DETROIT—Their season, maybe more, was on the edge.
The Jaguars pulled themselves back off the ledge of despair and a whole lot more with a 38-14 win at Ford Field that wasn't as much a victory as much as it was vindication for coach Jack Del Rio. The Jaguars proved to fans and critics alike, and more importantly maybe even to themselves, that they haven't lost their commitment to winning and their ability to claim it.
"Definitely, if we had laid an egg, guys not give their all and come out with a loss, there's no telling what could've happened to this team. But we didn't," quarterback David Garrard said following a strong performance against the weakest team, by far, the Jaguars have played this season.
Garrard was responding to a question about events of last week, that began with Mike Peterson being sent home on Wednesday in a Del Rio disciplinary measure, and ended on Sunday with Peterson, the team's starting middle linebacker since 2003, being deactivated.
How would the Jaguars respond? That was the question on everyone's lips. Would they fold on the first Sunday of the second half of the season, or would they rally behind their coach's lead, tighten their focus and deliver a win and a message that even at 4-5, the Jaguars are not dead?
"We have to let it be the springboard for the rest of our season," Garrard said.
The rest of their season will begin with a visit from the Tennessee Titans, the team that began the nightmare that this season has become by beating the Jaguars in the season-opener. That was more than two months ago. Much has happened since then and those events will likely be defined by the Jaguars' performance next Sunday against the Titans.
"Next week will be a good indication of how this team is committed to winning," defensive end Reggie Hayward said.
Was it possible to send a message with a win over the hapless and winless Lions? That's another question on everyone's lips.
"It could've had the potential of something that made us stumble to one knee," Hayward said of Sunday's game. There was hardly a stumble. Yeah, the Lions led, 7-3, but that lead was brief and by halftime the outcome was decided.
"Jack just felt like he had to tighten some things up," Fred Taylor said. "He's always been a coach who's reacted with his instincts and it's worked well for him.
"It just means some things are going to stay tightened down. As long as we're winning, it's going to be easier to abide by it," Taylor added.
Every comment in the Jaguars' postgame locker room was uttered in support of Del Rio and the re-dedication he demanded last week.
The loudest message, of course, will be sent with the Jaguars' performance against the undefeated Titans.