OAKLAND, Cal. – At last.
At last, at last, at last …
We could come up with something cleverer, more insightful and much wordier to say about Jaguars 20, Oakland Raiders 16, but how many more words are really needed to describe what happened at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in front of 52,788 Sunday afternoon?
The Jaguars won. At last. And that says plenty.
"It was an awesome experience to be here," rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew II said after he threw two touchdown passes in the final 5:15 to rally the Jaguars to their first victory since late October.
"I saw more middle fingers today than I have my whole life. They have a good time. It was fun to ruin that for them."
Minshew was talking about the game's overriding storyline – that the Jaguars had won the Raiders' final game in Oakland, their final game in their legendary stadium. And Minshew – as usual – indeed delivered the money quote for the happy winners.
But there was another theme for this team Sunday, one voiced by Minshew and pretty much every one of his teammates who spoke afterward in the antiquated visitors' locker room. That theme was this:
The Jaguars showed heart and grit Sunday. They didn't quit when they very much could have quit.
That meant something. That mattered.
"These games are the most fun," Minshew said. "They suck for like 90 percent of it and you feel like crap. Then you just keep grinding and finding a way. We kept grinding. We kept finding a way. It would have been easy just to say, 'We're not doing it right now. It's not working.'
"Our guys kept plugging, kept pushing. We found a way."
Such was the mood in the winning locker room Sunday. Ecstatic? Nah, not exactly, because this victory wasn't about playoff possibilities or even saving the season. Relief? Yeah, maybe a little because this victory was about simply that: getting a victory.
Mostly, it was just cool to win. At last.
"We got that win – a great team win," defensive end Josh Allen said. "Gardner's a dog. The offense stayed battling. The defense stayed battling. We got a win. We needed that one."
We'll get to some details momentarily, but this game wasn't necessarily about details. Or about saving a season. The Jaguars remain eliminated from the postseason, and Sunday's victory won't likely have a major impact on what Owner Shad Khan will decide about the franchise's decision-making direction come the end of what remains a long season.
No, this game was about a feeling – and more specifically, it was about changing the feeling.
Losing changes, a feeling around an organization, and losing five consecutive games by 17 or more points as the Jaguars did in November and early December shrouds franchises with blankets of weariness, distress and depression. No, winning Sunday won't make all well around the Jaguars, but it will make things feel a little better for a day or two – and it sure made the Jaguars' locker-room a more pleasant place Sunday than it had been in quite some time.
Marrone said afterward that he didn't believe the team had quit during the losing streak, and he spoke with some pride about how the Jaguars rallied Sunday.
"At the end of the day, the one thing that I will say about the coaches and the players is that they have continued to work hard, they have continued to practice hard," Marrone said. "When you can go out and play and come from behind and get a win like this obviously it is something that you can feel good about."
This was a game that at halftime felt eerily and wearily like pretty much every game in the five-game losing streak. The Jaguars trailed 16-3. They had two first downs. They again couldn't stop the run or the pass. They had been outgained 273-75.
This would have been an easy time to quit. Instead, the Jaguars held the Raiders to 91 second-half yards. The Jaguars got a field goal from Josh Lambo late in the third quarter, then Minshew twice drove the Jaguars for touchdowns late in the game.
He passed six yards to Conley with 5:15 remaining, and when he passed four yards to Conley with :31 remaining the Black Hole was eerily quiet. And if you didn't think this one mattered to the Jaguars – or if you thought they had quit – then you weren't watching the celebration moments later when Raiders quarterback Derek Carr's final Hail Mary landed harmlessly incomplete.
"It's so huge," Allen said. "Outside of this [locker room], it might not mean a lot. To us, it means a lot. It means everything."
Yes, it meant a lot – because it showed they hadn't quit, and because they won't have to feel the depressed feeling, they have felt for the past few weeks. At least not for a little while. And that's what was the coolest for the Jaguars Sunday – that they won.
At last, at last, at last …