CLEVELAND, Ohio – Well, what do you know?
The Jaguars have gone and gotten themselves an honest-to-goodness winning streak.
The surging Jaguars, of course, had a statistical three-game winning streak entering a frigid, wet, kinda-sloppy, hold-your-breath 19-7 victory over the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium Sunday. But what was statistically a streak now feels more real.
The Jaguars now have won four consecutive games, their longest winning streak since 2007. They're alone in first place in the AFC South.
OK, so maybe Sunday wasn't pretty – and maybe the breath had to be held longer than felt comfortable …
You know what? So what?
Four consecutive victories. First place.
"In the NFL, we take every win with pride; it's hard to win in this league," defensive end Calais Campbell said after yet another stifling Jaguars defensive performance. "That team was hungry and they played great football today. We stayed focused and did what we had to do to win."
This wasn't a boastful, cocky Jaguars team in Sunday's post-game as much as one that did what it expected to do, what it needed to do.
"Good teams find different ways to win ballgames, and we're doing that right now," said tight end Marcedes Lewis, the only player in the Jaguars' locker room who heretofore has experienced a four-game Jaguars winning streak.
"Obviously, it wasn't as clean a game as we would like, but this is the NFL. It's so tough to win games in this league. To win four in a row … that's exciting for us.
Images of the Week 11 matchup with the Cleveland Browns.
"Regardless of what anybody was saying, this game was big for us. We knew that coming in."
Jaguars Head Coach Doug "Bologna-and-Cheese" Marrone talked Sunday not of post-game sandwich choices as he did a week before. Rather, he talked of a team a winning team that had work to do.
"We felt like we had some opportunities we didn't take advantage of, and we made some mistakes out there," Marrone said. "I told that to the team. There are a lot of things we have to clean up, but that's a whole lot easier to do when you win football games."
Marrone's comments felt right Sunday.
This was a game the Jaguars needed to win, a game they should have won. But it was no easy circumstance they faced. The Jaguars were in the unfamiliar situation of being a huge road favorite. They were playing in decidedly northern weather conditions. They were playing a team that clearly had not quit on anything despite technically having little for which to play.
So, what did the Jaguars do? They left Cleveland the way they arrived.
"We're 7-3 ahead in the division with all of our goals intact," Campbell said.
How did they get here? Well, they got there Sunday in a familiar way/relatively surprising way.
They got here because the defense remains one of the NFL's best. Did you ever feel like the Browns would score in the second half Sunday? Really?
They won because that defense not only stops team, it scores. It registered its fifth defensive touchdown of the season. It should have had more Sunday. It should have a lot more this season. Defensive points are no longer a fluke for the Jaguars. Neither are defensive victories.
They won, too, because rookie Leonard Fournette grinded and willed his way to a 100-yard game. Fournette showed real toughness playing through an ankle injury. He said afterward the ankle won't be 100 percent until after the season. Only rest will get him to full health, he said, and he has no plans to rest for a long while.
How long until the young, tough, talented rookie rests? Well that remains to be seen. It feels like it could be a while
The Jaguars are good – yes, good enough to make the playoffs and win once they get there. And yes, they're good enough to make their one-game lead over Tennessee in the AFC South stand up. But they're not dominant – and they're far from consistent or efficient enough offensive to assume a division title or wild-card spot.
The final six games? This final push to the postseason? It won't be easy.
But you know what? So what?
That's a big goal and big goals are supposed to be hard. And worrying about it can be done another day. For a day at least, if you're a Jaguars fan, enjoy this:
The last time the Jaguars lost? Thirty-five days ago. To the Los Angeles Rams at EverBank Field. That's right: it has been more than a month since the Jaguars lost.
In that time, they have emerged as contenders. Yes, the Jaguars are in this thing and it looks like they're in it to stay. They have gone and gotten themselves a real, honest-to-goodness winning streak that suddenly feels a little more like a winning streak.
What do you know?