Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

NOTEBOOK; Jags: Refs Protected McNair

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

NOTEBOOK; Jags: Refs Protected McNair

Article excerpt

Byline: BART HUBBUCH, The Times-Union

The Jaguars felt Tennessee quarterback Steve McNair received preferential treatment from the officials on Sunday, specifically on two roughing-the-passer penalties on defensive tackle Marcus Stroud.

Stroud was most upset about the first flag because the hit didn't appear to be severe or late. It also proved costly because it gave the Titans new life after a third-down incompletion early in the second quarter and resulted in a McNair touchdown pass -- and a 17-3 Tennessee lead -- on the next play.

Stroud got so angry at his second roughing penalty late in the third quarter that the coaching staff pulled him for two plays to calm him down.

McNair came into the game leading the NFL in passing yards, prompting Stroud and Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio to say the league told the officiating crew to protect McNair.

"I know [the league] is going to protect a hot quarterback, and McNair is playing MVP-quality football right now," Del Rio said. "They're certainly going to be extra cautious with him."

Asked if McNair was given "star" treatment by the officials, Stroud said: "Definitely."

PEARSON BENCHED AGAIN

Del Rio's postgame vow to shuffle the starting lineup already might have claimed its first victim.

Offensive tackle Mike Pearson, already in trouble with Del Rio for his poor showing against Miami's Jason Taylor two weeks ago, was benched for Leander Jordan late in the third quarter.

Pearson was pulled after allowing a wide-open shot on Byron Leftwich by backup end Juqua Thomas. Pearson also was beaten earlier by Jevon Kearse for a hit on Leftwich that resulted in Leftwich's second interception.

Del Rio criticized Pearson for the Kearse hit after the game, saying Pearson "whiffed" on the play.

"It was a 'look out!' block," Del Rio said. "A quarterback has no chance on a play like that. …

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