The Jacksonville Jaguars headed into their bye week with three wins in their last four games.
They didn’t care that two of them came against winless teams, Tennessee and St. Louis, or that the other came when Houston fumbled at goal line in the closing minutes.
The Jaguars (3-3) were more concerned with erasing thoughts of last week’s 41-0 debacle in Seattle, the worst loss in coach Jack Del Rio’s seven seasons.
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“You never want to go into a bye week with the spoils of a loss on your hands,” receiver Mike Thomas said Monday. “This way is a lot better.”
It was close to going the other way, though.
Despite racking up 492 yards and 33 first downs against the Rams, the Jaguars needed Josh Scobee‘s 36-yard field goal in overtime to win 23-20 and avoid heading into an off week with consecutive losses.
Jacksonville had three turnovers, including two deep in St. Louis territory. The other was an interception Leonard Little returned 36 yards for a touchdown and a 17-13 lead with 4:36 to play.
No one would have been surprised to see the Jaguars fold. Not after last week’s embarrassing loss. Not with just 38,000 fans in the stadium. Not with such a young team unaccustomed to overcoming adversity.
But veteran receiver Torry Holt gathered his teammates on the sideline and offered a motivational speech. It seemed to work. David Garrard and Maurice Jones-Drew led the Jaguars on a 75-yard drive that put them back in front 20-17, then the defense forced a game-tying field goal in the closing seconds.
Jacksonville won the coin toss in overtime, took the ball and marched 62 yards against the Rams‘ worn-down defense to set up Scobee’s game-winner.
“Positive response in some adverse situations,” Del Rio said. “I think that was huge for our football team. That’s something to build on, something to rally around.”
If Jacksonville wins its next two games, against the Titans (0-6) and Kansas City (1-5), the team probably would be right in the middle of the AFC playoff race at the halfway point of the season. It would be an improbable position for a franchise that purged much of its roster during the offseason.
But the Jaguars don’t want any pats on the back yet.
“We’re still trying to find out exactly who we are,” linebacker Clint Ingram said. “We’re getting closer to that and we’re going to keep working until we get to where we want to get.”
The Jaguars want to believe that the shutout in Seattle was an aberration, and that playing Indianapolis tough in the opener, coming from behind against Arizona and then pulling out victories against Houston and St. Louis is a better indication of the where the team is headed.
“Right now, we’re treading water,” Del Rio said. “We’ve given ourselves an opportunity in our division. Through six games, you’ve seen some glimpses of a pretty good, young football team. It hasn’t been as consistent as we’d like. We’re working at that.
“As a coach, you realize you may get some of that with a young group, but you’re never going to settle for it or accept it. We’re gaining experience on the run right now.”
The Jaguars remained relatively healthy heading into the bye. Cornerback Rashean Mathis broke the index finger on his left hand and might need surgery to repair ligament damage.
Del Rio said Mathis might need surgery, but if so, it would not be season-ending. Del Rio also expects linebacker Justin Durant (hip) and safety Sean Considine (groin) back after missing the last two games.
Del Rio believes his team had more positives than negatives going right now, especially after pulling out a win headed into the bye.
“The fact that we didn’t blink, we kept fighting, was real positive,” he said. “We hung in there and we were able to win that game.”