TAMPA, Fla. With Quinn Gray making his first NFL start, the Jacksonville Jaguars put their trust in a vibrant running game and a sturdy defense.
The plan to help the inexperienced quarterback worked Sunday, though not necessarily to perfection in a 24-23 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Gray overthrew open receivers most of the day, but made several key completions when his team needed them most, including an 8-yard touchdown throw to Matt Jones that put the Jaguars (5-2) ahead for good with 11:37 to go.
The Jacksonville defense, which ended Jeff Garcia's long streak of consecutive passing attempts without an interception, made the slender lead stand by forcing a couple of punts and intercepting Garcia for a third time the rest of the way.
Gray completed 7 of 16 passes for 100 yards, but did not throw an interception. One of his biggest plays came in the third quarter when he fumbled in his own end zone, but recovered and crawled out to the 1-yard line to avoid a safety.
Garcia threw a 58-yard TD pass to Joey Galloway to help Tampa Bay (4-4) overcome a 17-3 deficit. Michael Bennett's 19-yard TD run put the Bucs ahead 20-17, and Matt Bryant's third field goal made it 23-17 before Gray led an eight-play, 53-yard drive that Jones finished with a one-handed catch in the corner of the end zone.
Garcia, who had not thrown an interception in Tampa Bay's first seven games, had a streak of 217 consecutive passes without a pick stopped when Aaron Glenn stepped in front of a sideline thrown intended for Galloway and ran 28 yards for a second-quarter TD.