By MARK LONG, AP Sports Writer
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Tim Tebow was a non-factor. The Denver Broncos can't say the same about David Garrard.
Garrard threw three touchdown passes, two to tight end Marcedes Lewis, and Jacksonville beat Denver 24-17 on Sunday in a season opener the Jaguars called one of the most important in franchise history.
Garrard completed 16 of 21 passes for 170 yards. A big chunk of those went Mike Thomas, who caught six passes for 89 yards. Maurice Jones-Drew ran for 98 yards.
The Jaguars, coming off a 7-9 season in which they blacked out nine of 10 home games, needed to get off to a good start to keep fans in the seats and eliminate more talk about relocation.
Tebow's debut made a victory even more imperative, especially since some Jaguars fans clamored for the former Florida star.
The Broncos wasted little time getting Tebow on the field in his hometown.
Tebow, who grew up in Jacksonville, entered on the third play. He gained a yard on a quarterback keeper. He returned two plays later and lined up at receiver. Tebow picked up another yard on his second carry, this one coming in the second quarter.
He spent the rest of the game on the sideline. Kyle Orton was much more effective - at least until the fourth quarter.
Orton was 21 of 33 passing for 295 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. Orton's fourth-down pass to Brandon Lloyd in the corner of the end zone was ruled incomplete with 4:41 remaining. Lloyd, who caught four passes for 106 yards, didn't get two feet down.
The Broncos forced a punt, but their comeback attempt failed when Daryl Smith picked off Orton's pass near midfield with 46 second left.
Denver might not have been behind had it not been for defensive end Ryan McBean's two costly penalties. McBean was flagged twice for grabbing Jones-Drew's face mask on the winning drive. The Jaguars used the extra 30 yards to move 83 yards in seven plays, capping the drive with Garrard's 24-yard strike to Kassim Osgood.
Osgood was flagged for celebrating, a penalty that gave the Broncos good field position. Orton got them down to the Jacksonville 14, but his third-and-3 pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage and his fourth-down throw was too far outside for Lloyd to haul in.
Neither team scored until the final minute of the first half.
Garrard completed consecutive passes to Thomas and Lewis, the second a 21-yarder for a score. Lewis made a nice move to reach the end zone with 50 seconds left.
Apparently, that was too much time left on the clock for Denver. The Broncos went 74 yards in four plays, including a 41-yard pass play to Lloyd.
The game was a back-and-forth affair from there.
Denver looked as if it would wilt in stifling heat and humidity - it was 93 degrees with a heat index of 105 - but a thunderstorm cooled things considerably in the third quarter. The game was suspended 33 minutes because of lightning.
Officials sent players, coaches and staff members off the field at the start of the fourth quarter.
The break seemed to work in Denver's favor. The temperature dropped to 78 degrees, and the Broncos moved right down the field to tie it at 17. But Orton couldn't get it done down the stretch.
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