JACKSONVILLE – They're back to even.
That's not great or awful, but it's important – and it's absolutely what the Jaguars needed to accomplish at TIAA Bank Field Sunday afternoon.
Jaguars 29, New York Jets 15.
That was the final on a gray, wet October day at the 'Bank, and how the Jaguars got there didn't matter as much as the fact that they did get there – which means they're .500 through eight games and very much in the postseason conversation.
Considering the alternative – and considering what the Jaguars overcame to get there – that's a darned good place to be.
"It means a lot," defensive end Dawuane Smoot said.
"It's great to get back to .500," said center Brandon Linder said, who called Sunday "a great team win."
Why such cause for celebration?
Isn't reaching .500 the same as reaching, well … average?
The answer in a sense is yes, but not all .500 records are created equal – and the Jaguars' 4-4 record is not only an accomplishment, but something that could propel them to bigger things. The Jaguars reached .500 despite injuries, despite the Week 1 loss of starting quarterback Nick Foles. They reached it with a rookie quarterback, and they reached it despite the Ramsey Saga and all that that implied.
Yes, the Jaguars had eight sacks and three takeaways Sunday …
And yes, rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew II played with the flair and savvy that's going to make an already tough decision about starting quarterback even tougher…
But as important as those storylines were Sunday, just as important is the growing feeling of players and coaches that the adversity of September and October could produce something memorable in November, December and even beyond.
"It's been a lot of work, but guys have been powering through," wide receiver Chris Conley said. "They stuck together. No one's pointed fingers. The offense has picked up the defense when the defense needed it. The defense picked up the offense when the offense needed it….
"I believe in the guys in this locker room. I've just seen guys shift to this point of always believing we're in it. Early on I didn't necessarily feel that. I feel that more now with a lot of guys – that they are in it for the guy next to them."
That's significant stuff from a veteran who has been around postseason teams in Kansas City the past four seasons. It also meshes with what Head Coach Doug Marrone has said about this team much of the season and what he reiterated Sunday.
"They are practicing hard," Marrone said. "They are communicating well. It's a good group. There's a lot of energy in that locker room in a good way. It's not childish or anything of that nature. So, I'm proud of the players, and I'm proud of the coaches, and I'm just happy to have the opportunity to help guide them."
That quote might not be significant from some coaches, but from Marrone it matters. He had a good vibe about the 2017 team that scrapped its way to the AFC Championship Game. He didn't discuss such things much in 2018, but he's talked since September about this team's resilience.
The Jaguars were a littleresilient Sunday, but mostly they played as they needed to play. They got a lead on a struggling Jets offense, then the defense turned that into a dominant performance.
Then, of course, there was Minshew …
The sixth-round rookie on Sunday turned in the best performance of the season, a considerable achievement considering he has won the NFL's Rookie of the Week Award often enough that the league may just name it in his honor.
Minshew had struggled at times the last two weeks, silencing at least somewhat the outside speculation that he could retain the starting job when Foles returns in mid-November. But Minshew on Sunday didn't just improve his starting record to 4-3, he did so mixing efficiency and magic. He played poised in the face of the blitzing defense of Jets coordinator Gregg Williams, avoiding pressure and committing just one turnover – that on a lost fumble.
He also again showcased a remarkable knack for creating production from potential disaster, first avoiding pressure before throwing a 70-yard first-quarter touchdown pass to Conley then doing so again with even more flair for a fourth-quarter, eight-yard, game-clinching touchdown pass to wide receiver DJ Chark Jr.
Marrone said afterward he hadn't made a Foles-Minshew decision because it wasn't yet time to decide. Either way, Sunday didn't make the choice easier.
But The Quarterback Decision … that's a story for another day.
The story for Sunday is the Jaguars won a second consecutive must-win game, this one with comparatively little drama. Because they did, they're back in the playoff conversation,
Yes, the Jaguars are back to even. Somehow, Someway.
And considering the alternative, that's a darned good place to be.