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Back to where it began


Their penchant for fourth-quarter collapses has become the definitive symptom of their disease, and this weekend the Jaguars travel to the city where they were first infected.

Go back to week two of the 2000 season. The Jaguars were 1-0 and coming off an impressive road win in Cleveland. They were still one of the elite teams in the NFL, just a game removed from their AFC title game heartbreak of the previous season.

And they were clobbering the Baltimore Ravens and a defense that was the talk of the preseason. At halftime, they held a 23-7 lead, and Mark Brunell and Jimmy Smith were ravaging the Ravens as no one, including a young Ravens linebackers coach named Jack Del Rio, thought possible.

Then, it all changed, and it hasn't changed back. The Ravens rallied for a 39-36 win, scoring the game-winner on a 29-yard touchdown pass from Tony Banks to Shannon Sharpe with 41 seconds to play. It was the game that kick-started the Ravens toward their Super Bowl title. It was also the first win over the Jaguars in Ravens history. Since then, the Ravens haven't lost.

Everything about the Jaguars franchise changed that day, and Del Rio, no doubt, cheered madly. Little did he know that one day he would be the rookie head coach of the Jaguars, and his greatest obstacle to success would be the disease the Jaguars contracted on that warm day in Baltimore.

The Jaguars have lost 35 games since the start of the 2000 season, and 14 of those have been the result of late-game scores by the opposition. That wasn't the case this past Sunday when the Jaguars lost to the Titans because the verdict was not in doubt when the fourth quarter began, but the 17-play, 11-minute and 14-second drive the Titans executed in the fourth quarter to punctuate their domination of the Jaguars may be the most telling of all the Jaguars' late-game collapses.

This one defined the disease from which the Jaguars are suffering. This one made it undeniable. It's a malaise, a contagion, and it's been killing this franchise.

"What I believe in is establishing a mindset where you do all of the little things, all of the details right all of the time. My motto is we compete every day, every play and, in the end, that becomes who we are. When you do that, it won't matter whether it's the first quarter, third quarter, fourth quarter, overtime or what not, because you're going to go out and do what you do and you're going to be who you are," Del Rio said when asked on Monday about the fourth-quarter problem.

"In the fourth quarter, when you're tired and the game is tight, you don't have time to decide if it's more important to turn it up a notch. You're going to do whatever you train your body to do. So there is a winning habit we are looking to instill and will continue to drive home and eventually we will get this thing understood and turned. Until we do, you'll see losing habits show up and lost opportunities continue to occur," Del Rio added.

They are profound words. Remember them, because they are about where this team is mentally and developmentally seven games into this new era. They are still embracing losing habits. When will it end? In Baltimore, where it began?

It is the greatest challenge Del Rio faces. He must change this team's course of history, and it begins in the fourth quarter.

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