Jaguars show up in prime time, snap losing streak
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP)
Maybe it was the revered opponent. Maybe it was the prime-time stage. Maybe it was the five-game losing streak.
Either way, it was enough to motivate the Jacksonville Jaguars to their best defensive effort in years.
The Jaguars dominated the Baltimore Ravens in a 12-7 victory Monday night, allowing 146 yards, forcing nine three-and-outs, recording three sacks and taking advantage of two turnovers.
''I just think our guys just played real well,'' coach Jack Del Rio said Tuesday. ''I don't know if there's ever been a team that's not excited for Monday night. The stage is set up. It's exciting. The crowd gets into it, under the lights, in front of a national audience and so I think that certainly was motivating.
''I think for our guys, defensively, I think they got tired of hearing about how great Baltimore's defense is and I feel like we're doing some good things here that was an opportunity for us to kind of get out there and get after them ourselves and make some plays and make our own statement.''
The Jaguars (2-5) certainly did. The win could be the spark the rebuilding team needs to turn around a season that got off to a slow start with two quarterback changes and some offensive line shuffling.
Through it all, the defense has played well.
Jacksonville has held five of seven opponents below 300 yards of offense, and the teams that did manage more - New Orleans and Pittsburgh - were kept below their season scoring average.
It's exactly what Del Rio and general manager Gene Smith envisioned when they committed more than $100 million in free agency to revamp one of the league's worst defenses.
''I felt very strongly that this would be a good, solid defense for us this year, and we're nearing the midway point, and I think that it's obvious that it is and has been and we're going to need to be even better through the second half of the season,'' Del Rio said.
''So there's room for growth and there's room for improvement, and we're going to need that, but the effort and the energy and the determination that we played with, that type of thing gives you a chance and we just need to sustain that.''
That could be a challenge. The Jaguars travel to division rival Houston on a short week, and after a physical game, and need another win to close ground in the wide open AFC South.
The Texans (4-3) already have two wins in the division and are 6-2 against Jacksonville at home during Del Rio's tenure.
''There's a lot of football left,'' Del Rio said. ''We needed to win and we were able to get one last night. We need to win some more and the next opportunity we have to do that is go down and play a divisional opponent in the Houston Texans, who are sitting on top right now.
''Getting our energy back and going down there and playing well on the road and getting a victory, that's what it's all about right now. But the division right now, you don't have Indy that's sitting there at 7-0 or 8-0 running away with things. There is definitely and opportunity for everybody involved to put some wins together and have a shot.''
Beating Baltimore may have been a turning point.
Maurice Jones-Drew ran for 105 yards, becoming the first player to eclipse the century mark against Baltimore's vaunted defense since last December. Josh Scobee kicked four field goals, including three from beyond 50 yards. But the defense stole the show.
Jeremy Mincey, John Chick and Terrance Knighton harassed QB Joe Flacco. Paul Posluszny, Daryl Smith and Clint Session corralled running back Ray Rice. Rashean Mathis, Derek Cox and Dawan Landry blanketed receivers.
It was Jacksonville's best defensive performance since holding Tennessee to 98 yards in 2006.
''We got all the pieces of the puzzle,'' Mincey said. ''It just takes time for it to click and it finally started clicking. Everybody played their position and focused on their jobs and things happened.''
It resulted in a big win, one the Jaguars hope will build confidence for a young team and lead to more.
''We wanted to outplay them and we had a heck of a game,'' Knighton said. ''We just needed that taste of victory so now things should start rolling.''