JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Linebacker Mike Peterson tried to stay out of public eye last week, too embarrassed to be seen around Jacksonville and too upset to defend his defense.
He bottled up all his emotions and saved them for Atlanta.
Peterson had two of seven sacks on Joey Harrington, stuffed the run and helped the Jaguars rebound from a humbling season opener with a 13-7 victory over the Falcons on Sunday.
Jacksonville’s defense was shredded for a franchise-record 282 yards rushing against Tennessee last week. Peterson spent most of the week indoors, fuming as he watched replays.
‘‘Vince Young is Superman now. I’ve seen all that,’’ Peterson said. ‘‘Tell them thank you. They had me fired up and it will probably have me fired up the rest of the season.’’
Peterson and the defense held the Falcons (0-2) to 82 yards on the ground. Atlanta’s biggest problem came on special teams, where Matt Prater missed two field goals. He was wide right from 43 yards in the second quarter and wide right from 26 yards in the third. He is now 1-of-4 on the season.
‘‘This was really tough,’’ Prater said. ‘‘I put it all on my shoulders. I feel like I let the team down. I didn’t do my part or my job. So I feel pretty bad about it.’’
His second miss would have given the Falcons a 10-3 advantage. Instead, David Garrard drove Jacksonville (1-1) on consecutive scoring drives to put the team ahead for good.
Garrard, like the defense, felt like he proved a little something, too. He finished 17-of-25 for 272 yards with a touchdown, showing the Jaguars are in capable hands after cutting former first-round draft Byron Leftwich a week before the season.
Garrard was 7-of-8 for 122 yards on the two fourth-quarter scoring drives. He was 4-of-4 for 79 yards on the first, capping it with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Williams.
John Carney, signed this week to replace injured starter Josh Scobee, didn’t have the same issues as Prater. He gave the Jags an early lead with a 35-yard field goal in the first quarter and hit a 26-yarder with 3:39 remaining to make it 13-7.
Jacksonville’s defense did the rest, stopping Atlanta’s final drive with another sack.
‘‘The team that showed up last week against the Tennessee Titans did not show up against us,’’ said Falcons tight end Alge Crumpler, who caught three passes for 53 yards. ‘‘Any time there was a critical moment, we just weren’t able to get anything accomplished.
‘‘That’s the part that disappointed me the most. Not the missed field goals or those types of things. It was just basic football, being able to protect the quarterback and giving yourself a chance to make plays.’’
Harrington finished 12-of-20 for 200 yards. Warrick Dunn had 50 yards rushing and the lone score. Jerious Norwood added 30 yards rushing.
It was a much different effort from Jacksonville, which vowed to correct its problems. Then again, the Falcons didn’t try to spread them out and run up the middle, formations that burned the Jags in the opener.
‘‘It feels good,’’ defensive end Bobby McCray said. ‘‘We had a nasty taste in our mouth last week to come in get spanked like that at home. We had to prove that we still got it.’’
Jacksonville was much better in the running game, too.
Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew combined for 48 yards in the opener. Taylor had 56 against Atlanta and Jones-Drew added 31. Garrard did the rest, primarily by avoiding Pro Bowl cornerback DeAngelo Hall and picking on Lewis Sanders, who gave up the TD pass to Williams and eventually got benched.
‘‘If we go downhill from here, it’s going to be a long year,’’ defensive end John Abraham said. ‘‘We just want to pick it up for next week and get this one behind us as quickly as possible.’’
Harrington played well at times, but for the second consecutive week, he got little protection and even less support from the running game. It didn’t help that veteran left tackle Wayne Gandy left in the first quarter with a left hamstring injury.
Harrington was sacked six times in a 24-3 loss at Minnesota last week. He also threw two interceptions, both of them returned for touchdowns.
‘‘We all need to play better,’’ Harrington said. ‘‘It’s not a sack issue, an O-line issue, a receiver issue. It’s everybody’s issue. We’ve got to play better. And we’ve got to play better at the right times. It’s obviously frustrating, but one play does not win or lose a ball game.’’|
Notes: Jags DT John Henderson left the game in the first half because of a ‘‘blow to the head,’’ the team said. He returned in the second, but then had to be helped off the field with heat-related issues. . . . Taylor now has 9,585 yards rushing in his career, 19 more than Dunn. . . . Jags S Gerald Sensabaugh re-aggravated a shoulder injury. . . . With temperatures near 90 degrees, Jags coach Jack Del Rio opted for pants and a polo shirt instead of the suit he wore in last week’s loss.