Now, things get tough.
Tough for fans. Tough for players. Tough for coaches. Tough for the front office.
And yeah, even tough for the senior writer.
Not in terms of finding 10 things the Jaguars must do to beat the Houston Texans Sunday. We can do that, but this obviously in a very real sense is a tougher situation for all involved with the Jaguars than they have faced all year – and really, in a couple of years.
That's what you get at 3-7. You get situations that are tough.
You get yourself in situations where people ask questions all week about playing with no carrot, and about playing for pride. They're not fun questions to ask, nor are they fun questions to answer. They're also not questions the Jaguars have had to answer in a while.
The Jaguars didn't make the playoffs either of the last two seasons, but they weren't out of contention until the end. They were 8-5 last season and 7-5 in 2009, and although the seasons ended in disappointment, there was talk of the playoffs through December.
Not this season.
This season, the Jaguars are 3-7 because they just haven't quite found a way to win close games, and because the passing offense has yet to find itself. There are other reasons, but the reality is although the Jaguars are technically not out of the playoff chase, they're close enough to being out of it that discussing it brings a worst taste than just putting it out of your mind.
And that makes the coming weeks tough. And it obviously makes Sunday's game against the Texans tough.
It's tough because you thought as late as last week the game would mean more. You thought there would be hope. You thought there would be a way to win this one, scratch and claw a while and maybe get back in the playoff chase. With that gone, it's tough.
But you know what? The NFL's not supposed to be easy. You don't always get what you want.
This team has talked all season about character, about the ability to fight, and it talked about it some this week, too. They talked about not giving up, not quitting.
They have talked all year about not being as bad as the record indicated, about being close, about believing they would break through and show they were good.
There's still time for that. There are still six games remaining. You want to show you have been right? That you have been better than 3-7? Now is as good a time as any, and if it's tough, so be it.
No, the coming weeks won't be easy.
Sounds like a pretty good time to show the NFL world you were pretty good after all.
Now, 10 things the Jaguars must do Sunday to beat the Texans:
- Fit the run.The Jaguars were disappointed in how they played the run against Cleveland Sunday, primarily because they didn't get good run fits. They were right to be disappointed. They allowed 148 yards rushing to the Browns, and that allowed the Browns too many extended drives. Don't stop the run against Houston running backs Arian Foster and Ben Tate, and you lose.
- Build on the positives.There were some last week against the Browns. The Jaguars didn't score as much as necessary, but the passing offense looked better in spots, and Gabbert for the most part had his best game of the season.
- Get Gabbert going. We'll continue this from the last entry. Gabbert has now had six consecutive quarters in which he has shown good signs. He also has practiced better in recent weeks than he had previously. This is the time of the rookie season where he needs to build on that momentum.
- Pressure Leinart.This goes hand-in-hand with No. 1. You must stop the run to have a chance to pressure Texans quarterback Matt Leinart. The Texans are a run-oriented team, and if you don't stop it, they won't stop, either. Stop the run and Leinart can be pressured into mistakes.
- Tighten the pass defense.There was a notable dropoff in this area last week. Part of that was the absence of Rashean Mathis. Stopping Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson won't be easy, and without Mathis and Derek Cox it will be even tougher.
- Channel the dislike.The Jaguars don't like the Texans. The Texans don't like the Jaguars. That's OK. They're not supposed to. The Texans did some . . . er, questionable things in the last meeting. Don't talk about it. Beat them.
- Make Sunday Battle Teal Day at EverBank.Just kidding. Don't, please. You don't need promotional silliness. Just do it on the field.
- Forget last week.It was disappointing. You were close. It's over. Move on.
- Keep Lewis involved.Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis had his biggest game of the season last week against Cleveland. The Jaguars' passing offense had its best game. So did Gabbert. Coincidence? Hardly. Build on that. Find ways to get Lewis the ball.
- Play with pride.So, the playoffs are all but out of the question? So what. Play hard. It's what you've done all season. Keep doing it.