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
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