The Jaguars made their most major move of the season on a playoff berth with a 44-17 whipping of the Indianapolis Colts at Alltel Stadium on Sunday.
"We did some things physically that I really like in a football team," coach Jack Del Rio said following the win, which was accompanied by Kansas City, Denver and New York Jets losses that left the Jaguars tied with Cincinnati for the lead for the AFC's two wild-card spots.
The Jaguars physically battered the Colts with a running game that produced mind-boggling statistics. Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor rushed for 166 and 131 yards respectively. Alvin Pearman posted 71 yards rushing in little more than a quarter of mop-up action.
"It's one big win but it's one win," Del Rio cautioned. "We earned it. It's in the record books and we'll turn our attention to our last divisional opponent of the year."
The Jaguars, 8-5, will play at Tennessee next Sunday, then against visiting New England on Christmas Eve and at Kansas City on New Year's Eve in a game that could determine whether or not the Jaguars go to the playoffs for the second consecutive year.
At 10-3, Indianapolis can clinch the AFC South division title with one more win or one more Jaguars loss. The Colts host the red-hot Bengals on Monday (Dec. 18) and the Jaguars could close to within a game of the Colts' division lead. The Colts close the season at Houston and against visiting Miami.
"Obviously, probably as disappointing as we have been in a long time to have a big game, one we needed, and to come up with a game like that was very disappointing," Colts coach Tony Dungy said. "The thing I told the team is that we will see what we are made of from here.
"We played a team that was very good today, very focused. They have two great backs," Dungy added.
Whatever chance the Colts have of advancing through the playoffs will rely on fixing their last-in-the-league run-defense. The Colts have not held an opponent this season to fewer than 100 yards rushing in a game.
"It's fixable. We are going to have to get it fixed to get where we want to go," Dungy said.
In contrast, the Jaguars are playing their best football of the season. They've won three of their last four games but, more importantly, they continue to display the ingredients for postseason success: a stout defense, a strong running game and a hot quarterback.
David Garrard didn't have his best day, but the Jaguars' running game didn't require Garrard to have much of a day at all. He completed eight of just 14 passes for 79 yards, with no touchdowns and one interception. Garrard did raise his record as a starter this year to 5-2.
The Jaguars' beleaguered special teams came through in a big way. Jorge Cordova blocked a punt and Jones-Drew returned the second-half kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown that all but clinched the victory. Kicker Josh Scobee booted field goals of 48, 34 and 46 yards and had four touchbacks on kickoffs.
Everything about the Jaguars performance was top end. The defense left Peyton Manning to suffer a 61.5 passer rating that was the result of an interception, no touchdowns and a 50 percent completion average. The Colts rushed for a mere 34 yards.
Taylor got the Jaguars off to a fast start when he went 76 yards on the first play from scrimmage. Jones-Drew scored from 18 yards out on the next play and the Jaguars' two-play, 94-yard touchdown drive set the tone for the afternoon.
"I told Fred you're a great player and you're going to play big for us," Del Rio said of a pregame chat with Taylor, who sat out the second half with hamstring soreness. Taylor moved past Earl Campbell and into 21st place on the all-time NFL rushing list. Taylor went over 1,000 yards rushing for the season and has rushed for 9,450 yards in his nine-year career.
"We are heating up right now. The formula for success late in the season is to be able to run the ball and stop the run and we are doing that pretty well right now," Taylor said.