JACKSONVILLE - Senior writer John Oehser examines Head Coach Doug Pederson's press conference following the Jaguars' 40-34 overtime victory over the Dallas Cowboys in a 2022 Week 15 game at TIAA Bank Field
1. Very much in it.Sunday's victory moved the Jaguars (6-8) to within a game of the AFC South-leading Tennessee Titans (7-7) with three games remaining. Because the Jaguars beat the Titans in Nashville a week ago, they would win the South if the teams tie – if they beat the Titans in the regular-season finale in Jacksonville on January 7-8. The Titans, who lost 17-14 to the Los Angeles Chargers Sunday, have lost four consecutive games and play host to the Houston Texans (1-12-1) and Dallas (10-4) before the finale. The Jaguars play at the New York Jets (7-7) Thursday then at the Texans before the finale. "We need to be playing meaningful football games in December and January, and we've put ourselves in that position," Pederson said. "I'm proud of the guys for doing that. Our season could have gone sideways three, four weeks ago, and the guys weren't going to let that happen. I don't get caught up in all the storylines and all that, the shoulda-coulda-wouldas. It's just a matter of those guys in that dressing room believing in themselves and getting the job done." Pederson added, "The guys are starting to believe in themselves, too, and that's important down the stretch."
2. Glad for their guts.The Jaguars continue to reward Pederson's faith – and he continued on Sunday to praise this team's resolve. The Jaguars, after losing six one-score games en route to a 2-6 start to the season, have won four of six games – and they have rallied from deficits of 17, 17, nine and seven points in the four victories. The Jaguars on Sunday rallied from a 27-10 third-quarter deficit to take a 31-27 lead, then tied the game on a 48-yard field goal by Riley Patterson on the final play of regulation. They won when safety Rayshawn Jenkins returned an interception 52 yards with 6:52 remaining in overtime. "They never gave up," Pederson said. "We talked about it last night at the hotel. We talked about it again today. We just kept chipping away against a really good football team. This win today, I think, kind of just gives our guys confidence in who they (the Jaguars) are as a team." Pederson added, "Our guys -- I don't really think they worry too much about where it is, what the score is. I really don't. We just keep chipping away. I think it's just a matter of the guys just kind of trusting in themselves and gaining confidence as the game goes on."
3. Big moment, cool heads.The Jaguars' defense allowed 34 points Sunday, but they forced two key turnovers – interceptions by Jenkins that led to 14 points. The defense made other big stops, too – none bigger than forcing a three-and-out late in regulation. This stop came after quarterback Trevor Lawrence lost a fumble at the Dallas 38 after a scramble. Lawrence said afterward he initially thought the turnover lost the game, but the Jaguars allowed no yards on three plays and regained possession at their 29 with 1:01 remaining after a punt. Lawrence then drove the Jaguars to the Dallas 30 to set up Patterson's game-tying field goal. "What I appreciate about our guys, and really the coaching staff is how we prepare our players for situations like that," Pederson said. "There's no panic. Guys are prepared. My hats off to the staff for putting them in positions to go win games, or in that case to go tie the game. Just a great effort there."
4. Run to win.Pederson multiple times this week said the Jaguars needed to run effectively. They did that Sunday, with running back Travis Etienne Jr. rushing for 103 yards on 19 carries and the team rushing for 192 yards on 27 carries overall. Wide receiver Jamal Agnew added 52 yards on three carries and Lawrence rushed three times for 21 yards. "We felt like we had to try to run the ball today," Pederson said. "We saw the pass rush and how dynamic it is. So, we felt like we had to give the run game a serious consideration today. Just being able to keep a defense like that off balance and not really knowing where the run is coming from opens up some of the movement game, opens up some of the play action stuff. It was just great to see that our guys were able to kind of do that and create those opportunities offensively."
5. Special group.Pederson has talked throughout the season about liking this team – even during a five-game losing streak in October. Pederson on Sunday: "It's a special team in the sense that I'm seeing this group starting to come together, playing that complementary style of football. Even going back to training camp, the way we practiced and the way we did things back then … you had the hope and the glimmer that we would one day be one of those football teams. The way they practice, and they practice hard, they just keep believing in themselves … from that, yeah, it's a special team. I really don't think you win games like this if you weren't a close group, if you didn't have the right leadership in the locker room, if you didn't practice the way we practice. Hats off to the guys for really buying into all that."