 run (Elam kick), 3:43.
Den-Hebron 6 run (Elam kick), 1:11.
Jac Den First downs 14 28 Rushes-yards 14-50 49-310 Passing 187 201 Punt Returns 1-5 1-14 Kickoff Returns 7-166 3-87 Interceptions Ret. 0 1-0 Comp-Att-Int 18-32-1 16-24-0 Sacked-Yards Lost 3-16 3-22 Punts 4-29.5 3-33.0 Fumbles-Lost 1-1 3-2 Penalties-Yards 9-54 9-94 Time of Possession 19:29 40:31 Individual statistics RUSHING-Jacksonville, Means 10-40, Stewart 1-6, Brunell 3-4. Denver, Te.Davis 31-184, Loville 11-103, Hebron 6-23, Elway 1-0.
PASSING-Jacksonville, Brunell 18-32-1-203. Denver, Elway 16-24-0-223.
RECEIVING-Jacksonville, McCardell 6-55, J.Smith 6-55, Stewart 3-46, D.Jones 1-37, Mitchell 1-7, Means 1-3. Denver, R.Smith 3-99, Te.Davis 4-11, McCaffrey 2-33, Green 2-32, Sharpe 2-29, H.Griffith 2-9, Loville 1-10.
MISSED FIELD GOALS-None.