EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ—They are the drives that define quarterbacks' careers. David Garrard defined himself with a clutch, 80-yard, game-winning drive that consumed the final five minutes of the game and left the Jets helpless to do anything more than surrender.
"David won the game. That's what good quarterbacks do. You give them the ball and they make you pay," coach Jack Del Rio said.
Garrard made the Jets pay in the final minutes of a half in which the Jaguars offense was largely ineffective. When the Jets scored the go-ahead touchdown with 5:04 to play and the Jaguars began their final drive at their 17-yard line, the circumstances looked favorable for the home team.
"Their pressures were getting to us. They were bringing it, plain and simple. We just had to weather the storm. It came down to that last drive. That's why you play this game," Garrard said.
He immediately faced a critical third-and-one, which he converted with a nifty sideline pass to rookie tight end Zach Miller.
Again, he faced a critical third-down play, this one a third-and-nine at his 38-yard line with 3:14 to play. Garrard found rookie wide receiver Mike Thomas over the middle for 15 yards. Now, the Jaguars were moving into range for a game-winning field goal attempt.
The kill shot occurred on the next play, when Garrard found tight end Marcedes Lewis down the middle for 33 yards. Kicker Josh Scobee was in chip-shot range.
"I think they were a little confused on their coverages because I saw both safeties talking, so I decided to get it to Marcedes," Garrard said.
The rest was window dressing. On the final play of the game, Scobee booted what amounted to a three-point extra point. Game over, Jags win.
At 5-4 and headed for a game against visiting Buffalo, Garrard has the rebuilding Jaguars in playoff contention. They are rapidly becoming one of the surprise stories of the season.
When is Garrard going to get the same respect his team is getting?
The main storyline of this game was the speculation that Garrard wouldn't be able to handle the Jets' exotic blitzes. Call it what you want, but it's an insult.
Garrard not only handled the Jets' blitzing, he defeated it and he did it at that most special time of any game, that time that defines quarterbacks' careers. He did it at crunch time.
"At the end we had to have plays and we made plays," Del Rio said.
Nobody made more of them than Garrard. In New York, on the biggest of stages, Garrard got it done at crunch time.