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Mathis: 'We feel it can be done'


Whatever the perception, Rashean Mathis said the goal remains the same.

And while the Jaguars' veteran cornerback said anyone outside the team may find the concept not only difficult to accept, but pretty unbelievable, he said that doesn't change how players within the locker room feel.

Yes, the Jaguars are 2-6. And yes, they're three-and-a-half games behind the Houston Texans at the season's midway point.

But no, Mathis said Wednesday, the season is not over.

"It's time to win some ball games, to turn this season around," Mathis said Wednesday as the Jaguars (2-6) prepared to play the defending AFC South Champion Indianapolis Colts (0-9) at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis Sunday at 1 p.m.

"We feel it can be done. Nobody outside this locker room probably believes it, but we feel we have the guys in this locker room to help us win. It's up to us to go out and win these close games."

The Jaguars, after five consecutive losses, had a chance to pull to within a game of Houston the week before a Week 9 bye. When they lost, 24-14, not only was the momentum of a 12-7 win over Baltimore – a team many believe the best in the AFC – the week before gone, but many believed so, too, were the playoff chances.

The Jaguars on Wednesday weren't talking post-season.

But Jaguars defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said they're also not not talking playoffs. The approach, Knighton said, must be focused on the immediate and not on the long-term.

"What we have to do is take it a game at a time," Knighton said. "We can't set a goal of, 'Oh, we want to go 8-0 or we want to go 6-2 in the second half of the season.' We can't say, 'We want to win this game or that game.'  We just have to take it a game at a time. Right now, we're playing the Colts. That's who we have to focus on.

"We can't look at the schedule and say, 'We have to win these games,' or, 'If Houston loses this many games and we win his many games, things will work out.' We just have to focus on the task at hand and that's Indy.

"When the time comes where we're a game behind, we can look at scenarios. Right now, we have to get back to small ball and focus on Indy."

Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said throughout the first half of the season that despite the six losses in the last seven games, the team maintained a productive approach each week. He said Wednesday that remains true coming out of the bye.

"I continue to see all the things you need to see to give yourselves a chance," Del Rio said. "The work ethic is strong. The energy is positive and high. The commitment level has not waned a bit."

Not that the players on either team in Sunday's game aren't aware that those outside the team see each in a light that is not particularly competitive.

The last time the teams played, last December, the Jaguars had a chance to clinch the AFC South with a victory. Instead, the Colts won that and their final two games to clinch a seventh AFC South title in eight years.

The tone on Wednesday had a decidedly different feel.

Colts five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Reggie Wayne on Wednesday opened a conference call with Jacksonville media by saying the call should be "short and sweet" considering the records of the teams. He also said in contrast to last December's matchup, "Now, we're playing for the bottom of the barrel."

Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew replied later in the day, "That's OK. We want to be the top of the bottom of the barrel if that's the matter of it."

Jones-Drew said playing the Colts matters whatever the teams' place in the standings.

"It's a rivalry game no matter what the records are," Jones-Drew said. "They've kind of taken it to us the last couple of years. It's another game for us to get back to where we want to be. It's kind of a one-game season for us, really. We had a horrible first half and we have to figure out a way to turn it around."

Mathis said the key for the Jaguars isn't as much taking a radically different approach in the second half of the season. Rather, it's about winning games the Jaguars have a chance to win.

"We've had a lot of them," Mathis said. "It's the difference in winning and losing in this league: can you make a play or two at the end of the game to win? We have to start doing that in the second half of the season.

 "There's definitely a chance. It's just if we take advantage of the opportunity."

Also Wednesday:

*Jaguars right tackle/left guard Eben Britton has been ruled out for Sunday's game, Del Rio said. Britton missed the last three games with a back injury and missed practice Monday and Wednesday. "At some point, I'll be able to shed some light on it," Del Rio said of Britton's absence. In Britton's absence, the starting offensive line likely will remain left tackle Eugene Monroe, rookie left guard Will Rackley, center Brad Meester, right guard Uche Nwaneri and right tackle Guy Whimper. Del Rio said Guy Whimper has played well this season in a difficult situation.

*Mathis spoke of the difference between the Colts with quarterback Peyton Manning last season and without him this season. "They look just like any team would look without their starting quarterback, but Peyton will go down as one of the best to ever play the game," Mathis said. "It's unfair for people to try to compare any quarterback to him." The Colts made the playoffs with at least 10 victories 11 of the last 12 seasons and won 10 games last season. Still Mathis said he would prefer Manning be playing Sunday. "There are a couple of us who like to compete and be playing against the guy who could go down in history as the best to play the game," he said.

*Del Rio said he sat with rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert during the bye week and reviewed the first half of the season. "He's really doing some of the hard things pretty well," Del Rio said. "We need to make more of the routine plays. I think you're going to continue to see him grow." Gabbert started the final six games before the bye, and while he struggled at times, Del Rio said there have been areas of strength. Del Rio said there have been third-down throws that Gabbert has thrown as well as it can be thrown. He also said Gabbert has read blitzes well at times, and cited a third-round pass for a first down in a victory over Baltimore. "Those are things that are the harder things," Del Rio said. "That's the encouraging part. When you go through it there are reasons to be optimistic and encouraged." Del Rio was asked if the growth could occur as early as Sunday. "I'd like to see it start immediately, yes," Del Rio said, laughing.

*Del Rio was asked if the team's wide receivers are capable of allowing offense to have a breakout game. "We have guys here who are capable of doing that for us," he said. "That's why we're working hard to put t together."

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