This is when quarterbacks define themselves. It's when David Garrard and his purple hat rose to prominence two years ago when Garrard led the Jaguars to victory in Pittsburgh twice in a month.
"I've come quite a ways," Garrard said as he looked back on a career that began as Mark Brunell's and Byron Leftwich's backup. It wasn't until Garrard's sixth year in the league that he became a full-time starter.
"You're not always going to have all the glory right away. If you continue to be positive and be a great guy in the locker room, your time will come. I would go out there and make plays every once in a while and that caught the coaches' eyes," Garrard said of how his journey has led to this.
Now, he's "The Man." He's the quarterback of a team in the playoff hunt, again, and he knows it's all resting on his shoulders. If you wanna wear the purple hat, you gotta win, baby.
"Teams that get there continue to find a way. When it's time to execute, to make a play, those teams always find a way. When you're a team that's hot, you make those plays," Garrard said.
In recent weeks, Garrard has been making those plays. His stats are workmanlike, if not impressive, but he knows he won't be judged by what he's done so far this year, he'll be judged by what he does in these final four weeks of the season. This is crunch time. This is when quarterbacks define themselves.
Conversely, his counterpart this Sunday, Miami's Chad Henne, doesn't have Garrard's experience or long path to "glory." In his second season, Henne is in his first year as a full-time starter.
"I understand how to prepare during the week and that leads to the ability of how I've been playing on Sunday. I feel comfortable with the offense and what we're trying to get done. I feel comfortable with our game plan," Henne said.
Henne is coming off the high of highs: a win over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
"It was a big game. We came out confident we can get it done either way; run the ball or pass the ball," Henne said.
The two quarterbacks' stats are similar, though Garrard's 86.6 passer rating is significantly better than Henne's 74.4. Garrard has 10 touchdown passes, Henne has nine since replacing Chad Pennington. Garrard has thrown six interceptions, Henne has thrown eight. They're both big, strong men with powerful arms more than capable of cutting through December's winds.
Sunday, at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium, they'll square off in a game that'll move the winner into the category of playoff likely and the loser into serious jeopardy of missing the playoffs. With a win, Garrard may don the purple hat. Victorious, Henne would solidify his status as a young quarterback on the rise.
"These guys are focused and they know what's at stake," Garrard said. "It's a good group of guys from '07 and they're keeping this group going. It was the same back then. The core of guys we had then kept those guys that hadn't been there before on edge.
"I know it's going to be an intense game. I know it's going to come down to the wire," Garrard added.
One quarterback will stand above the other, the winner at crunch time of a must-win game in December.