They were in trouble. The Texans were threatening to do it to the Jaguars again; ruin their season for a second consecutive year. Then Byron Leftwich caught fire.
Leftwich was 11-for-11 in the second half after hearing a chorus of boos while leaving the field for halftime. The quarterback's resilience and his comeback sparked a 21-14 win by the Jaguars that left the team at 5-3 and on course for the playoffs.
"You hear it. You don't want to hear it. You want support from the fans," Leftwich said when asked if he heard the boos.
"Nobody likes to get booed at home because it gives the other team momentum. We have to do a better job to not get booed. But nobody likes to get booed," he added.
Following a three-and-out series to begin the second half, the Jaguars trailing 7-0, Leftwich never heard the boos again. From that point on, it was all cheers.
Leftwich threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Ernest Wilford to tie the game at 7-7 in the third quarter, then ran eight yards on a third-down, quarterback draw play to tie the game at 14-14 early in the fourth quarter, then led the Jaguars 82 yards in nine plays to produce the game-winning touchdown with 2:53 to play.
He has never played better than he did in the second half of Sunday's win. He moved his passer rating from 66.4 at halftime to 115.1 by game's end, and his stats show 19 completions in 25 attempts for 218 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.
"I just think we got more aggressive. We allowed our guys to make plays. Ernest stepped up big. Jimmy (Smith) had a huge play," Leftwich said.
"There was no yelling or screaming. We just knew we had to do some things different in the second half," he added.
One of the things they did differently in the second half was force Houston quarterback David Carr into a turnover. Carr played a mistake-free first half that produced a 110.4 passer rating.
On Houston's first possession of the second half, however, Carr fumbled as he was being sacked by Rob Meier. Bobby McCray recovered at the Houston 29 and, four plays later, Leftwich found Wilford for the Jaguars' first touchdown.
"I thought it was important I display the poise I wanted them to have," Del Rio said of his halftime demeanor. "The locker room was calm. The guys were very determined."
"We made a couple of adjustments," Del Rio said when asked what the difference was in the Jaguars' performance in the second half. "The big thing was Rob Meier sacked David Carr and took the ball away. We got a jolt. We got some momentum."
"It was upbeat. There was nobody with a sad face," linebacker Mike Peterson said of the Jaguars' halftime mood.
Missed tackles was the defense's theme, again, as three missed tackles by the Jaguars allowed Texans wide receiver Corey Bradford to escape down the sideline for a 31-yard touchdown in the second quarter.
The defense didn't exactly step up in the third quarter, as Houston marched 84 yards in 13 plays to re-gain the lead at 14-7. In the fourth quarter, however, the defense performed better.
On a fourth-and-nine play with 54 seconds to play in the game and the Texans at the Jaguars 42, Carr threw deep down the left sideline for Bradford. It was a perfect heave that nestled gently into Bradford's hands, but he was unable to secure the catch.
"The feeling I'm getting now is that this is the turning point. This is the jump start to something good," Peterson said.