JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton look back at the Jaguars' victory over the Los Angeles Chargers and forward to Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns
1. Reviewing the preview.When previewing Chargers-Jaguars, the thought here was the Jaguars needed to: run effectively, pressure Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers and feed off the EverBank Field crowd. They didn't do the first; they did the second OK at times. So, how did they win? They fed off the crowd in a big way and willed themselves to a third consecutive victory. The Jaguars rushed for less than 80 yards offensively, but credit quarterback Blake Bortles and the passing offense for doing enough to keep the game close into the fourth quarter. The defense was a major part of the aforementioned will, improving as the game went on and allowing 26 yards with two takeaways on Los Angeles' last six possessions. The result was one of the more memorable Sundays at the 'Bank in a while.
2. As I saw it.This was one of the Jaguars' biggest victories in forever, one that could have a lasting effect on and off the field. The Jaguars hadn't won a home game with as much at stake in seven seasons, and beating Rivers – a long-time Jaguars nemesis – was an added bonus. The fans in Jacksonville have waited for something to believe in, and the team delivered in a vividly memorable way Sunday. The Jaguars overcame a landslide of adversity, and that will serve them well in the final weeks of the season. The Jaguars now are 6-3, which kept them in a tie for first place in the AFC South. Think the Jaguars aren't for real? Just ask anyone who was there Sunday. Or look at the standings. Sunday provided ample evidence in both locales.
3. Looking ahead, briefly.Up next for the Jaguars: the Cleveland Browns, a team in the middle of a massive, multi-year rebuild and one with a 0-9 record entering Sunday. The Jaguars will enter the game as heavy road favorites for the first time in a long time, and make no mistake: they deserve the favorite's role this week. The Jaguars' swarming defense should match up extraordinarily well against the Cleveland offense, and this by any measure is a game the Jaguars should win. Here's the catch: while the Jaguars have shown the ability to dominate defensively this season, their offense is not so overpowering as to guarantee anything. The Browns also played their best game of the season this past Sunday in a loss to the Lions and still appear to be playing hard under Head Coach Hue Jackson. Those two factors make this game a concern.
1.Reviewing the preview. I thought the Jaguars had the answer for Rivers – and when it mattered most, they did. Rivers was good but not the spectacular version of himself he had been the last six meetings against the Jaguars. They couldn't get to him, but they pressured and took away his primary weapons for most of the game. That Rivers had to try and win throwing the ball to Austin Ekeler shows you just how good the Jaguars' coverage unit is. Wide receiver Keenan Allen was a non-factor and so was wide receiver Travis Benjamin. The running backs accounted for 10 of Rivers' 21 completions for 92 of his 235 yards passing; the Jaguars smothered the receivers and tight ends. Now, Rivers very nearly beat them with just his running backs, which tells you just how resourceful and cunning he is. Beating Rivers is one big step forward for a team that has its sights set on the postseason for the first time since they last beat him – in 2007. Bouye's spectacular game-stealing interception showed us just how strong-willed this defense is. The Jaguars' defense answered Sunday – and you get the sense they might have an answer nearly every Sunday from here until January.
2.As I saw it. This victory was the biggest in front of the faithful since 2007, when a 28-13 victory over the Titans moved the Jags to 6-3 and set up a 5-2 finish to a playoff season. Sunday was big for the standings, but it was much more than that. These fans, so many of them young adults who were kids in 2007 and who are now of ticket-buying age, have waited so long to have real hope that their team can contend. They were elated leaving EverBank Field Sunday. It cannot be overstated that the arrival of a true home-field crowd for the Jaguars' three-game home stand in December could help a team with its sights set on the AFC South. Jaguars players were excited about the crowd after the game, almost as excited about the victory and the way they earned it. The next few weeks could be a special time in Jacksonville.
3.Looking ahead, briefly. The Jaguars won't overlook the winless Browns – as some will suggest this week. The way they had to rally to beat the Chargers will play a part, but the way the Browns battled the Lions will keep the Jaguars' attention. Cleveland has a strong group on the defensive line with Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah storming the edges – and based on the Jaguars' struggles with the edges against the Chargers, you can be sure defensive coordinator Gregg Williams won't hold back. The Browns will stack the line of scrimmage – and in weather conditions that will make it seem like the game is being played in the Yukon, they will force Blake Bortles to try and beat them with a depleted receiving corps. I like the Jags' defense to be the difference Sunday – yet again – against a rookie quarterback, a good-but-not-great backfield and few down-the-field weapons.