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A change in conversation


On this Monday, Rashean Mathis heard what he wanted to hear.

For the Jaguars, that's a very good thing.

Mathis, the Jaguars' 10-year veteran cornerback, was vocal and pointed this time last week that while the team was working hard, and while players were doing and saying the right things, that wouldn't be enough much longer. After losses in the first two games, Mathis talked about needing to change the conversation.

A week later, consider it changed.

"I can happily say that today I'm not singing the blues," Mathis said Monday, one day after the Jaguars (1-2) rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit for a 22-17 victory over the Indianapolis Colts (1-2) at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis.

"There are smiles and there are smiles for a reason."

A big reason for the smiles Monday was that the victory not only was the first for the Jaguars this season, it was the first under Head Coach Mike Mularkey, and the first in the regular season since Shad Khan officially purchased the team in January.

"I'm very happy for them," Mularkey said of his players. "I was happy we got the win. We can still play better. We can do a lot of things better, but we were down 14-3 at halftime. It would have been easy for them to tank it.

"I saw no signs of that. We found a way to win a game and that's important in the NFL. We found a way to win a game."

The Jaguars talked throughout the offseason, training camp and the preseason about believing in a new direction under Mularkey.

"It's big," Jaguars guard Uche Nwaneri said. "You don't want to go down 0-2 in the division and 0-3 overall with two games coming down to the wire – our first game, then the Colts. You don't want to do that. That's hard to recover from."

The Jaguars, who lost the season opener in overtime at Minnesota, trailed 17-16 with 56 seconds remaining Sunday before quarterback Blaine Gabbert found wide receiver Cecil Shorts open across the middle. Shorts turned the 20-yard pass into an 80-yard catch-and-run touchdown, diving across the goal line with 45 seconds remaining.

"It was big, and I think everybody knew it – it was a huge game," Nwaneri said. "Coach Mularkey said, 'It might come down to the last second.' It did. In terms of us as a team, we have to enjoy this win as a team today and move on, then start preparing.

"That's going to be crucial in allowing us to take that next step."

The Jaguars, after a narrow defeat in the opener, a one-sided loss to Houston and Sunday's narrow victory, now return to EverBank Field for a pair of out-of-division games against the Cincinnati Bengals (2-1) and Chicago Bears (2-1). The Bengals and Bears are tied for the lead in the AFC North and NFC North, respectively.

"We have to take it one game at a time," middle linebacker Paul Posluszny said. "We have the same record as the Patriots and the New England Patriots are the Super Bowl favorites every year, so that's life in the NFL. We have to take it a week at a time and see where we are at the end of the year.

"We can't get too high with a win or too low with a loss. It doesn't work that way. The season is too long to have that emotional rollercoaster."

Emotional rollercoaster – two of the three Jaguars games this far fit that description, with the lead changing hands multiple times late in the opener against Minnesota and in Sunday's game against Indianapolis.

Maurice Jones-Drew rushed for 177 yards and a touchdown Sunday, and the Jaguars dominated the second half only to have Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri give Indianapolis the lead, 17-16, with a 36-yard field goal with 56 seconds remaining.

Teammates said afterward that when Gabbert entered the huddle on the ensuing series he told teammates the Jaguars would score – that, despite Gabbert completing just 9 of 20 passes for 75 yards before that. Nwaneri said the team remained confident in Gabbert entering the final drive, and Mathis said that confidence extended to the entire team.

 "The good thing is we stuck together," Mathis said. "We were up on the sideline when the offense had the ball, cheering them on. They were cheering us on. It worked in all three phases.

"We couldn't afford to fall to 0-2 (in the division). It was bigger than just 0-3. Oh-and-2 in our division was the bigger thing. We couldn't afford to fall to 0-2 in our division. We did a great job finding a way to win at the end of the game."

The Jaguars on Monday talked not only of the victory, but of what needs to improve. Mularkey said rookie wide receiver Justin Blackmon appears to be pressing a bit early, and is a little frustrated with four receptions in three games, and the Jaguars' pass rush – an area of focus entering the season – has two sacks this season without one since the opener.

"This is a great game to teach off of," Mularkey said. "There are a lot of good things that happened Sunday. There are a lot of things we have to keep working on. We're still striving for everybody doing their role and trusting that their buddy is doing the same.

"It certainly helps to win like we did and respond. There's nothing negative that can come from that."

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