Jack Del Rio talked about "it" and how "it" affected his decision on what appeared to be a critical fourth-and-one play in Sunday's 22-16, come-from-behind win over the Kansas City Chiefs.
What is "it?"
"There are intangibles that are difficult to put a measurement on. I believe winning quarterbacks have some of 'it.' He's shown that he has some of those special qualities," Del Rio said of his quarterback, Byron Leftwich, who turned in what is arguably the best performance of his 19 games as a starting quarterback.
Leftwich completed 24 of 36 passes for 298 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions and moved the Jaguars 67 yards to a game-winning touchdown with 45 seconds remaining on the clock. It marked the third time in six games this season that Leftwich produced the winning score with less than a minute to play in the game.
"It's either something you have or you don't have. It's about how you're put together," Del Rio said of Leftwich's natural talent for leading game-winning drives. Following the win over Kansas City, Del Rio said Leftwich "has it."
Mindful of his quarterback's penchant for heroics, Del Rio was bound and determined to give him a chance to be the hero against Kansas City. Some would say Del Rio was too eager to provide that opportunity and Del Rio smiled sheepishly as he began his explanation of his decision during Monday's press conference.
Let's begin with the circumstances: The Jaguars faced a fourth-and-one play at their 33-yard line with 3:52 to play in the game and Kansas City holding a 16-14 lead. It should also be noted that Leftwich was limping painfully on a right ankle he had just sprained.
"It started with the punt team running onto the field before I said 'punt team.' I called them back. I thought it was important that we give (Leftwich) an opportunity to go win the game," Del Rio said.
"The last thing I wanted to do," Del Rio added, "is punt, have them get a first down and kneel on the ball and not see Byron get a chance to win. The defense had to get a stop regardless. That's why we did what we did. I was playing to win there. We had to get a stop. If they get a first down, they win the game."
Leftwich's heroics validated his coach's decision. Even had Chiefs kicker Lawrence Tynes converted his 42-yard field-goal attempt, Leftwich's 14-yard touchdown pass to Cortez Hankton would've won the game. It's easy to understand why the coach praised his quarterback at Monday's press conference.
Leftwich was wearing a protective walking boot on his sprained right ankle on Monday. The sore shoulder he sustained early in Sunday's game is not an issue and following the game Leftwich told reporters he would be ready to practice on Wednesday.
Guard Vince Manuwai sustained a sprained knee in Sunday's game. He was replaced by veteran Mike Compton, whose performance Del Rio complimented.
Game balls were awarded to Leftwich and Hankton on offense, Mike Peterson on defense and Nick Sorensen on special teams.