Jags show growth in comeback

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y.- Admit it. You had every reason to believe


Jaguars were heading down the same

old road. This looked like just another wasted business trip.

Whenever things imploded early for the

Jaguars the past two years – be it

in San Diego, New England, Cleveland, Seattle, San Francisco,

Chicago or wherever – they’d stay in a game-long funk and never

come out of a football coma.


Jaguars were too discombobulated,

too bereft of real leadership and too immature to overcome the 10-0

and 13-3 deficits they faced Sunday against the Buffalo Bills at

Ralph Wilson Stadium.

“I told you guys this is a different team from last year,” said

running back Maurice Jones-Drew. “We stumbled a little bit in the

beginning, but we just kept fighting until we started making


Nobody in the

Jaguars’ locker room revels more in

telling the media I-told-you-so than Jones-Drew, even when his

argument is as shaky as his personal injury denials.

But on this gorgeous afternoon near the shores of Lake Erie, the

Jaguars’ franchise back – while

admitting he has played more hurt than he previously let on – and

his teammates reveled in taking a major step forward.

Maybe, just maybe, these aren’t the

Jaguars of old.

They actually climbed out of those 10-point holes with relative

ease. They went on a 30-7 run against the winless Bills en route to

a 36-26 victory. They showed a side of themselves that few people

outside the locker room thought the

Jaguars had in their repertoire.

“I like the resiliency,” said

Jaguars general manager Gene


“Would I have rather came in and we just … ” added defensive

end Aaron Kampman, making a bulldozer-type noise. “Yeah, it would

have been easier, better. But I think, for the growth of our

football team, this is good.”

If Josh Scobee’s 59-yard game-winning field goal against the

Colts was a turning point in the season, this might have been a

bigger leap in the

Jaguars’ growth process.


Jaguars’ recent history is littered

with examples of not handling adversity early in games. Any

opponent getting off to a fast start on Jack Del Rio’s team was

destined for an easy win.

Not this time. And what made this rally so inspiring was the

Jaguars recovered behind the people

most responsible for the early deficit, as well as players who were

previously chained to the sideline for different reasons.

Mike Thomas didn’t let a fumble the first time he touched the

ball, a punt return turnover that led to a Buffalo touchdown,

unravel him. The

Jaguars receiver combined for 104

total yards on seven catches/runs, including 55 yards of production

on the game-tying touchdown drive before halftime.

“I don’t get down on that stuff, man,” Thomas said about his

fumble. “I’ve played football my whole life. I know what kind of

player I am. My plays are going to come. Things happen. It’s a part

of football. I can’t let things like that get in the way of me

continuing to grow and doing my part in the offense.”

The same can be said of the

Jaguars’ maligned quarterback,

David Garrard, who refused to let an interception on his first pass

lead to more bad plays. He was a model of efficiency the rest of

the afternoon, completing 16 of his next 19 passes for 178 yards

and three touchdowns.

Remember that quarterback who wilted after bad starts during

those 25-point blowouts against San Diego and Philadelphia? He was

a no-show in Buffalo.

“You’re going to have those moments,” Garrard said. “The really

good teams, the great teams are able to withstand that. They’re

going through it, and coming back from it.

“Those were just really bad days. It wasn’t indicative of what

our team is. I think that’s us showing maturity, being able to

bounce back from that.”

And the best part is the

Jaguars didn’t just get

contributions from regular standouts such as Kampman, tight end

Marcedes Lewis or Jones-Drew.

Rookie Deji Karim, after sitting out four weeks with a thumb

injury, had 145 yards worth of kick returns and 70 yards rushing in

his NFL debut. Cornerback Derek Cox, after going from full-time

starter into Jack Del Rio’s dog house, might have won his job back

by playing solidly in coverage after Del Rio benched David


“That’s two weeks in a row, really, where we found a way to gut

out a win,” Del Rio said, “having not played anywhere near our best


So does this mean the

Jaguars (3-2), now in a four-way

tie for first place in the AFC South, are ready to seize control of

the division and be a playoff contender? I wouldn’t go that far

just yet. But shuffling off to Buffalo and going home with this

kind of a comeback win, that’s a good sign.

Maybe Jones-Drew is right. These aren’t the same old


gene.frenette@jacksonville.com (904) 359-4540