CHICAGO – They did it. They won.
Whatever else the Jaguars did – or didn't do – on a soggy, gray mid-October Sunday at Soldier Field matters little compared to those five words. They did it. They won.
Somehow, someway …
And that darned sure was the focus in a celebrating visitors' locker room in the bowels of this historic, lake-side stadium late Sunday afternoon.
"It's exciting," quarterback Blake Bortles said after the Jaguars rallied from a thirteen-point fourth-quarter deficit for a 17-16 victory over the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. "Guys are fired up. It's a good time."
And you know what? Why not? Why not be fired up over this one? Because for this Jaguars team Sunday the fourth quarter indeed was as good a time as imaginable.
So, maybe it came after three quarters that weren't a "good time …"
So, maybe it looked for a long time like this gray day would be a disaster …
None of that mattered in a jubilant post-game locker room – the locker room of a team that now remains very much alive in the AFC South.
"We needed it bad," wide receiver Allen Hurns said.
Cornerback Aaron Colvin agreed.
"We needed it bad, man," Colvin, who made his presence at the nickel position felt immediately in his first game back from a four-game, season-opening suspension. "I've been talking to some of my boys saying how we're going to make a run. That's the first start to doing it."
Now, it's true that what transpired Sunday for a long, long time did not feel like the start of a run. This was by any measure a dismal offensive performance for much of three quarters. At 13-0 late in the third quarter this had the feel of a season-clinching game – and when we say "season-clinching," we don't mean it with a slew of positive connotations.
You know what winning does? It makes things like that go away – or it at least makes them seem a lot less important.
This team now has won two consecutive games. Because of that the lost, frustrated feelings of a three-game season-opening losing streak are fading. No, they'll never get the "what-if?" losses to Green Bay and Baltimore back, but the season feels a lot less lost now.
That's because it indeed is a lot less lost. That's more than a feeling. That's real.
The Jaguars with Sunday's victory now have turned a despondent 0-3 into a hopeful 2-3. And because the rest of the AFC South has done its share of stumbling and bumbling in the first six weeks, the division is very much wide open.
Here's what else the Jaguars did Sunday. They won on the road, something they only had done once in 17 games, and they did it with some observers believing this team couldn't show real signs of improvement – and with some observers believing all of the optimistic talk surrounding this team was destined to be just that.
Sunday's victory doesn't guarantee anything. The Jaguars are still under .500 and still must do a lot of winning to be as improved as they believed they would be entering the season.
But Sunday's victory coupled with the pre-bye Week victory over the Colts gives the Jaguars some important things. It gives them at least a sliver of momentum. It gives them some credibility. Mostly, it gives them hope – and gives them some legitimate reasons to feel good.
They can feel good about a defense that allowed just one touchdown Sunday – and three second-half points. Considering the stagnant nature of the offense, the defense's effort was first rate.
They also can feel good about their resiliency. At 13-0, folding would have been easy. Instead, they played one of their best quarters of the season in the fourth.
And maybe – just maybe – they can start feeling good about the quarterback. Bortles by any measure struggled in the season's first three games. He struggled at times in London against Indianapolis, but he was clutch late. He struggled for three quarters Sunday, but – again – he was clutch late.
Early in the fourth quarter Sunday, Bortles lost a fumble when sacked by Willie Young. It was a similar play to back-breaking Bortles turnovers early in the season.
On Sunday, the turnover broke no backs. Instead, Bortles completed 10 of 13 passes for 151 yards and the game-winning 51-yard touchdown to Arrelious Benn after the turnover.
That's good stuff, and if it doesn't mean Bortles has arrived as elite, it does mean he twice in two weeks has made key fourth-quarter plays. It meant that instead of losing a game they could have won on Sunday, the Jaguars won a game they certainly could have lost.
It wasn't pretty. They weren't dominant. But those things paled in importance to what the Jaguars were when they walked off the field.
They were winners. They were 2-3. They were still very much in the AFC South.
They did it. They won.
And nothing else Sunday mattered much compared to that.