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Coach speak: Jaguars 20, Titans 16

JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines Head Coach Doug Pederson's press conference following the Jaguars’ 20-16 victory over the Tennessee Titans in a 2022 Week 18 game at TIAA Bank Field Saturday

  1. A symbolic Saturday. The Jaguars won the AFC South Saturday, and Pederson made clear afterward the title-clinching victory couldn't have come in more fitting fashion. The Jaguars, who rallied from a four-game midseason division deficit and who rallied to win six times in the last nine games trailed throughout Saturday's game – until the game-winning touchdown on a 37-yard fumble return by outside linebacker Josh Allen with 2:51 remaining. "This game tonight kind of symbolizes our season," Pederson said. "There were some struggles. There were some highs, some lows, but in the end we had the victory." The Jaguars lost five consecutive games in October, but won seven of their last nine games to win their second AFC South title – their first since 2017. "I'm so proud of the guys for the way they have all season long hung together," Pederson said. "Through the face of adversity at times and even through some of the high moments, we just stayed the same. We just kept trusting in each other, kept building on what we do. Guys just improved every single week. It showed."
  2. Changing the culture. The Jaguars not only won the first AFC South title Saturday, they did so after selecting No. 1 overall in the 2020 and 2021 NFL Drafts. They also did so in the first season as head coach for Pederson, who took over in February and rebuilt a culture following a difficult season on and off the field under then-Head Coach Urban Meyer. The Jaguars' 9-8 record marks their second winning season since 2007, their first since 2017. "We've come so far," Pederson said. "Just think about back in April and May when we first got together: You're trying to teach a winning culture. You're trying to flip a script, so to speak. You just are not sure until you start playing games just how that's going to look. These guys, they trust in me. I trust in them. They never wavered. To get a game like this down the stretch, it's just pretty incredible. To win nine games in our first year together is pretty impressive for the guys in the locker room."
  3. Packed house. Saturday's victory came in one of the most raucous environments at TIAA Bank Field in recent memory. Attendance was announced at 70,050, with fans loud at critical moments and staying in the stands and chanting "Duuuval" long after game's end. "We understand that we've got to do our jobs, and we've got to win football games," Pederson said. "In order to get crowds like that, you have to win on the field, and that's what our guys have done. Here the second half of the season they've put themselves in this position. We've talked about playing meaningful games in the month of December and January, so here we are. The more success we have, the fans will show up, and they did that. So I'm very proud of our fans are. Again, it was a great atmosphere. Just electric and loud. Everything we expected."
  4. "Transparency is key." The Jaguars' turnaround from 3-14 last season – and from 2-6 at midseason – was a major topic in Pederson's post-game availability. He expanded on the topic, saying: "I think what was needed was trust. I think trust was broken with this team when I took the job, so I had to regain their trust as a coach. I said this way back then: It's not an overnight fix. It's going to take a process. It's going to take a journey. I think they saw right away that they can trust in me, and I can trust in them. I'm always going to do is shoot them straight and be honest with them. The transparency is key. The communication is key. I think we just built over time that trust factor, and it began to show throughout the course of the year. I think that's why we hung together in the middle part of our year, that month of October. You have five straight losses. It could go sideways in a hurry, and it didn't. We just had to dig a little deeper. It's not about coaching harder or playing harder or practicing harder. You just have to tighten a few things up and play a little bit better, and eliminate the mistakes. We did that, and here we are."
  5. Meaningful night. Much has been made of the contributions this season of key Jaguars newcomers – particularly a 2022 free-agent class that includes players such as wide receivers Christian Kirk and Zay Jones, tight end Evan Engram, middle linebacker Foye Oluokun, right guard Brandon Scherff and defensive lineman Arden Key. But Pederson said Saturday was particularly special for Jaguars veterans such as Allen, who qualified for the postseason for the first time in four seasons. "I think it means everything for these guys that have been here," Pederson said. "They were at an ultimate low coming off of last season obviously, and right now they're at an ultimate high with more football to play. That's really the roller coaster of emotion a football season can bring. The guys that have been here, you can see it in their faces just how excited and proud … it's not relief, but it's enthusiasm, and it means everything to them. They take it to heart. It's something that we can continue to build upon. We're not where we need to be or want to be, but at the same time, we're building it, and we're building it one -- kind of one piece, one player, one game at a time, and this was a really good start for us this year."

Tennessee Titans vs. Jacksonville Jaguars 2022 Regular Season Finale game at TIAA Bank Field in photos💥. 👀 Check out the top live shots.

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