Jack Del Rio credited his team's ability to overcome adversity. In contrast, one controversial official's call seemed to cause the Houston Texans to fall apart.
The Jaguars are 4-1 today and heading for a first-place showdown against the undefeated Indianapolis Colts on Monday Night Football. Through the first 20 minutes of Sunday's game, however, it appeared as though the Jaguars were headed toward another head-scratching defeat against their tormentors from Texas.
"There was some adversity we had to fight through early in the game," Del Rio said following the 37-17 win at "The Jack."
Yeah, the Jaguars had to fight through a late wakeup call on defense, as the Texans bolted 78 yards down the field following the opening kickoff. Fortunately, the Jaguars held the Texans to a field goal.
The Jaguars also had to overcome a penalty by Mo Williams that nullified a John Carney field goal and resulted in Carney missing from a considerably longer distance, and the Jaguars had to overcome two lost fumbles by Reggie Williams, one of which resulted in a second Kris Brown field goal that staked the Texans to a 6-0 lead.
It was David Garrard who snapped the Jaguars out of their slumber by engineering another trademark long touchdown drive – 76 yards in 13 plays – but not without the aid of a mysterious reversal by Referee Walt Coleman.
Garrard threw an apparent one-yard touchdown pass to tight end George Wrighster to tie the game, but tight end Greg Estandia was penalized for offensive pass interference on the play, and replay clearly showed Estandia pushing a Texans defender as Wrighster was making the catch. Back to the 11-yard line the ball was placed but, after a confab between Coleman and his crew, Coleman announced that Wrighster's touchdown would be allowed because Estandia had engaged the defender at the line of scrimmage and remained engaged with him into the secondary which, Coleman said, is permitted by rule.
Texans coach Gary Kubiak vehemently protested the call and the Texans went so far as to call the press box and request that a pool reporter acquire an explanation from Coleman following the game. Yes, coach, it was a curious call, but your team's reaction to the whole thing is even more curious.
They came unglued. All of a sudden, after having moved the ball at will against the Jaguars through the first 20 minutes of the game, the Texans went flat.
Obviously, Del Rio and his special teams coach, Joe DeCamillis saw as much because they decided the time was right to pull a surprise onside kick. Carney executed a run-alongside dribbler on which Carney dropped the moment it had gone 10 yards. There wasn't a Texan within 10 yards when Carney dropped on the ball.
"We talked about playing to win; being in attack mode. We thought we had a shot to make a play there. 'Joe D' called for it and I OKed it," Del Rio said of the onside kick.
The result of the Coleman reversal and the DeCamillis brainstorm was a two-play turn of events that turned a 6-0 Texans lead into a 10-6 Jaguars lead at halftime, and it represented a shot of adversity from which the Texans never recovered.
Game ball? Maurice Jones-Drew got the game ball for his stunning performance: 125 yards and two touchdowns rushing and four pass receptions for 59 yards. If you've got another one of those games balls lying around, coach, you might wanna give it to DeCamillis.
Del Rio wouldn't divulge what it was that DeCamillis had detected in the Texans that would allow such an onside kick – it's top secret strategy stuff, of course – but it's likely DeCamillis saw that the Texans' front line turned their backs and ran when the ball was kicked, which made them vulnerable to such a sneaky tactic.
Hey, folks, that's two weeks in a row DeCamillis' special teams have played a starring role. The previous week, in Kansas City, rookie punter Adam Podlesh killed punts at the three, five and eight-yard lines. This week, Podlesh didn't even have to punt.
Yeah, Jones-Drew gets the game ball, but Del Rio should give one to himself, too. He had his team well-prepared for this game. He had his team mentally ready to play 60 minutes. There was no quit in his team, as evidenced by its response to early adversity.
The Jaguars are playing at one of the highest levels in franchise history. They have a quarterback on an outrageously efficient roll, a running game that hit the 244-yard mark on Sunday and went over 150 yards for the third consecutive week, and special teams that are making game-winning plays.
"It seemed like they couldn't bounce back," cornerback Rashean Mathis said of the Texans' two-play demise. "I guess it was a blow in the gut for them.
"They came out fast on us. We bent but we didn't break. It was huge for us," he added.
"This is probably the best team since I've been here. We've clicked on all three cylinders," Mathis said, referring to offense, defense and special teams.
Now we've reached that point in the season that caught our attention when the schedule was announced last spring. It was the hope of all Jaguars fans that when the Jaguars and Colts met on Monday Night Football at "The Jack" on Oct. 22, first place in the AFC South would be on the line.
It will be.