On consecutive weeks, the Jaguars defeated two teams with reputations for being physically dominant. Coach Tom Coughlin is crediting the re-emergence of his team's running game.
"If you run the ball, you're more physical, your defense is more physical," Coughlin told reporters today, on the heels of the Jaguars' rousing, 16-13 win over the Tennessee Titans.
It marks the first time this season the Jaguars have won games consecutively. Most impressively, those wins have been against the Titans and the Pittsburgh Steelers, and in each game running back Fred Taylor has been the offensive star.
Taylor has rushed for a combined 338 yards in those two games, pushing him into seventh place among AFC rushing leaders and leaving his just 81 yards shy of 1,000, though he missed the first three games of the season and didn't turn in a significant rushing performance until breaking the 100-yard mark in Tennessee on Oct. 16.
The Jaguars are claiming to have physically whipped the Titans Sunday at Alltel Stadium, even though the home team used its nickel defense the majority of the game. The intent was to help defend against passes to running back Eddie George and tight end Frank Wycheck. In the process, the Jaguars were able to hold George to 69 yards rushing with what is largely considered to be a specialty pass-defense alignment.
"We had success with that package in the first game," Coughlin said of the strategy. Titans coach Jeff Fisher complimented the Jaguars for having "a good plan."
"It always was our game," Coughlin said when asked why the Jaguars had decided to make power football their game over the past couple of weeks. "We just struggled early in the year to get back to our game.
"Your expectation of winning has to permeate everything you do. We didn't have it earlier, for sure. There wasn't enough trust. There wasn't enough winning," Coughlin said.
Taylor is the hottest running back in the league, with sixth consecutive 100-yard games, dating back to that Monday night game in Tennessee. He has rejuvenated the Jaguars offense and pumped life into the locker room.
"He's running the ball tough, he's running the ball hard. Last night, not a lot of long runs, but a lot of hard-nosed, inside runs," Coughlin said of his star running back.
Quarterback Mark Brunell got his share of the credit for having driven the Jaguars 61 yards to the game-winning field goal in the final three minutes of the game. He began the march by completing a critical third-and-10 pass to Keenan McCardell, at a time when the Jaguars had yet to advance the ball or take time off the clock.
Had the Jaguars been forced to punt, they would've almost certainly surrendered dangerous field position and enough time for Tennessee to march toward another field goal attempt. Kicker Al Del Greco missed a 28-yard attempt with a little more than three minutes to play in the game and the score tied at 13-13. Hollis' game-winning, 38-yard field goal split the uprights as time expired.
"I was really proud of him and I was happy his play was most significant in that final drive," Coughlin said of Brunell, who had experienced nightmarish performances in the Jaguars' four previous losses to the Titans, dating back to Sept. 26, 1999, in Jacksonville.
"One time, don't forget, we won three times in a row against Tennessee," Coughlin reminded reporters, who had focused on the Titans' five consecutive wins against the Jaguars.