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Open Locker Room: Still in it

Posted Dec 16, 2013

Jacksonville Jaguars players say even with postseason hopes officially over final two games have meaning.

JACKSONVILLE – Not a whole lot should change. Not really.

That’s how cornerback Alan Ball sees the final two weeks of the Jaguars’ 2013 regular season, and veterans on the team on Monday agreed.

Yes, the three-game winning streak is over.

And yes, the Jaguars are out of the postseason. Officially.

But that doesn’t mean the motivation is gone from the season, and Ball said it certainly doesn’t mean there will be a lack of focus during the final two games.

As Ball sees it, that’s simply not what this season is about.

“You could probably tell that even when we were 0-8,” Ball said Monday, a day after a 27-20 loss to the Buffalo Bills at EverBank Field Sunday afternoon to the Buffalo Bills ended the team’s three-game winning streak.

“This team is different. The group of guys is different. The mindset here is, ‘OK, even though where we’re at in this year is not picture perfect in terms of what you would want, at the end of the day, guys are still trying to get better and make the best of what we can.’’’

The Jaguars (4-10), who lost eight consecutive games to start the season, won four of their first five games after a Week Nine bye. That had enabled them to stay alive in the playoff chase. They were officially eliminated Sunday from the 2013 postseason shortly before the end of the loss to Buffalo when the Miami Dolphins upset the New England Patriots in South Florida.

But if some teams lose interest in a season when postseason hopes end, defensive tackle Roy Miller said that shouldn’t be the case with the Jaguars this season.

“You’re not going to see that,” Miller said. “This team has a lot of heart. (A record of) 0-8 through the first eight games … every game we felt like we had a chance. We had every reason to check out at 0-8. This team is focused. Everybody’s just trying to get better.

“I know it’s cliché, or whatever, but if you think about it it’s the only way: take the small victories, celebrate them and just keep improving.”

That has been Gus Bradley’s message since taking over as head coach in January, and throughout the season players have echoed his philosophy that the season isn’t as much about winning and losing as it is about improving. Players said Monday that remains just as true now as at the bye.

There’s no reason that won’t be the case for the final two.

“As you’ve seen from 0-8 to now, I don’t think that’s an issue on anybody’s radar to be concerned about,” Jaguars defensive end Jason Babin said. “It’s not always like this. The great thing about here is the culture, the environment and what we focus on. We focus on the family process of getting better in practice, fundamentals and maximizing fundamentals. On Sunday, we’ll see what happens.”

The Jaguars finish the season with two AFC South opponents, playing host to the Tennessee Titans (5-9) at EverBank Field Sunday in the regular-season home finale, then finishing the season with a game against AFC South Champion Indianapolis (9-5) at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

“Our focus is on winning small victories,” Miller said. “I think that’s the best way to be. That’s the only way to get better. Winning is great, but if you’re not improving as a team it really doesn’t matter. We want to build a program to where consistently things are clicking on all cylinders. Once you do that, once you build the culture, then things start happening.”

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