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Bigger than one victory

Posted Sep 23, 2012

Editorial: Jaguars come-from-behind victory very necessary, very validating

INDIANAPOLIS – We’ll start with the obvious:

It wasn’t pretty. It didn’t answer all questions, and it maybe even raised a few. if you hadn’t been there – if you didn’t know where the Jaguars are in their building process, and you hadn’t seen Cecil Shorts magically, instantly turn a dire situation into something pretty cool and memorable – you’d look at a 22-17 victory over the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday and list off a bunch of, “Yeah, buts . . .”

Sunday wasn’t about “yeah, buts . . .”

Not if you saw it, because if you know what the Jaguars have done the last six months and what they’re trying to build, you’d know what’s just as obvious:

This team needed this. For many reasons. And this was big. Really big.

*Really, really* big.

“It was our time, finally, to have it go our way,” Jaguars Head Coach Mike Mularkey said.

Mularkey specifically was talking about the game’s final play, when cornerback Aaron Ross batted away a pass from rookie Andrew Luck in the end zone to preserve a come-from-behind victory in front of 63,536.

He could have been talking about so much more. Was it time for something to go the Jaguars’ way? Yeah, you could say that. Definitely.

“We need that a lot,” Jaguars defensive end Jeremy Mincey said.

“That’s a big victory,” Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew said. “They’re a good team. It took a total team effort for us.”

How big was the victory? How big was it when Shorts caught a pass over the middle from Blaine Gabbert, and split through the Colts’ secondary? How big was it when he kept running and running for 11 seconds that felt like so much more?

How big was it when he dove into the end zone for the second-longest pass play in team history, a play that meant that for a second time in as many weeks Gabbert-to-Shorts had given the Jaguars a late lead in a game that seemed lost?

Most importantly, how big was it when the defense held this time?

 “Huge,” Jaguars cornerback Rashean Mathis said.

Mathis, the Jaguars’ veteran cornerback and the most-tenured defensive player, had talked all week of needing to somehow change the conversation. All week, he said while the Jaguars kept saying and believing the right things in the wake of an 0-2 start, it wouldn’t be enough to say those things again next week. On Sunday, he stuck to that.

“This is way bigger than just being 1-2,” he said. “It’s that big. It’s hard to describe how big this is, and I’m not one to be short of words. It was amazing. That could be one we look back on later in the season and say, ‘It started here.”

That’s important to remember about this game, about where the Jaguars are in their building process. Many fans this week gave up on this team following a 27-7 loss to the Texans last week, and considering a rocky start and rough showing a lot of Sunday, the Jaguars likely converted few Sunday.

But that’s not how the Jaguars see this. They don’t see it as, “Whew, we beat the Colts, so now we’ve got a victory.” They see it as a start. They believed in Mularkey and a largely new coaching staff before the season. They believed in the work they put in in training camp and the off-season. They believed in the improvement of Gabbert.

They still believed following a 26-23 overtime loss to Minnesota in the opener, and while many observers found believing impossible following a 117-yard offensive performance in Week 2, the Jaguars still believed after that game, too.

The thing about belief in the NFL, is you need to win to keep it. All week, you heard the word, “validation” around the Jaguars, and unsurprisingly, you heard it Sunday, too.

 “At the end of the day, winning validates all of your hard work during the week,” Gabbert said. “You’ve got to get a little success on Sunday, and now we’ve got to get two in a row.”

Jones-Drew afterward talked about growth, generally about the team, and specifically about players such as Gabbert and Shorts. “To get the validation of winning games will help them grow even more,” he said. “It’s tough to do that when you’re losing.”

Yes, as Gabbert said, the Jaguars need to get two in a row, but you can’t have a winning streak without the first victory. The Jaguars got that Sunday. They got it because the defense improved after a rough start. They got it because Jones-Drew, off to the best statistical start of his career, played a gutty, scrappy game, and gutted and scrapped his way to 177 yards rushing.

They got it because they believed, even when believing might have seemed tough. When Gabbert stepped into the huddle trailing by one with 56 seconds remaining, he referred to a similar situation two weeks ago in Minnesota and told the offense, “Here were go again. Let’s do it.”

“We always have confidence in Blaine,” Jones-Drew said.

For 59 minutes Sunday, there may not have been much reason to believe the Jaguars had that confidence. But the next 11 seconds turned out to be more important, and after those 11 seconds – and after Ross batted down Luck’s pass moments later – the Jaguars had a very necessary, validating victory.

And was it big? Was it really, really big? Well, yeah. Obviously.

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