DALLAS--Tom Coughlin now has proof that his words are not hollow. He needed something to support his daily lectures and his weekly demands. Now, he has it. Sunday's 23-17, overtime win over the Dallas Cowboys is exactly what Coughlin needed to sell his players on his concepts of "play winning football." This week, the Jaguars' bye week, Coughlin can sell his team on the merits of:
• No turnovers. For the first time since the season-opener in Cleveland, the Jaguars played a football game without losing a fumble or throwing an interception. It's no small coincidence that the Jaguars won that game in Cleveland, too.
• Protecting the quarterback. For the first time this season, Mark Brunell was not sacked. What was it worth? Well, Brunell had a smile on his face and a bounce in his step after the game.
• Running the football. Fred Taylor's 107 yards rushing mark the third consecutive game that he's broken the 100-yard mark. His 31 rushing attempts represent his high this season and, for the first time since that season-opening win in Cleveland, the Jaguars had more rushing attempts than passes.
"We got Fred going and we stuck with him," a spirited Coughlin told reporters moments after a win that pumped more life into the Jaguars than they knew at any time previous this season. Their postgame locker room was more spirited than at any time since the Jaguars' playoff win over Miami last January.
The coach was on a high. His face was coated with perspiration, causing his cheeks to glisten in a happy way. It was a face we hadn't seen on Coughlin for a long time. The guy needed to win, but he needed to win his way, so he might sell his program to his players.
Coughlin had come under more fire than should be expected of the most successful expansion-team coach in NFL history. On a rainy morning in Dallas, a national game-day preview show proclaimed Coughlin would be fired at season's end, and there were rampant reports of dissent and quit in the Jaguars locker room.
They had been the worst five weeks of Coughlin's life. Five consecutive losses that he could explain only one way: His team turned the ball over, allowed Brunell to be sacked, and didn't block, tackle or execute.
Each loss brought another speech about all of the above. Coughlin had become a broken record. His players repeated his words to the media, but there were rumors they had grown weary of the lecture. They needed proof. They got it this past Sunday.
This is what happens when you don't give the ball to your opponent; when your quarterback doesn't have to look out his ear hole; when you run it 38 times and throw it 24 times, and control the clock for 3:28 more than a team that prides itself on its running game and its time of possession.
Want some stats?
• The last time the Jaguars allowed no sacks in a game was on October 17, 1999, against Cleveland.
• In the Jaguars' three wins this season, they've committed one turnover. In their six losses, they've turned the ball over 20 times. How telling is that?
• The Jaguars' 24 pass attempts Sunday is their lowest of the season, and this by a team that began the day with the league lead in pass attempts.
"We talked about rediscovering how to win. It's an indication of how we really need to play," Coughlin said.
So, the Jaguars headed into their bye week, certain their coach would bore them over and over with Sunday's black-and white facts. His message will be simple: Play this way and you will win.
"People have been talking bad about us. We just wanted to be physical tonight," offensive tackle Tony Boselli said.
Boselli was reveling in his offense's performance. He loved the game plan. He boasted of the execution.
"Mark Brunell was solid. He handled the game from the pocket … understanding what we wanted to do … because the theme was going to be 'run the ball,' " Coughlin said, revealing a game plan made obvious by the fact the Cowboys' run defense was ranked dead last in the league.
"A little birdie let it out," Taylor said when asked if he knew in advance he was headed for a 30-plus-carries day.
"You play like that, you're going to win some games," Taylor added.
Coughlin will make sure his players embrace that fact.