David Garrard will have a chance to win the fans' favor on Thursday night, in the most high-profile game of the Jaguars' season. The largest crowd of the year and a national television audience will turn out and tune in to see if the Jaguars can halt the Indianapolis Colts' winning streak at 22 and end the Colts' hopes of an undefeated season.
"This is a must-win; gotta have it," Garrard said on Wednesday of the first of three games that will decide the Jaguars' quest to return to the playoffs.
Garrard has had his good days and his bad ones, and this past Sunday was definitely a bad one. He threw for only 139 yards and managed a meager 59.6 passer rating in the Jaguars' costly, 14-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins.
It was a performance that earned Garrard a large dose of fan criticism this week. Garrard has accepted the criticism and has blamed himself for the Jaguars' lack of productivity on offense.
One particular play has come into sharp focus, a fourth-and-three play late in the game. Garrard's pass for wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker was knocked away by a Dolphins defender who would've been assigned to the Jaguars' slot receiver, had a slot receiver been on the field.
"I should take a lot of the blame for that," Garrard said of not having noticed the Jaguars only had 10 men on the field for that fourth-and-three play. "I should see we don't have all our guys out there.
"Those are some of the dumb things we've done that have killed us. Mike was wide open on that," Garrard added.
"We had some breakdowns you just can't have. We had our opportunities to win that game. We'll need to be better. If you make those kids of mistakes against (the Colts), they'll blow you out," Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said.
The Jaguars are out of time to look back at the loss to the Dolphins, as they are only two days removed from a rematch with the Colts, to whom the Jaguars lost, 14-12, on the first Sunday of the season. Fourteen weeks later, the Colts are 13-0 and have clinched homefield advantage for the playoffs.
Del Rio said on Wednesday he didn't expect the Colts would be undefeated when the two teams met again in December. "I don't think they did, but they've done it," Del Rio added.
This will be the only game in Jacksonville this season that won't have been blacked out to local television. Combined with the NFL Network telecast of this game, the stage would seem to be set for the Jaguars to score a signature win.
"We win the next three, we're in (the playoffs). We have to win this game," Del Rio said.
Whatever chance the Jaguars have of winning this game will almost certainly depend on Garrard and star running back Maurice Jones-Drew leading the way.
"He's the guy we've got to get on track," Del Rio said of Jones-Drew, who hasn't rushed for 100 yards in a game since Nov. 15, in a win over the Jets. "He's the guy we're built around. Everybody knows that. When they overload, we've got to be able to strike through the air.
"You've got to find a way to score points," Del Rio added. "You're not going to beat (the Colts) with 10, 12 points, and we have to find a way to slow down one of the game's great quarterbacks."
Cornerback Rashean Mathis (groin) will be questionable to return to action this week, and Del Rio said he's hopeful defensive tackle John Henderson (shoulder) will be able to return to the starting lineup this week.