JACKSONVILLE – Hope is fast becoming reality.
The Jaguars, after a five-game October losing streak, have won four of six games – including the last two in succession. The playoffs now suddenly are a real possibility. Outside linebacker Josh Allen said the difference is simple:
Early-season adversity is becoming late-season success.
"We never wavered; we never doubted," Allen said Monday, a day after the Jaguars rallied from a 17-point third-quarter deficit for a 40-34 overtime victory over the Dallas Cowboys at TIAA Bank Field.
"I think we had to go through some learning curves on how to handle adversity, and I think we handled it pretty well."
The Jaguars (6-8), after a 2-6 start to the season, now control their postseason destiny entering the final three games. They visit the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., Thursday.
"I'm not thinking past Thursday, quite honestly," Pederson said. "We've got a good football team that we're going up against Thursday night. Anything's possible. I understand that. We've still got a big road ahead. But if we continue to improve on what we've done here in the last month of the season, then I think it's possible."
The Jaguars are one game behind the AFC South-leading Tennessee Titans (7-7), who have lost four consecutive games including a 17-14 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers Sunday. The Jaguars beat the Titans, 36-22, in Nashville in Week 14.
"This is where it's fun," wide receiver Zay Jones said. "It's going to come down to who wants it more, who executes. We get to see what we're made of down the stretch. I'm very confident in the men I'm going to battle with."
The Jaguars and Titans will play in the regular-season finale at TIAA Bank Field. Because of the Week 14 victory, the Jaguars will win the South if they win the finale and the teams tie for first. The Titans play host to the Houston Texans (1-12-1) and Dallas (10-4) before the finale, while the Jaguars visit the Jets (7-7) Thursday and the Texans in Week 17.
"We're playing good football right now," Jones said. "I just want to keep the same approach we've had. Doug's done a great job of giving us the entire outlook of, 'OK, what's the rest of the schedule?' We still keep it one day at a time and focus. That's where our approach is going to be.
"As great as Sunday was, it's a very, very short week – and we're going to play a very, very good team on their home turf. Our preparation is going to expedite just a little bit with the short week. We're excited for another opportunity for us to grow as a football team."
Said Allen, "It's a big game because it's the next game. It's what we preach about: The next game is the most important game. We handle our business the week of, then we come on Sunday and do what we need to do. We handle that business, then it's on to the next one."
The Jaguars' first six losses this season all were by a score or less, and they lost leads in all six of those games. They have rallied from deficits of a touchdown or more in each of their last four victories.
"We're just learning each and every week – learning from our mistakes and learning from the positives," Pederson said. "We're just growing as a football team. The more time you spend together, the tighter you become and the more you overcome some of the adverse situations. I just think it's part of the growth process of where we've come from and how we've learned from it."
Jones on Monday paraphrased a line he first used in November – that while "October was spooky" because of the losing streak that month, "November and December is where it counted."
"This Jaguars team is so special," Jones said. "It's just special what this team has overcome. I wouldn't change anything now in our season, the adversity. It helps build something moving forward. I think we're headed in the right direction. I'm just so proud of this group."
- Jones caught six passes for 109 yards and a career-high three touchdowns Sunday, a performance that came two weeks after he dropped multiple passes in a one-sided loss to the Detroit Lions. "It felt amazing," said Jones, who played through a chest injury against the Lions and again against the Titans last week. "It was a moment of overcoming what personally I was going through. It was quite special to say the least. There aren't really words for it, for sure."
Pop the 🍾 and 🍪, the Jacksonville Jaguars are celebrating Victory Monday after their Week 15 OT win against the Dallas Cowboys at TIAA Bank Field. Swipe through to view top game day photos.