A QUICK BOUNCE BACK;Jags recover from early miscues for second consecutive win
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - The Jaguars dug themselves into a deep hole Sunday and then climbed all the way out to grab a share of first place in the AFC South.
Let that roll off your tongue. First-place Jaguars.
And they did it after coughing the ball up twice in the first quarter while falling behind 10-0 before charging back to beat the winless Buffalo Bills, 36-26.
Just two weeks after getting drilled by 25 points in consecutive weeks, the Jaguars are back in the midst of the division race that is virtually starting over. All four teams, the Jaguars, Colts, Texans and Titans, are 3-2. The Jaguars haven't won a division title since 1999 when Tom Coughlin was the coach.
They came back from a 10-point road deficit for the first time since 2005 when they did it at Cleveland, and avoided a classic trap game.
The matchup against the winless Bills was sandwiched between an emotional victory against the Colts and next Monday night's crucial division game against their old nemesis, the Tennessee Titans.
And the Jaguars didn't exactly have a history of dealing well with the euphoria of a home victory over the Colts. They lost two a row in after beating the Colts in 2003 and three consecutive games after last beating them at home in 2006.
"We talked about the fact that we had not followed up wins against Indianapolis with good results,'' coach Jack Del Rio said.
"It almost felt like, 'Here we go again.' It wasn't a great feeling. You don't want to start off down like that,'' Garrard said.
But, he added, "You've got to keep grinding. You've got to continue to play the game.''
That's what the Jaguars did, showing no signs of panic.
"I thought we showed some grit hanging in there in an adverse situation and really took control of the game,'' Del Rio said.
Del Rio said the team's veteran leadership was a big factor.
"You could feel it on the sidelines,'' he said. "They're saying, "OK let's hang in there. Let's stick together.' ''
Thomas and Garrard, the two players who committed the early turnovers, sparked the comeback.
Thomas finished the game with four catches for 51 yards and ran three reverses for 53 yards.
Garrard, who has eight touchdown passes and one interception in the Jaguars' three victories, completed 16 of 20 passes for 178 yards and three touchdowns. He had a 122.5 passer rating.
Tight end Marcedes Lewis caught two of the touchdown passes to boost his season total to five, a Jaguars record for tight ends.
As expected, the Jaguars had little trouble running against a Buffalo defense ranked last in the NFL. The Bills, who switched to a 3-4 this year, even played four down linemen in an attempt to slow down the running game, but to no avail.
The Jaguars ran for 216 yards with Jones-Drew getting 84 and rookie Deji Karim, making his NFL debut after missing the first four games with a thumb injury, adding 70.
The Bills have given up over 200 rushing yards three games in a row, the first time that's happened since 1972.
Mike Sims-Walker, who didn't catch a pass in the Jaguars' previous two wins, had four catches for 46 yards, including a seven-yard touchdown catch to break a 20-20 tie.
The Jaguars had put together a 10-play, 85-yard drive to tie the game at 13 with 25 seconds left in the second quarter.
Karim then returned the second-half kickoff 51 yards to set up a 39-yard touchdown drive to give the Jaguars a 20-13 lead.
When the Jaguars forced the Bills to punt, they seemed to have the game under control.
But facing a 4th-and-1 at the Jaguars 45, Del Rio decided to go for it. He thought he got word to Garrard to call timeout if the play looked "ugly.''
The message didn't get to Garrard, who called the play only to have a lineman kick the ball out of his hands.
The Bills took over, scored to tie it 20-20 on a Ryan Fitzpatrick 5-yard pass to Steve Johnson, and it was a game again.
The Jaguars, though, quickly regained control. Karim returned a kickoff 41 yards and the Jaguars put together a 53-yard scoring drive to take the lead for good.
Del Rio was the first to admit it wasn't a vintage showing for the Jaguars.
"We just didn't really ever quite hit our rhythm today as a football team and we've got a lot of work to do,'' he said.
The Jaguars, though, feel they have a winning chemistry.
"We have a great makeup, the right attitude,'' said Lewis, who led the Jaguars in both receptions (four) and receiving yards (54).
"To see everybody just roll with the punches and not blink, it's big-time. We expect to win. There's a great group of guys. We all believe.''
AFC SOUTH LOGJAM
TEAM REC. DIV.
Houston 3-2 1-0
Jacksonville 3-2 1-0
Tennessee 3-2 0-0
Indianapolis 3-2 0-2
Jaguars' next division game, Oct. 18 vs. Titans.
Watch postgame analysis video from the Times-Union's Gene Frenette and Tania Ganguli.