Their Pro-Bowl tackles couldn't play. They had lost their best pass-rusher and their inspirational middle linebacker for the season weeks ago. The Jaguars defense, however, was only three minutes away from its third shutout of the season.
What is it about the Jaguars defense that makes it so tough? How is it that a unit that is playing without four of its five-best players can continue to stuff the opposition as though nothing has happened? That's what the Jaguars did on Sunday in a 37-7 win over the visiting Tennessee Titans.
"We had a bunch of guys banged up. We had a bunch of guys who had to come out. We'll go into the week trying to see how healthy we can get," Del Rio said. "We got a deep squad filling in. I think the guys are buying into a team approach."
The Jaguars ran their record to 5-3 at the midseason mark with an effort of total domination against the rival Titans. Quarterback David Garrard threw his third touchdown pass with 11:59 left in the third quarter. A couple of minutes later, Titans quarterback Vince Young threw his third interception, which was returned 55 yards for a touchdown by Scott Starks.
"We knew what we could do as a defense. We got after them. That was the game plan. Our front guys got to (Young) and the backs were able to make some plays. We were able to get our hands on the ball today," Rashean Mathis said.
Mathis made the first two interceptions, returning the second one 55 yards to the Titans one-yard line.
Young finished the day having completed 15 of 36 passes for 163 yards, one touchdown, three interceptions and a 30.2 passer rating. Had it not been for a garbage-time touchdown pass, Young's statistics would've been far worse.
Garrard completed 12 of 22 passes for 177 yards, three touchdowns and a 120.6 passer rating. His statistics could have been a lot better, had he not spent the majority of the game protecting a big lead.
"The rain made it tough. I overthrew Ernest (Wilford) in the end zone because the ball slipped out of my hand. I can definitely play better. I don't want to blame it on the rain but it did make it tough," Garrard said.
"If I get to keep playing, the more snaps I get the better I'll feel. To me, a win is the most important thing. Any time I get to play, I'm just trying to win," he added.
Though his statistics would suggest Garrard was a caretaker quarterback, that was anything but the case. He was the catalyst to the Jaguars getting out to a big, early lead. Then, the Jaguars turned to Fred Taylor to protect the lead.
Taylor responded with another solid rushing effort; 13 carries for 79 yards. His accomplice, rookie Maurice Jones-Drew, added another 56 yards on eight carries, and Garrard scrambled twice for 14 yards, including a key 12-yard run for a first down.
"The keys for us were to protect the ball, run the ball and stop the run," Del Rio said.
To those ends, the Jaguars committed no turnovers and out-rushed the Titans 173-108.
These were other high points in the Jaguars win:
• Taylor reached the 9,000-yard career rushing mark, making him only the 22nd player in NFL history to have done so.
• The Jaguars are 4-0 at home for only the second time in team history; they were also 4-0 in 1997.
• Jaguars opponents had been held scoreless for 35 consecutive possessions at Alltel Stadium before the Titans scored with 2:40 to play in the game.
• The Jaguars have outscored the opposition 111-24 in the first four home games of this season. In those games, the Jaguars have 11 interceptions and 11 sacks
• Sunday's margin of victory is the largest in Jaguars-Titans history. The Jaguars have won four of the last five games between the two teams.