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'The Drive' was start


It is the Jaguars' version of "The Drive," except the Tennessee Titans were doing the driving, 17 plays that chewed up 11 minutes and 14 seconds of the fourth-quarter clock, at a time when the Titans were protecting a 27-10 lead.

Along the Jaguars sideline, rookie head coach Jack Del Rio was doing a quiet burn. He watched the Titans push the ball down his defense's throat. Of the 17 plays, 16 were runs.

After the game, Del Rio blasted his players in his remarks to the media. It would be a turning point in the Jaguars' seven-game-old new era. Things would either get a lot better or a lot worse. The coach was gambling on his players' loyalties.

A year later, it can be said that Del Rio's gamble paid off in a big way. Since that humiliating 11 minutes and 14 seconds against the Titans, the Jaguars have been a different team. Since that drive, the Jaguars have become one of the best defenses in the NFL. They have held opponents under 20 points seven times in the last 11 games, including a 10-3 loss to the Titans in Nashville in the second half of last season.

"In our second matchup here we had a nice streak going of 30 points or more. We barely got 10 points out of it. They forced some turnovers and made it very difficult. Anytime you have the two players with the capability and effort that both the tackles play with, you have something to start with, and that's what they've done," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said this week.

"Jack had a lot to do with the success there in Baltimore. This defense will remind you of the Baltimore defense the way they tackle," Fisher added.

That's high praise, indeed, from one of the best defensive minds in the game. It is praise Fisher couldn't have offered the first time the two teams met last season.

That was before "The Drive."

Some Jaguars players believe the team's upset win over Indianapolis two weeks following "The Drive" was the turning point in their season, but facts suggest otherwise. The week after "The Drive," the Jaguars held the league's leading rusher, Jamal Lewis, to 68 yards, his lowest output of the season. The Jaguars' transformation from a team with a soft underbelly to the rock-ribbed group it now is had begun.

The following week's win over Indianapolis is when the Jaguars' about-face bore fruit, but the roots of their efforts were easily traced back to that postgame tongue-lashing from their coach. Maybe they'd all like to forget it.

"There is a process that's underway and I believe that at some point during the season last year the light came on and we embraced the way we're going to do things here. I have the commitment to sustain that, to build on that and to better that, but not dwell on that. I don't spend a whole lot of time thinking about last year," Del Rio said. "I'm emotional by nature. That's how I'm wired."

Quarterback Byron Leftwich saw the light against Indianapolis.

"I think the game that really put the light switch on for us was Indianapolis here. I just remember the atmosphere in the whole stadium. They saw us growing. We grew up that day," Leftwich said.

But the Jaguars team that won the first two games of this season by a combined 20-16 were born during "The Drive," and if this team goes on to greatness, "The Drive" will be credited for having been the starting point.

In Thursday's news, the Jaguars put Paul Spicer on the injured reserve list and signed offensive lineman Mike Compton, who the team had released in final cuts.

Asked why he didn't add a defensive end, Del Rio said: "It's just not something we want to do right now. We upgrade where we can, when we can. At this time, it's not a panic situation."

Tight end Kyle Brady (finger) was not to practice again today, but Del Rio said there was still a slim chance Brady could play in Sunday's game in Tennessee.

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