INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Now, they can rest. The Jaguars earned it.
The good news beyond that for the Jaguars was they got the best news possible Sunday:
They're going into the bye week with a victory – and more than that, they're going into it in dominant fashion. Impressive fashion. Tone-setting fashion.
"It's huge," Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles said Sunday after turning in one of the best games of his four-year NFL career in a 27-0 victory over the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis. "Any time you win it's big, especially going into the bye week against a division opponent.
"It's definitely a big win."
What did Sunday mean? It didn't save the season. That wouldn't be accurate. And this wasn't a must-win game. It wasn't that important. Not quite.
But it sure felt like a must-win and a season-saver, didn't it? And it had more meaning than your typical Week 7, mid-to-late October victory. With the victory, the Jaguars:
*Moved to 2-0 on the road in the AFC South.
*Assured them of a first-place tie in the South entering their bye.
*Assured themselves of having a winning record through seven games.
They did those things by turning in yet another ridiculously dominant performance defensively. They recorded 10 sacks Sunday, tying the franchise record for sacks they set in Week 1. They also recorded the franchise's first shutout since October 2016.
It got to the point in the second half that it was hard to keep up, but defensive end Yannick Ngakoue led the team with 2.5. And veteran defensive end Calais Campbell, whose presence and leadership has turned him quickly into perhaps the team's most important defensive player, fittingly registered two more. He fittingly leads the team – and the league – with ten sacks through seven games.
"The W is all I care about, getting that W," Campbell said.
Those were important milestones outlined in the preceding paragraphs, but perhaps the most important thing about Sunday was the victory not only assures the Jaguars' season goals remain very much intact, it also assures this team of a deserved good feeling entering the bye.
Campbell had talked during week about this team being too good, and having played too well during the first part of the season, to enter the bye under .500. They avoided that bad feeling and instead got the best feeling imaginable – a first-place feeling, and a feeling of being in ,control of their fate in the division.
"It was huge," Campbell said. "Going into the bye week, a division game … this was a very important game. We had a great game plan and we executed it very well. Now, we can go into the bye week, regroup and find a way to start being consistent."
How did the Jaguars Victory No. 4?
Much the same way they had gotten all of the good things that have happened this season.
The got it by getting an early lead, then cementing that lead with lock-down coverage and a swarming pass rush. They got it without rookie running back Leonard Fournette, and the significance of that can't be overestimated. They got it, too, with an efficient, accurate, big-play game from Bortles, who turned in more big passing plays in one half Sunday than he had in the previous six.
But what was maybe most significant about Sunday was the feeling in the post-game locker room. There was celebration, certainly, but it wasn't over-the-top stuff. The jubilation of those one-sided early-season victories over Houston and Baltimore was replaced by a more reserved tone.
"We feel like we should be able to consistently do that," linebacker Paul Posluszny. "We feel like this is what we should be."
Safety Tashaun Gipson talked about eliminating the roller-coaster of winning one week and losing the next – the Jaguars' pattern thus far this season. This team, he said, has bigger things in mind than a few impressive one-sided victories.
"It's just a cycle we have to break," Gipson said. "We have some hungry dogs out here. It's important for us to stack wins back-to-back. That's something we've yet to do this year. We've been here before.
"If the Patriots win a game, how does the locker room react? Obviously, it's hard to win in this league, but we can't act like [one victory] is the Super Bowl. … The excitement has to be second-nature to the consistency."
That quote and others like it following Sunday's victory bode well for what lies ahead. This team has had a good start that is inspiring hope, and Sunday's victory darned sure was inspiring. But this team also expects more from itself, and it's beginning to look like those expectations are realistic.
The good news for the Jaguars Sunday? They earned their upcoming rest.
The better news? It looks like what follows that rest could be more interesting than anything that has happened around the Jaguars in a long, long time.