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Jaguars built for the cold


It is the most telling of all lines on the final stats sheet: 36 runs, 20 passes. That's what playoff teams do in late-season, cold-weather games. They run the ball.

Jack Del Rio committed his team at midseason to that style of football in the second half of the year. In the Jaguars' bye week, Del Rio promised, "We will run the ball." And they have, but never more impressively and more importantly than the Jaguars did against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night in frigid Lambeau Field.

Which team was from Florida? Which team is built for the cold-weather game the postseason requires?

The Jaguars were that team, and it didn't happen that way by accident. Del Rio has built this team in the image of the Baltimore Ravens he helped coach to the 2000 Super Bowl title. Del Rio learned his lessons well while in the frosty northeast. If you're going to play there in January, you better be built to play their style of football.

"If you look at the tournament the way it's setting up, there are a lot of cold-weather teams," Del Rio said moments following his Jaguars' 28-25 win over the Packers. "To be able to play well in the cold against a quality opponent bodes well, because if we're going to get into the playoffs, we're going to find ourselves in this kind of game."

The Jaguars played as you would expect of a team from the northlands, not north Florida. The Jaguars won time of possession. They were plus-three in turnovers. They rushed for twice as many yards and threw 24 fewer passes. They lost the total yardage battle but won everything else, including the game.

It's how championship teams play at this time of the year. When they throw it, they make it count. They throw to score and they run to win. And they knock your head off.

These are the new-era Jaguars; nothing finesse about these Jaguars. These Jaguars can leave Florida in January and win. The big question now is, can they make it into the playoffs?

There were no takers on that question in the Jaguars' postgame locker room. The players had, clearly, been instructed to answer with the old one-game-at-a-time response. That's all right.

"I really believe we have a team capable of making the playoffs, but this is just one step. Next week's game has the same importance," quarterback Byron Leftwich said.

Leftwich played with the grit of a cold-weather veteran. The Packers beat him around the "frozen tundra" and left him bent and limping on several occasions, but in each case Leftwich rebounded. He refused to yield to the cold or to the Packers' assault. It's what cold-weather quarterbacks do. It's what playoff quarterbacks do. They play tough. They lead. They win.

There was another hero in this game; the most unlikely of heroes. Maligned offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave called a superb game. His play-calling was as much a reason for the Jaguars' win as was the performance of the players he commands.

"We knew it would be important for us to run the ball. Part of that was to keep number four (Brett Favre) on the sideline," Del Rio said of the Packers quarterback. "They play a lot of people in the box (against the run) so it wasn't easy to do."

The Jaguars did it because they were committed to it. They weren't persuaded to abandon the run and turn to the pass. Musgrave looked at "eight in the box" and said we can block it. He didn't cave to the voice inside that says, we can pass it.

It's what cold-weather teams do. It's what warm-weather teams that have to play in the north in January must do. They have to be able to play the cold-weather game. Eight in the box? So what?

"The more physicality and the more mental strength we can add to this team the better we will be. It can't always be 85 and sunny," Del Rio said.

Getting to the playoffs isn't enough. What good is it to get to the playoffs if you're going to be one and done? Don't even bother making the playoffs if you can't go to Pittsburgh or New England in January and win.

The Jaguars are built to do that. They proved that point in frigid Wisconsin.

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