The Jaguars are on the rise. The question is: How high will they climb?
"Feel good," coach Jack Del Rio instructed fans of the team on Monday, the day after the Jaguars scored their first win of the season. "I like the energy, I like the effort. The way we're approaching it, we will improve. It's not maybe, it's a matter of how much."
The young Jaguars, who had four rookies in the starting lineup on Sunday and had another play a prominent role in upsetting the Houston Texans, will have a chance to even their record and make a 2-2 start this year much more satisfying than last year's 2-2.
At 1-2, the Jaguars have the same record after three weeks of the season that last year's team did. Does this year's 1-2 feel better than last year's?
"What do you feel?" Del Rio said in response to the question. "Write what you feel."
It's all a matter of expectation. Last year's team was assigned an expectation of contending for the Super Bowl and its 1-2 start was viewed as disappointing. This year's team is thought to be in a rebuilding year and expectations do not include the postseason. As a result, 1-2 feels pretty good after a demanding opening schedule.
"If you stop and take everything you're saying into consideration, you can come to that conclusion. I'm not considering any of that," Del Rio said.
It was the Jaguars' second-half performance in Houston that was the real feel-good story. Trailing 21-17 at halftime, the Jaguars defense came to life in the second half, holding the Texans to three points while the Jaguars offense dominated time of possession with 10-play drives of 83 and 87 yards.
The Jaguars appeared to be headed toward a certain victory until Mike Sims-Walker fumbled the ball following a pass reception near midfield. Immediately, Del Rio considered whether or not to challenge the ruling.
"Never trust a player walking off the field," Del Rio said jokingly at his Monday press conference. "I said, 'Mike, were you down?' He said, 'Coach, I was down.' I threw (the challenge flag) down and then I saw the replay on the Jumbotron and I said, 'Are you kidding me, Mike?' It ends up being funny today because we won."
It may not have been a laughing matter, however, if the Texans' Chris Brown hadn't fumbled the ball away on the goal line as the Texans were on the verge of tying the game. Brown's fumble has put the Jaguars in position to even their record with a win over winless Tennessee this week. Who thought the Jaguars would have a better record than Tennessee heading into this game?
"What I saw that I liked is that we collected ourselves, saw we were in a dogfight and calmly made our corrections," Del Rio said of the team's halftime adjustments. "The way we came out in the third quarter and took over momentum, that was key.
"We were 3-3 in the red zone. That's always big. David Garrard had some big third-down conversions. Not allowing a sack all day, part of that was protection, part of that was getting open in the routes and part of that is getting the ball out on time," Del Rio added.
Safety Sean Considine sustained a groin injury and is the most likely of the Jaguars' injured players not to play against Tennessee. Del Rio won't provide information on the status of the team's other injured players until Wednesday afternoon.
Del Rio did reveal that linebacker Brian Iwuh was deactivated for Sunday's game due to a "violation of team policy."