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Finally, they have their respect


Respect is theirs. It belongs to the Jaguars and nobody is lovin' it more than the team's fans.

There is no denying it any longer. The Jaguars are for real. The nation took note and nodded its approval on Monday night, as the Jaguars slugged out a 9-0 win that was one of the lowest moments in Pittsburgh Steelers history.

Maybe this is the most important win in Jaguars franchise history. Maybe this is the victory that is going to grow the roots of professional football in Jacksonville deep and sturdy. Who's going to take this team away from here now?

What we witnessed was a town and its team joining forces. It was more than a football game. It was love-in. Who booed Byron Leftwich on Monday night? Nobody.

"When I first got the job, I talked about bringing back the passion and having our fans feel proud about our house," coach Jack Del Rio said in his opening remarks to the media.

The passion is back. Actually, that's not totally correct. The passion that was on display at Alltel Stadium last night was as it had never been previously. This team has won plenty of big games, but there was a feeling in the building last night this franchise had never previously experienced.

"Everything was set up perfectly: Monday night game, defending champs. Making it even sweeter is we got Indianapolis next week," Mike Peterson said.

Pittsburgh didn't stand a chance. This wasn't a game, it was an ambush. The Jaguars and their fans had been waiting for this night since last season, when the team marched to a 12-4 record and the nation said "so what?"

The more the Jaguars were denied respect by the national media, the more the team's fans thirsted for it. The Steelers were the perfect target. They are always the target. Nothing earns you respect like a win over the Steelers.

"It about takes us to another level. To do it in front of the national crowd is big," Peterson said.

"They won the Super Bowl last year, but this is another year," cornerback Rashean Mathis said.

The Jaguars' postgame locker room had all the energy of a revival meeting. This team has never felt this good about itself. It deserved to have a night like this.

There is, however, another side to this respect thing. At 2-0, with wins over two high-profile teams, the Jaguars have the nation's attention, but now the target is on their back.

The days of flying under the radar are over. Now, the Jaguars are the Steelers. Everywhere the Jaguars go, they'll take the target with them. Every opponent they face will give it a little extra effort to beat them. Just as they were energized to beat the Steelers, their opponents will now be energized to beat the Jaguars, and it begins in Indianapolis on Sunday.

"I'm going to be just as geeked next week as I was for this one," Peterson said.

That's good, because that's what it's going to take to stay at this high level.

"Maybe people will start talking about us," Byron Leftwich said.

Oh, yeah, you can count on it.

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