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Jones-Drew proving elite status

By Michael Rushton, NFL Contributing Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - For Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew, it had to feel like beating his older brother in a game of one-on-one in the driveway for the first time.

The shifty back scored four touchdowns in Sunday's 41-14 rout of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to set the franchise's all-time touchdown mark with 73. He scored twice on the ground and hauled in a pair of scoring throws from rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert to pass Fred Taylor's mark of 70 established during his 11-year career with Jacksonville.

Jones-Drew was quick to praise Taylor as his mentor after the win. Of course, it was Jones-Drew's outstanding play after being selected by the Jags in the second round of the 2006 draft that essentially ended Taylor's career with Jacksonville. Taylor was released following the 2008 season as Jones-Drew became the featured back.

Maurice Jones-Drew has been a bright spot for the 4-9 Jaguars.
"It means a lot. To break a record that Fred [Taylor] set, it means a bunch," the UCLA product said after the Bucs game. "Words can't really explain how excited I am to have a guy that mentored me the whole time, taught me how to play this game the right way, how to take care of my body and do those things. To come out and break the touchdown record makes me very excited."

As the NFL's leading rusher with 1,222 yards this season, the 5-foot-7, 26- year-old is well on his way to a third straight Pro Bowl appearance and has been a bright spot for the 4-9 Jaguars. While Jacksonville continues to sort out the rest of its offense with Gabbert and a lackluster receiving game, the franchise figures to be set in the backfield for the foreseeable future.

Center Brad Meester has been with the Jags since 2000 and sees a lot of the same things in Jones-Drew that he did with Taylor.

"They are very similar players," he said. "Both guys could take any holes [and] make big plays out of it, and then when they're in the open field can make guys miss or straight outrun them, and they do a great job at it."

Jones-Drew's career-high outing of four touchdowns helped get interim head coach Mel Tucker his first win and despite his record-setting day, the running back handed his coach the game ball.

"We needed it [a win] very badly. That's why we play this game. You don't play for the individual accolades, those come with wins," said Jones-Drew. "Obviously we feel like we should be playing better, but to get a victory and put up the points we did as an offense, and on special teams, that's huge."

Jones-Drew still has one more record to take away from Taylor. The latter holds the franchise's all-time mark of rushing touchdowns with 62, one more than Jones-Drew. That mark could fall Thursday in Atlanta.

TEXANS CELEBRATE FIRST PLAYOFF TRIP

T.J. Yates has gone from third-string quarterback to Texas hero.

Pressed into a starting role following season-ending injuries to Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart, the rookie out of North Carolina was under center for arguably the biggest moment in Houston Texans history and also played a big part in it.

With his team down by 13 points at the half Sunday versus the Cincinnati Bengals, Yates remained cool and calm in rallying the Texans to a 20-19 victory. That win, later coupled with a loss by the Tennessee Titans, secured 10-3 Houston's first ever playoff trip -- and it comes as AFC South champs.

"It's pretty crazy," said Yates. "I know a lot of people in this organization have been wanting this for a long time. I'm happy that we achieved this, but this is just one small step in achieving the team's goals."

Houston seemed well on its way to a playoff berth before Schaub suffered a foot injury that landed him on injured reserve. Leinart took over under center on Nov. 27 in Jacksonville, but sustained a fractured collarbone in that win.

That left Yates making his second career start this past weekend, though he certainly didn't look like a rookie in engineering a pair of 80-yard drives in the fourth quarter. The final one ended with a six-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Walter with two seconds left to secure the win.

"I've always been a low-key guy. Sometimes I feel that I don't get up enough for certain situations. But in times like that, I'm pretty level- headed," said Yates about the final possession.

The 24-year-old's performance certainly left tight end Owen Daniels impressed, especially because the game-winning drive came with no timeouts left.

"We realized what was on the line right there," Daniels said. "It is unbelievable what T.J. was able to do, finding people down the field, avoiding the rush and making plays with his feet. It was so smooth. I've never seen anything like it."

After being considered a team on the rise for the past few seasons, the Texans have finally silenced doubters and possibly saved head coach Gary Kubiak's job. Now the club will see just how far Yates' arm can take them.

"We've turned that corner," said wide receiver Jacoby Jones. "We're a playoff- bound team, a Super Bowl-contending team. That's what we're looking for right now."

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Michael Rushton at mrushton@sportsnetwork.com.

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