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Time to stop digging


Rashean Mathis won't try to sell anyone.

Is the Jaguars' game Sunday important? Is it potentially season-shaping? Mathis, the Jaguars' veteran cornerback and an unofficial team spokesman in tough times, said while it's critical to not play tight and feel too much pressure, to say that Sunday's game isn't stuffed with urgency . .  .

Well, the 10-year veteran isn't selling that.

"It's not the end of the world, but it would be a tough hole to crawl out of," Mathis said as the Jaguars (0-2) prepared to play the Indianapolis Colts (1-1) in an AFC South game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis Sunday at 1 p.m.

How tough?

While teams have won the Super Bowl after an 0-2 start, it never has happened for a team starting 0-3, and making the playoffs gets considerably tougher at 0-3. Five teams have lost their first three games of a season and made the playoffs since 1990.

Mike Mularkey, the Jaguars' head coach, said the ramifications of a loss aren't his focus this week, and said when it comes to preparation, the talk this week won't be about must-win, either.

"We wanted to win last week too," Mularkey said. "They know the importance of it. It's been addressed about the same thing. We're not going to change. We're going to do things better. They're all on board with that and have accepted the challenge and that's the way we're going to go about it.

"I'm not going to talk about 'what if we lose?' I'll never do that."

Instead, Mularkey said this week the focus is on remaining true to a process that began this past off-season, and continued into training camp and the preseason.

"I'm pretty adamant about staying the course," Mularkey said. "If I learned one thing from (former Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame) Coach (Chuck) Noll, it was that when things don't go exactly right it's not time to change things, it's time to do things better. We need to do that."

The Colts, who finished 2-14 last season, won't be an easy opponent. They used the No. 1 overall selection in the NFL Draft on quarterback Andrew Luck, and he has shown signs of being as good as expectations, throwing three touchdowns in his first two NFL game.

The Colts beat the Minnesota Vikings on a late field goal by veteran Adam VInatieri last week, and though they are a young team in Year One of a rebuilding project, they're a confident team that believes it can win.

"It's going to be a tough game up there – we always know that regardless of who their quarterback is," Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew said. "It's just another rivalry game for us, another division game and we have to go up there and take care of business."

The Jaguars once again enter the weekend with injuries a significant issue, though quarterback Blaine Gabbert appears likely to play.

Gabbert, who sustained a glute (butt muscle) injury during a 27-7 loss to Houston this past Sunday, was initially expected to work limited this week, but practiced full and is expected to play.

Derek Cox, a starting cornerback who has been out since the preseason opener with a hamstring injury, practiced full Thursday and Friday for the first time since his injury, and is expected to start. Defensive end Austen Lane (foot) and starting right tackle Cameron Bradfield (ankle) also returned to limited status this week.

Left guard Eben Britton (ankle), defensive end George Selvie (knee) and linebacker Daryl Smith (groin) have been ruled out, but while injures were a week-long storyline, the focus of Jaguars players remained on the field – and specifically on refocus.

While most agreed with Mathis that it's too early to call a game a must-win, Jones-Drew said without question the game is important. Very important. He also said that all the talking about ramifications this week wasn't all that necessary.

"We understand where we are," said Jones-Drew, who has rushed 31 times for 137 yards in two games since returning from an offseason holdout. "We're 0-2. We're adults. I don't think people are going to be like in Pop Warner and start crying or blaming other guys about it. We're adults. We understand where we are.

"We understand that we're the ones that have to fix it. Obviously you could have the greatest coach in the world, but they're not going to go out there and play the game so as players we have to take the criticism from the coaches, understand how to get better and then when we get better we just got to take it to the field on Sunday."

The Jaguars throughout the offseason talked about a new direction, and an improved approach under Mularkey. They talked about it following a 26-23 overtime loss to Minnesota in the season opener, and that was the topic this past week as well.

Mathis said that good feeling remains, and said that was true despite a difficult loss at home last week.

"The attitude is great," Mathis said. "The morale is great. The focus is where it needs to be."

But Mathis on Monday said while morale was great it was also necessary to win because the Jaguars couldn't be saying the same things this Monday as they said last. He reiterated that approach later in the week. Is the season over at 0-2? Is the game Sunday absolutely, positively win or else?

No, but . . .

"We've already dug ourselves a tough hole, and we don't need to dig it any deeper," Mathis said. "We need a win come Sunday.  If you want to get out of a hole, stop digging it. That's our play come Sunday."

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