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Garrard is the difference


This was a game that, last year, the Jaguars would've lost. Heck, they did lose it. Not this time.

These Jaguars are different. They give no reason to believe they're going to collapse down the stretch, as they did a year ago. What's the difference? The answer is simple: David Garrard.

These aren't the same Jaguars that collapsed down the stretch last season because this isn't the same Garrard that didn't get it done at crunch time last year. This Garrard has evolved into a poised leader capable of closing the deal.

Go to the 5:02 mark of the fourth quarter of Sunday's game. The Jaguars were nursing a 22-14 lead against a Buffalo Bills team that just wouldn't go away. There was reason for tension, until Garrard closed the deal with a 59-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Williams.

"David hit him with a strike and Reggie did the rest," coach Jack Del Rio said of the game-clinching play.

It was the kind of play Garrard didn't make last season. He made plays that opened your eyes, but he didn't make enough of them at crunch time. He was a quarterback in whom his team didn't have full trust and the play-calling made that obvious.

"This is his team," wide receiver Ernest Wilford said. "There's a difference from having an opportunity to knowing this is his team."

You bet it's his team. Garrard is "The Man." He is, without a doubt, the player who is steering this ship. He's giving the Jaguars hope of going deep into the playoffs.

"He's definitely the key to our team right now," Wilford said. "I feel excited. We're in a good situation."

Eleven games into this season, the Jaguars are one game behind the Indianapolis Colts, who the Jaguars will face in the RCA Dome next Sunday. Garrard did that. He's the difference.

"I like a lot about what I'm seeing in David," Del Rio said. "He's getting to the third and fourth receiver time and time again. I think that having David as a quarterback and having that kind of stability and clarity at the position certainly gives you a lift. We think we have a guy who is emerging and giving us a chance."

A chance at what? You know the answer.

Garrard turned in another offensive gem that will keep him near the top of the league's passer rankings, yet, another week. As the season turns into December, Garrard is in the same company with the game's elite passers. He has yet to throw an interception this season.

Who would've had the courage to offer this opinion on the final day of August, when Del Rio announced that Garrard would become the team's starting quarterback and Byron Leftwich would be released? Remember the press conference? It was met with a firestorm of protest. So who would protest today?

"He's playing outstanding football," running back and unofficial team spokesman Fred Taylor said. "I don't want to say he's the difference because this is a team sport, but he's inspiring everyone to pick up their game."

That's what Garrard did. He picked up his game and has taken it to its highest level. Once, he was a quarterback you hoped would complete the pass. Now, he's a quarterback you expect to complete the pass. That's the difference. The Jaguars have a quarterback on whom they can depend.

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