On the week before Christmas, if coach Jack Del Rio could pick one gift to give his team, it would be the gift of hope. He'll do his best this week to make his team believe that it still has hope of winning the AFC South title.
Does Del Rio believe it can happen?
"Good chance," he told reporters on Monday, a day after the Jaguars suffered a demoralizing, 34-24 loss in Indianapolis that denied the Jags' bid to clinch the division title and left the Colts in the driver's seat. "For us, it's about winning the next one."
There are still a few different ways for the Jaguars to win the division crown, but it's thought the scenario that offers the Jaguars the greatest hope includes two Jaguars wins and a Colts loss in Oakland this Sunday.
"We're going to focus on getting over this one," Del Rio said. "We've got two games left and we have an opportunity to finish strong as a team. We still have hope remaining. We have to focus on playing our very best football and let the rest of it take care of itself."
Del Rio executed a gracious post mortem at his Monday afternoon press conference. Fresh off film review and its corrections, a somber, steely Del Rio provided a point-by-point analysis of the critical points in Sunday's loss.
Point number one on everybody's list, of course, was his decision to go for a first down on the fourth play of the third quarter, when the Jaguars trailed by four points and faced fourth and one at their 39-yard line. What resulted was a fumbled pitch from quarterback David Garrard to running back Maurice Jones-Drew, and two plays later Colts running back Donald Brown broke loose down the left sideline on a 43-yard touchdown run.
"I felt it was a high percentage play for us and it didn't work. I also realize that if it doesn't work, I'm going to get a lot of heat for it from armchair quarterbacks," Del Rio said.
The Colts left a gaping hole over center on the play and Del Rio was asked if Garrard should've "goosed" the center to snap the ball, resulting in a quarterback sneak into the vacant spot. Del Rio paused before answering the question.
"That's certainly an option," he said, then added: "If we just execute the play we ran, it's likely going to be a first down. The team that makes the plays wins the game."
Del Rio talked about his plans for winning the game.
- "Win the turnover battle; didn't get that done; minus two yesterday. Negative turnover ratio rarely goes good," Del Rio said.
- "I wanted to run it, possess it. We did not run it. First and goal on the one; gotta get that hard yard and didn't get it. Fourth and one in the second half; gotta get that hard yard and didn't get it," he added.
- "We knew we'd have to get off the field on third down. We were able to do that. They punted six times and kicked two field goals," Del Rio said in complimenting his defense.
Both sides had reason to complain about the officiating. The Jaguars' main complaint is for a block-in-the-back penalty that allowed a Colts defender to run into punt-returner Mike Thomas, forcing a fumble the Colts recovered.
"There was a guy about nine yards from the returner. He was pushed in the back. If nine yards later he was still carrying that momentum, it would be the right call," Del Rio said.
The Jaguars were coming off a physical game against the Raiders and Del Rio was asked if that game might have taken its toll on the Jaguars.
"I would say we did not have a couple of our guys where we'd like to have them, but that's the nature of this business. Vinny (Manuwai) and Maurice (Jones-Drew), two of the cogs of our running game, being banged up going into the game, that was a concern for us," Del Rio said.
"We wanted very much to bring this thing home," he added.
Now, he has to convince his team that it still can do that.