View from the O-Zone: "Hell of a game…"

APTOPIX Jaguars Broncos Football
Jacksonville Jaguars kicker Josh Lambo, above, celebrates with teammates after making a game-winning field goal during the second half of an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos, Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

DENVER, Colo. – This was one happy man.

Was it fair to call Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone giddy in the postgame Sunday?

Yeah, that was fair – and telling, too.

"How 'bout that, huh? Hell of a job, hell of a game..." a wide-smiling Marrone said early Sunday evening in the wake of a heart-stopping, 26-24, last-play, come-from-behind Jaguars victory over the Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High.

Yes, Marrone was happy. And giddy. And why the hell not?

Marrone had every reason to be pleased, just as the players celebrating in the Jaguars' locker room had every reason to feel good about a victory that was unquestionably impressive and could end up being very important.

Here's what's perhaps most interesting about Sunday's game: 

While the pinch-me story of rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew II undoubtedly will be a major theme nationally, it was the team's overall performance in adverse situations that could have the longest-lasting effect on this season.

"It shows our resiliency as a team," Minshew said afterward.

Resiliency …

That was the word the player at the center of the national phenomenon that has become Minshew Mania used more than once afterward, and why not? 

The Jaguars played without cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who missed a game for the first time in his NFL career – and that wasn't even the greatest adversity the Jaguars overcame Sunday.

They trailed by two touchdowns in the second quarter …

They trailed by double digits early in the second half …

They missed a chance at momentum late in the first half when a touchdown was negated by one of a slew of penalties on the offensive line …

Finally, they allowed the Broncos to take the lead with 1:32 remaining with an eight-yard pass from quarterback Joe Flacco to wide receiver Courtland Sutton – this after the Jaguars led the entire fourth quarter…

Yes, more than enough happened for this to be remembered as a winnable game that slipped away.

Except it didn't happen that way.

It didn't because the Jaguars – after spending the week talking about improving the running game – did just that, with running back Leonard Fournette rushing for a career-high 225 yards and the team as a whole rushing for 269 yards. 

But more than anything, the Jaguars won because their rookie quarterback continued to show gutsiness – resilience – far beyond his years.

Minshew, after throwing two third-quarter touchdown passes that turned an 11-point halftime deficit into a fourth-quarter lead, led the Jaguars on a 60-yard play in the final minute and a half. He turned a fumbled snap into a short completion, a completion that a 15-yard penalty on Broncos linebacker Von Miller turned into a key first down. 

One play after the pass to Chark, Minshew passed to wide receiver Dede Westbrook, who spun and dove for a 32-yard gain. That moved the Jaguars into field-goal range, and a 17-yard completion to wide receiver Chris Conley two plays later made what moments earlier felt like a frustrating Jaguars loss feel close to a formality.

Forget Minshew Mania.

This was just, plain veteran stuff from a player who just never seems to act like a rookie.

"You can tell he's built for these type of situations," Westbrook said. "The point of the game doesn't really matter. He's going to go out and execute play after play. He's been doing a terrific job."

Kicker Josh Lambo's 33-yard field goal on the game's final play secured the victory, but make no mistake: 

The theme in the locker room afterward was resilience and Minshew, and how both of those storylines rolled easily and importantly into one critical theme.

The Jaguars? Resilient? Damned right they are.

"It means a lot," Westbrook said. "You pretty much can see from the final drive, being able to come back like we did and get this win, it shows the character of the men we have in this room."

Said Fournette: "Despite the adversity we have going on, this team is a fighting team – no matter what anyone says."

In that last quote – Fournette calling the Jaguars a "fighting team" – is the reason for Marrone's giddiness Sunday, and the reason that giddiness was so telling. This Jaguars team wasn't always resilient last season, and didn't always handle adversity. 

It absolutely has handled it well this season – beginning with Ramsey's well-publicized incident in Houston in Week 2 and continuing through that off-field drama. This Jaguars team fights and doesn't quit, and it sure didn't quit in Denver Sunday.

So, was Marrone happy Sunday? Were he and just about every player in the locker room giddy?

Unquestionably. And why the hell not?

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