DALLAS—A unit that had been the problem through the first seven games of the season, set a franchise record with four interceptions on Sunday, leading the Jaguars into their bye week with a 35-17 win over the Dallas Cowboys.
"That was a great team win. It allows us to go into the bye. There was a carrot," Head Coach Jack Del Rio said of using off time during the bye week to motivate his players for this game, "needing a win to enjoy the carrot."
The Jaguars will also enjoy a 4-4 record at the mid-point in the season. It offers hope for the second half of the season and the possibility of making a run for the playoffs.
Quarterback David Garrard tied a franchise record with four touchdown passes. More importantly, his performance canceled any doubts Garrard had coming off a week of inactivity due to a concussion.
"Coming off a concussion, having questions if I could take another hit, I was able to answer those questions because I got hit on the head twice," Garrard said following one of the best performances of his career. He completed 17 of 21 passes for 260 yards, four touchdowns and the highest passer rating of his career, 157.8.
"I sensed frustration with them and then continuing to get more and more frustrated," Garrard said of the Cowboys. Garrard accounted for all five of the Jaguars' touchdowns, having rushed for the final score of the game.
The Cowboys were dominated throughout the game but had a chance to back into the game on the next-to-last play of the first half. On fourth and goal at the Jaguars one-yard line, coach Wade Phillips elected to go for the touchdown and the Jaguars stopped Marion Barber for no gain. Barber and quarterback Jon Kitna, who replaced starter Tony Romo for this game, collided during the hand-off.
"That was the play that took the wind out of their sails," middle linebacker Kirk Morrison said.
"Great moment for our front to keep them out," Del Rio said.
"We're going to take this week off and figure out how to get better," Morrison added.
Cornerback Derek Cox, benched early in the season, intercepted Kitna twice and was a tackling dynamo in run-support. Cox's performance gives the Jaguars' beleaguered secondary hope for the second half of the season. Cox also had six tackles, including one for a loss, and three passes-defensed.
"He battled and competed and that's what we need from him. He did a great job for us and it was good to see," Del Rio said of Cox.
Maurice Jones-Drew went over a hundred yards rushing for the second time this season. He gained 135 yards on 27 carries against the Cowboys. Meanwhile, Mike Sims-Walker had a career day, catching eight passes for a career-high 153 yards and one touchdown.
"Taking the ball away, David playing extremely well, getting Maurice going," Del Rio said in citing the high points of the win. "We saw some growth in the back end," he added of his troubled secondary.
"They didn't disguise their coverage that much. They just stand there and play what they play," Garrard said of the Cowboys' defensive strategy.
On a day when fans costumed themselves in all sorts of Halloween disguises, the Jaguars came away wearing the look of a contender. Soon, we'll find out if it's a disguise or the real thing.