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Jags have sharp focus


They're all in agreement. This one is a big game. Coach Jack Del Rio even went so far as to call it a "big-big game."

Focus wouldn't seem to be a problem for the Jaguars. Del Rio is selling the idea of looking no farther ahead than this Sunday's game against the Houston Texans, and his team is buying it.

"We have to make sure we're focused each week and not too high on what's passed," quarterback David Garrard said on Wednesday. "I honestly think each week is motivation enough. The Texans have shown they are a team that can beat us."

That may be the Jaguars' greatest advantage for this week's AFC South showdown against the Texans, 3-2 and a half-game behind the 3-1 Jaguars. The Texans upset the Jaguars twice last season and that cost the Jaguars a playoff berth.

Look past the Texans to the Colts? Not a chance.

"Big home game against a division opponent, so that makes it a big-big game. We already lost to a division opponent (Tennessee). We have to find a way to win division games," Del Rio said.

Despite sluggish ticket sales that almost certainly will cause this game to be blacked out to local TV, the Jaguars are giving every sign of a team at a fever pitch for the first of two AFC South home games that will determine whether or not this team will be a division title contender this season.

"I don't think looking ahead does anything for you. We've taken a look at the second quarter. I've shown the team the whole schedule and to me it looks like a helluva tough schedule. Our entire focus has to be on this Sunday at one o'clock," Del Rio said at his Wednesday press conference.

Del Rio's evaluation of the Texans should only serve to increase his team's intensity for this game.

"I look at the tape. I think this is our biggest challenge to date. We are going to be a more consistent team this year, but there are going to be some real good teams we're going to be facing over the next 12 weeks, and this is one of them," he said.

Media banged away at they-beat-you-twice-last-year questions on Wednesday, but neither the coach nor his players were responsive. Clearly, the order is out to leave the past in the past.

"I don't think what has happened in the past has a thing to do with this year," Del Rio said.

His star running back, Fred Taylor, agreed.

"I don't want to talk about the past. This is a whole new season. We're playing some good ball. The best team will win on Sunday. We'll find out what will happen," Taylor said.

The Jaguars qualified for the playoffs in 2005, a season in which the Jaguars beat the Texans twice. The Texans swept the Jaguars in '04 and '06, seasons in which the Jaguars barely missed making it into the playoffs.

If the past means anything, it would seem to suggest that a win this Sunday is the first step toward a playoff berth.

"We're going to need to be better. We're going to need to improve to have any chance," Del Rio said, challenging this team to continue to improve its performance over the remaining three months of the season.

Garrard is the biggest factor in that improvement. He is the league's fourth-ranked passer and is one of only two quarterbacks in the league who hasn't thrown an interception.

"I still fell like I can play better. I feel like I could've hit (John) Broussard with those deep balls," Garrard said, referring to last Sunday's 17-7 win in Kansas City. "Those balls are 1-2 yards away from him. That's how close we are. When we start (completing) those, you'll see the difference."

The only criticism of Garrard and the Jaguars offense is that it hasn't scored often enough. Garrard and Del Rio deflected that criticism on Wednesday.

"(Whether it's) 3-0, 17-7, it doesn't matter to me. I know fans, media would like to see 34 points, but it doesn't matter," Garrard said. "Stats don't matter. It's all about this team winning."

Garrard is insultingly being referred to by some as a "manager," and he takes exception to the reference.

"Being the manager means making plays, too. You have to convert third downs and that's what this offense has been doing," Garrard said.

"I have to make sure I do my job, which is to keep the ball in the hands of these guys in here and not the Texans. I don't like to hear careful. I like to hear smart. It's a lot easier to overcome third-and-12 than it is a touchdown return," Garrard said.

"We've been doing a good job so far but there's another level we can get to," he added.

They can reach that level in the next two weeks and it begins with a win this Sunday. The Jaguars would seem to be well aware of that fact.

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