Jack Del Rio was not concerned about style points. All he wanted was the win.
"It wasn't the cleanest game I've ever coached but it is certainly one of the most satisfying," Del Rio said following his Jaguars' 24-23 win over the Tampa Bay Bucs at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday.
The win improved the Jaguars' record to 5-2 and kept them in a tie with Tennessee for second place in the AFC South. It's a win that keeps the Jaguars at the head of the group of teams pursuing a wild-card playoff berth.
"We got enough to go home with a 'W' and a smile," Del Rio said.
The Jaguars were out-gained 385 yards to 219. They were even out-rushed, 136-133, but when the game was on the line in the fourth quarter, the offense got the lead and the defense protected it.
Quinn Gray was in his first-ever pro start, as David Garrard missed the first of what could turn out to be four missed starts with a high-ankle sprain he sustained in last Monday's loss to the Colts. As a result, the Jaguars' game plan was reduced to three yards and a cloud of dust.
"We did things to minimize the burden that was placed on (Gray)," Del Rio said. "We knew we were going to have to run it to win."
The Jaguars ran the ball the first 14 times they snapped the ball and finished the game with a 44-16 run-pass advantage. In the fourth quarter, however, with the Bucs routinely playing eight and nine defenders at the line of scrimmage, the Jaguars had no choice but to turn to their passing game and Gray completed passes at critical times.
In the Jaguars' eight-play, 53-yard, game-winning touchdown drive, Gray completed a 17-yard pass to Reggie Williams and a 13-yard pass on third-and-six to Ernest Wilford, who bobbled the ball but got control and both feet down in bounds just in time. Two plays later, Gray opted out of a running play and completed an eight-yard touchdown pass to Matt Jones that would prove to be the game-winner.
"Whatever it takes to win," said Gray, who was seven of 16 for 100 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. "We knew we had a three-game 'road trip.' Number one is down."
The Jaguars ran the ball down the Bucs' throats early in the game. "They put nine guys in the box and it still didn't bother us," Gray said, but the running game bogged down as time wore on.
Fred Taylor led the Jaguars with 68 yards rushing and Maurice Jones-Drew was playing on a sore knee but was still able to add 48 yards rushing and a key 15-yard pass completion that led to the Jaguars' first touchdown.
"I just wanted to get it to where it was playable," Jones-Drew said of his knee, which he injured in the late stages of the loss to the Colts. "Today, my leg wasn't hurting at all.
"We knew we were going to have to run the ball, run the ball. It was a great team effort. We really didn't see three on the road. We saw one on the road," Jones-Drew added.
After Gray's pass to Jones gave the Jaguars the lead, the defense faced three must-stop situations. The final one began with the Bucs taking possession at their 34-yard line with 1:43 to play and out of times out.
The Bucs got to the Jaguars 45, but that's as far as they got. Garcia threw incomplete three times in a row. His fourth-down pass was in the process of being caught by Ike Hilliard when Rashean Mathis slammed into Hilliard and knocked the ball out of Hilliard's grasp and into Reggie Nelson's for a game-saving interception. Had Hilliard caught the ball, Matt Bryant would've had a reasonable chance to kick a game-winning field goal.
Hilliard came within a step of winning the game for the Bucs on the third-down play. He blew past cornerback Aaron Glenn with a double move and was in the clear as he crossed the five-yard line, but Garcia overthrew Hilliard.
"My whole body was cramping up," said Glenn, who was seeing his first action of the season as he replaced Brian Williams, out with a hamstring pull. "When you see it's overthrown, you can't help but have a sigh of relief."
Garcia threw three interceptions, leaving Garrard as the only passer ratings-eligible quarterback in the league that hasn't thrown an interception.
"You're going to be beset with adversity and it's all about how you handle it," Mathis said.
"When my number was called, I did the best I could to put points on the board," Gray said.
He'll have another opportunity when the Jaguars play at New Orleans this week in the second leg of the Jaguars' road swing.