Del Rio rewards Jaguars following big W in Big D
Jacksonville Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio dangled carrots in front of his players last week, telling them what the bye week would be like with a win and with a loss.
They responded with their most complete victory of the season at Dallas.
David Garrard had the best game of his career, Maurice Jones-Drew turned in his best performance of the season, and Jacksonville's oft-criticized defense came up with a franchise-record four interceptions and a pivotal goal-line stand.
The 35-17 victory wasn't nearly as close as the final score, and it prompted Del Rio to give players five days off during the team's bye week.
''Winning makes everything better,'' Del Rio said Monday. ''The steak tastes better, the beer seems like it's a little bit colder and everything's better when you win.''
The lopsided victory followed two one-sided losses and evened Jacksonville's record at 4-4 at the midway point of the season. It's not where Del Rio would like to be, but it's good enough to keep the Jaguars in the hunt in the competitive AFC South.
''The way I look at it is it's a win we had to have and we got it,'' Del Rio said. ''There are a lot of other wins we're going to have to have starting with the next one. As you go through the first half of the season, you'd like to remain alive and have some hope.
''I'd love to be 8-0 right now and running away with it, but that's not the situation. So, you take where you are and make the most of it.''
Jacksonville still has four division games remaining and plenty of time to make up ground on Indianapolis, Houston and Tennessee.
The Jaguars can only hope for more efforts like they had against the Cowboys.
Garrard completed his first 12 passes, finally misfiring in the third quarter to avoid a sack, and finished 17 of 21 for 260 yards. He had a career-best four TD passes and walked in for another score.
Even with three sacks and a lost fumble, Garrard's passer rating was 157.8 - just shy of perfect (158.3) and tops in his nine-year career.
''We have to be able to build on it,'' Garrard said after the game. ''We can't just have one big game and turn around the other way. We have to be able to build on the confidence that we have now.''
In Jacksonville's four wins, Garrard has 12 TD passes and only one INT. In the four losses, he has one TD pass and six interceptions.
Garrard's inconsistency is one reason the Jaguars have been blown out four times this season. When he's on, it makes things easier on everyone around him, especially Jones-Drew.
Jones-Drew ran for 135 yards, his most since getting 177 on the ground against Tennessee last November.
The defense may have been the biggest bright spot for Jacksonville. The unit didn't have a turnover in its previous three games, but picked off four of Jon Kitna's passes. Maybe even more crucial to the outcome, the Jaguars kept Marion Barber out of the end zone on consecutive plays late in the first half.
Leading 14-3 in the final seconds of the half, Jacksonville stuffed Barber on third and fourth down. The Jaguars scored touchdowns on their first two drives of the third quarter, and the outcome was never in doubt again.
''It was a really big play,'' linebacker Daryl Smith said after the game. ''We just had to have it. If you look at some of our other games this year, we've been put into similar situations and they've been scoring. We've been in that situation enough times where something had to go good.''