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Mark Brunell: Success with a twist (ankle)

Mark Brunell said he was a bit wobbly at first.

His Jaguar teammates never seemed to see it.

Brunell, sidelined for four games with a high left ankle sprain, returned Sunday to lead his team to a 25-10 victory.

"I was a little off early on," he said. "I missed some throws. My footwork wasn't where I wanted it to be. But as the game went on I was able to get that back and make some of the throws that we needed to hit."

Brunell retwisted the ankle just before halftime, and although he wasn't feeling too swell, he said he never considered leaving.

"I just encouraged (coach Tom Coughlin) to keep me in there," he said.

Brunell completed 14 of 34 passes with one touchdown toss.

"He was sharp." said receiver Jimmy Smith, who caught Brunell's scoring throw. "He was throwing the ball so hard, you almost didn't want to catch it."

HOMECOMING: The Jaguars won their home playoff debut.

"We wanted to make the most of the opportunity," linebacker Kevin Hardy said. "The excitement was in the air it was something big not only for the team and the organization but for the entire city. I think we made a lot of people proud today, and hopefully we can build on what we did."

For all the noise, the stadium was not sold out. Only 72,559 of the 73,000 tickets were sold, with more than 1,400 no-shows.

"Really?" Smith asked. "Maybe they were all in the bathroom."

CAR ACCIDENT: Jaguars running back Tavian Banks and cornerback Cordell Taylor were involved in a car accident Saturday night on their way to the team hotel. Both were inactive for Sunday's game.

UP NEXT: The last time Coughlin met Jets coach Bill Parcells was in the 1996 AFC Championship Game. Parcells was with the Patriots and led New England to victory.

From 1988-90, Coughlin was receivers coach for Parcells' Giants.

They'll meet again at 12:30 p.m. Sunday.

"Looks to me like the Jets are a heck of a football team and they're playing real well, but I'm not going to worry about the Jets for a couple of days or at least until tomorrow morning," Coughlin said.

FAMILIAR FACE: Defensive end Eric Curry, Tampa Bay's first-round draft pick in 1993, had three tackles for the Jaguars.

Curry, released by the Bucs after the '97 season, spent the '98 training camp with the Packers, but did not make the final cut. He signed with Jacksonville on Sept. 9 when Jeff Lageman was placed on injured reserve.

He is used mostly as a role player, but is just happy to be playing.

"I go out there and, when my time comes, I just want to explode," Curry said. "It's just all coming out. It's been so long to the point where when it is time for me to step up and play, that extra surge, that rage comes out of me and I'm ready to handle that.

"It just goes on from there, because guys are just pushing me on and supporting me and that's what you need, a support staff."

SURPRISE, SURPRISE: Rookie center John Wade didn't realize he'd be starting until game day.

"I've been working with the (starters) for the last couple of weeks because Quentin (Neujahr, pinched nerve last week against Pittsburgh) has been injured. But it really makes no difference. You have to prepare every week like you're going to be the starter, because the other guy can go out on the first play."

Wade had just one bobble, a bad snap in the red zone recovered by his team.

_ ERNEST HOOPER, ROBBI PICKERAL

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