Jack Del Rio re-affirmed his confidence in quarterback David Garrard's ability to lead the Jaguars, a day after Garrard experienced the most traumatic day of his professional football career.
"He did some things that were very exciting. He had some special plays. Then he had some crucial mistakes we can't have," Del Rio said of Garrard during Monday's press conference.
Garrard threw three interceptions and committed one fumble, resulting in three touchdown returns for the Titans in a 24-17 win in Nashville on Sunday. The loss delivered a blow to the Jaguars' playoff hopes. As it stood on Monday afternoon, the Jaguars were not in control of their own destiny.
"He understands the importance of being the trigger man," Del Rio said of Garrard. "We have to be able to make plays in the passing game to be able to go where we need to go. You can't always pound people into submission.
"My hope is the experience he had (on Sunday) … he'll continue to grow as a quarterback. I'm still very confident in his abilities. You've got to protect the football," Del Rio added.
At 8-6, the Jaguars are tied with the Broncos and Jets in the wild-card race. The Bengals, 8-5, play at Indianapolis tonight. Four teams – Buffalo, Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Tennessee – are 7-7.
They are eight teams competing for two AFC wild-card spots and the league considered the tie-breaking variables too many to list on Monday. That could change following tonight's game. A Bengals win or loss will add focus to what the Jaguars must do to make the playoffs. Almost certainly, however, the Jaguars will have to win both of their remaining games to qualify for the playoffs.
Asked if he'll seek clarification from the league, Del Rio said, "No. I'm going to worry about the Patriots. If you find out, I'll take a look."
Del Rio cleaned up a few remaining issues from the loss to the Titans, most notably the missed tackle by Matt Jones on Cortland Finnegan's 92-yard touchdown return of Garrard's fumble. Jones appeared to attempt to push Finnegan to the ground.
"If you turn into a defensive player, you gotta tackle. Get the guy down," Del Rio said.
Del Rio's greatest concern for this Sunday's showdown with the Patriots is a quick recovery from the loss to Tennessee and a sharp focus on beating Tom Brady and the Pats.
"Am I disappointed? Absolutely. We recognize the importance of winning football games. The key for us is to recognize we did some good things but we didn't get a victory so we're not happy today," Del Rio said. "I believe the team will respond and stay united. That's what I'm looking for."