ATLANTA – Gus Bradley got his first victory as an NFL head coach Thursday.
And while that wasn't a huge post-game topic in the wake of the Jaguars' victory 20-16 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in the 2013 preseason finale Thursday at the Georgia Dome, there was some significance to the final score.
The idea is to win – whether it's preseason or not.
And with the regular season 10 days away, winning on Thursday . . . well, it was better than the alternative, and the fact that the Jaguars overcame some early mistakes to do it?
Well, that Bradley said he liked a lot.
"I was really pleased with how everybody competed tonight," Bradley said after the Jaguars first lost a 10-0 lead then rallied with a fourth-quarter touchdown pass from reserve quarterback Mike Kafka to reserve wide receiver Jeremy Ebert.
"I thought it was a great illustration. We had to see how we could bounce back. I wanted to see us come back from adversity and I thought we did a great job."
The Jaguars, who finished the preseason 1-3, took a 7-0 lead on an 18-yard run by reserve running back Jordan Todman in the first quarter. That came after Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne threw an interception on the third play of the game's first drive.
The Jaguars extended the lead to 10-0 before a pair of turnovers by reserve quarterback Matt Scott allowed the Falcons to pull to within 10-9 at halftime. The Falcons then took a 16-13 third-quarter lead with a 65-yard third-quarter touchdown run by running back Josh Vaughan before Kafka passed to Ebert with 14:11 remaining.
"It wasn't perfect at times, but our guys really played hard," Bradley said.
Bradley said he was particularly pleased that the offense responded after a slow start, and that the team got a victory to end the preseason. He also lauded center Dan Gerberry and linebacker LaRoy Reynolds for playing the entire game on a night when each team played starters sparingly.
"What's cool is we tell our guys to prepare all week and that they have to trust their preparation," Bradley said. "When you play a game it's a test, a test to see if they could stay true to that and trust the results will come. That's what the illustration is, 'Stay true to it and believe the whole way, and compete the whole time and the result will come.'"
The Jaguars' defense allowed 344 total yards, but forced an interception and held the Falcons' reserve offense out of the end zone four times while leading by four points in the fourth quarter. The defense held the Falcons out of the end zone on fourth-and-goal from the 3-yard line when cornerback Demetrius McCray sacked Dominique Davis for no gain.
The Jaguars must trim the roster from 75 to 53 players by 6 p.m. Saturday, a reality that Bradley said made Thursday's victory "bittersweet."
"We have to make some tough decisions in the next day," Bradley said. "These guys poured their heart and soul into this organization. We have some tough decisions that we hate to make, but we have to do what we think is best for the team."
BRADLEY ON TODMAN: "HE DID WHAT HE HAD TO DO"
Running back Jordan Todman, a week after rushing for 105 yards against the Eagles, turned in a second consecutive solid performance, rushing for 60 yards on nine carries.
Todman is third on the running back depth chart behind Maurice Jones-Drew and Justin Forsett, and Bradley said Thursday the team is excited about Todman.
"We talked about early, that he had had a good preseason up to this point and, 'What could he do tonight?'" Bradley said. "He did what he had to do. We're excited about his consistency."
The Jaguars sustained no significant injuries in the game. Guard Will Rackley missed the game with an ankle injury, with Forsett (toe), safety Chris Prosinski (concussion), tight end Marcedes Lewis (calf) and quarterback Blaine Gabbert (thumb) also missing the game. Center Brad Meester, linebacker Paul Posluszny, defensive tackle Roy Miller and running back Maurice Jones-Drew also missed the game.
- Linebacker LaRoy Reynolds: "The last couple of weeks, the second- and third-team, we kind of struggled. That last (goal-line) stand – that really helped us. We played the defense right and did our job and made plays. It helped our confidence."
- Cecil Shorts III: "I'm feeling good, I'm feeling ready. I'm excited to get it going for real next week."
- Defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks: "We can sit here today and tell you how good we are going to be. That's not us. We just want to get better every day. Only time will tell. I think it's going to be a lot better. We are all on the same page. That's what is great about our defense."
The Jaguars will play host to the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2013 regular-season opener at EverBank Field Sunday, September 8.