Jack Del Rio won't allow success to spoil his 3-0 Jaguars. Del Rio remained guarded and cautious in his statements at Monday's press conference, in what has become somewhat of a weekly day-after-the-game ritual for the second-year coach.
"It was a big win but it's a long season," Del Rio said, referring to Sunday's 15-12 win at Tennessee.
Big win? How about a huge win? Yeah, that's more like it. After all, it was the Jaguars' first-ever win over the Titans in Nashville since the franchise shed the name Oilers.
It's a win some believe could signal the passing of two "ships" in the night. In Nashville on Sunday, the Jaguars took their first major step toward an AFC South title, but they are immediately confronted by a second and even more significant hurdle. This Sunday at Alltel Stadium, the Jaguars will host the 2-1 Indianapolis Colts, the defending AFC South champions, and Del Rio can be forgiven for wanting to turn his attention forward as quickly as possible.
"We've been fortunate to get off to a fast start. We've had a strong commitment to team. Guys understand what it means to be selfless," he said. "This is a blue-collar group. We're going to be steady. We've got to be better this week than last week."
And the Jaguars probably will have to play better to beat the Colts, the second-ranked offense in the league and coming off a 35-point first-half performance in their win over Green Bay. Peyton Manning and the Colts passing attack represents the most explosive unit in the league. Focus should be no problem for the Jags.
"As you win, they get a little bigger … but it won't change our approach," Del Rio said.
Del Rio has promoted a don't-look-ahead, don't-look-back mindset from the beginning of this season. He has risked putting reporters to sleep with his Monday comments, but how can you argue with success? He's paid to win games, not entertain sportswriters, right?
So Del Rio refuses to be drawn into comparisons or evaluations at this early stage of the season. He remains focused on one thing: the next game.
"This is a young football team that's had some early success but has a lot of work to do. That's going to be my message," Del Rio said.
When he delivers that message to his team on Wednesday, it will be to a group that is in good physical condition for Sunday's showdown with the Colts. Del Rio reported no new injuries, though one old injury, tight end Kyle Brady's finger, will keep him out of action for a fourth consecutive game. Brady has developed an infection in the finger that was surgically repaired three weeks ago.
In Brady's absence, second-year tight end George Wrighster has established himself as a weapon in quarterback Byron Leftwich's arsenal. Wrighster caught five passes yesterday, and one of those catches gave the Jaguars a 7-6 lead in the third quarter.
Wrighster won a game ball for his performance, as did cornerback Rashean Mathis (interception, two passes-defensed, one forced fumble) and Todd Yoder (special teams).
Del Rio complimented Leftwich on another turnover-free performance. Leftwich completed 14 of 20 pass attempts for 124 yards, one touchdown and a 102.9 passer rating.
"Byron continues to play well, continues to make good decisions, continues to protect the football," Del Rio said.
Of course, Del Rio will expect more of the same from Leftwich this Sunday, when he goes head to head with Manning. It's as far forward as Del Rio will allow himself or his players to focus.