The Jacksonville Jaguars played like a team that intends to return to the Georgia Dome in a few months.
Playing the role of Super Bowl contender, the Jaguars blew out the Atlanta Falcons 30-7 Sunday on the same field where the NFL title game will be played Jan. 30.
Jacksonville (7-1), moving a game ahead of Tennessee in the AFC Central when the Titans lost at Miami 17-0 Sunday night, sent Chris Chandler tumbling to the turf eight times and finished off the performance by sacking backup quarterback Tony Graziani. The Falcons managed only four first downs and 58 yards in the second half.
"It was a sharkfest," defensive end Tony Brackens said.
Atlanta's last gasp came when a 99-yard kickoff return by Tim Dwight to begin the second half was nullified by a penalty. Instead of cutting Jacksonville's lead to 17-14, the Falcons still trailed by 10 points.
Not taking any more chances, Jacksonville quickly sealed the victory on its next two possessions. Mike Hollis kicked a 24-yard field goal and Brunell threw his final touchdown pass, a 2-yarder to Keenan McCardell with 1:41 left in the third period.
"We had some momentum," said Dwight, who scored Atlanta's only touchdown with 29 seconds left in the first half to pull his team within 17-7. "We had scored right before the half, then we came out and busted one to make it 17-14. But it didn't count."
Brunell left the game early in the fourth after completing 14 of 27 passes for 203 yards. Taylor, showing he was fully recovered from a hamstring injury that kept him out of three games, carried a season-high 27 times for his second straight 100-yard performance. The Jaguars also came up with four turnovers and didn't have any themselves.
"Fred Taylor gives us so many opportunities," coach Tom Coughlin said.
The Jaguars, cheered on by thousands of fans who made the six-hour drive from Jacksonville, did nothing to hurt their No. 1 defensive rating. They have allowed just 76 points and are on pace to set a record for fewest allowed in a 16-game schedule.
The Falcons (2-7), who played in the Super Bowl last season, were given a brutal lesson in just how far they have fallen from the NFL's elite teams, accounting for only 182 yards in all.
Chandler suffered the brunt of the punishment, taking some sort of hit virtually every time he went back to pass. He was 14-of-25 for 163 yards with two interceptions.
"Obviously, he's not the fastest quarterback in the world," Hardy said. "He's not going to be able to drop back and take off running to the sidelines. He has to get back there and make quick decisions. And when you've got all that pressure coming at you, it makes it tough."
On the first play of the second half, Chandler threw a 14-yard pass to Brian Kozlowski. But the beleaguered quarterback was sacked for a 13-yard loss on the following play and the Falcons were held to minus-16 yards on their next three possessions.
Atlanta didn't pick up another first down until less than 10 minutes remained in the game and the Jaguars had padded their lead to 27-7.
Jacksonville built a 17-0 advantage in the first half. Brunell threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Smith and a 9-yarder to Damon Jones, both of them over the middle and beating Falcons free safety Eugene Robinson.
Hollis kicked the first of his three field goals, a 27-yarder, before the Falcons' offense showed its only life of the game with a 12-play, 81-yard drive that consumed 6 minutes, 10 seconds. Chandler finished it off with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Dwight.
The diminutive Dwight broke looe with the second-half kickoff, racing down the left sideline for an apparent touchdown. But Jondale Carty was called for an illegal block and the Falcons were finished.
©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed