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Fate favoring the Jaguars


Their four losses have all been by 25 or more points. Two of their five wins have been the result of wild walk-off plays, one a record-setting, 59-yard field goal and now, in the most zany Jaguars finish since "Morten's miss," a walk-off "Hail Mary" touchdown reception that was executed with enough precision to believe the Jaguars and the Texans might've actually practiced the play, together.

What's going on here? Is this 1996 all over again?

If you think fate may have its arm around the Jaguars' shoulders, your opinion is understandable. A team that has been outscored by a margin of 54 points this season is tied for second place in the AFC South. A team that blew a 14-point halftime lead on Sunday and found itself holding on at the end of regulation, hoping to send the game into overtime, had the win gift-wrapped by a Houston defensive back who decided that batting the ball in Mike Thomas' direction was a better option than catching it.

Almost nothing about this season is making sense. Just when it appeared the Jaguars were at death's door, which is to say twice this season, they've risen from the dead and climbed back into the playoffs race.

Nine games into this season, despite a defense that is yielding yards and points at an alarming rate, the Jaguars find themselves tied for second place in the AFC South with a team that hung a 30-3 whipping on them a little less than a month ago. Nine games into a season that, at times, has left the Jaguars deeply embarrassed, the team finds itself trailing division-leading Indianapolis by a scant game and holding the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Colts.

This, clearly, is not your father's NFL. In this NFL, nobody knows from week to week what's going to happen, and the Jaguars are the poster child.

"It's your typical 'Hail Mary' play," Thomas told reporters following the Jaguars' 31-24 victory over a Houston team that left EverBank Field no doubt numb with shock and despair. Hey, the Texans' season is over, folks. Count on it. You don't rebound from stuff like that, especially facing the schedule the Texans will play over the next five weeks.

"I'm the scoop man," Thomas said of his role on the 50-yard, last-play-of-the-game heave.

Texans cornerback Glover Quin went high in the air. It should've been an easy interception. Instead, Quin inexplicably did the one thing a defender should never do in that situation: He batted the ball toward an onrushing receiver.

Quin played the ball in the air perfectly. He got both hands on it at its peak. There was no juggling. It should've been a clean play. He could've caught the ball, or batted it straight down, or batted out of bounds, or maybe even allowed it to hit the ground. What he did was to have executed perfectly the most difficult of all options, which is to say he hit Thomas in stride with a deflection. He probably couldn't do it again if he tried.

It was a play that should've resulted in the captains of both teams standing at midfield a few minutes later, for a coin toss that would've likely decided the outcome of the game because neither defense had shown signs of stopping the other team's offense. The only reason the Jaguars even had a chance at a "Hail Mary" pass was because Texans tight end Joel Dreesen fumbled away a reception that should've been followed by a clock-stopping spike and a Neil Rackers field goal attempt for the win.

"Just like a little kid at Christmas," Thomas said when asked to describe his emotions as he found the ball in his hands a yard outside the end zone. "I knew I was close. I walked on in there. He batted it right to me."

Suddenly, the Jaguars have become destiny's darlings. The league's least popular, most ignored and dismissed franchise is in the playoffs race, no question about it.

"We'll take where we are," coach Jack Del Rio said. "We really believe our best football is in front of us. We're working hard to reach our potential."

Fate, it would seem, is working hard to favor the Jags.

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