JACKSONVILLE – One workmanlike day down, a month to go.
There was more to the Jaguars' 30-10 victory over the Indianapolis Colts Sunday than that, but didn't something about the day have a take-care-of-today-and-move-on-to-next-week feel?
The Jaguars needed a victory to maintain playoff positioning. They needed a victory to achieve Head Coach Doug Marrone's goal of winning the third quarter of the season. They needed a victory to put a disappointing loss in the rear view.
They got that victory in impressive fashion. But the important thing?
They got it.
Images of the Jaguars Week 13 matchup against AFC South Rival Indianapolis Colts.
"We needed this," tight end Marcedes Lewis said after the Jaguars pulled steadily away from their AFC South rivals in front of 61,207 at EverBank Field.
A cool thing for those fans? The Jaguars made it look easy, something they hadn't done much in the last three games. They took an early 10-0 lead, extended it to 16-3 by halftime and celebration outweighed nervous perspiration for Jaguars Nation by game's end.
Another cool thing?
This was the third consecutive home victory, which might put to rest all of those Jaguars-can't-win-at-the-'Bank theories in October that were as prominent as they were silly. They also needed to keep pace with the Tennessee Titans, who remain tied for first place in the AFC South with the Jaguars at 8-4 following a hold-on-for-dear-life victory over Houston in Nashville Sunday.
How big was Sunday's victory? Really big.
"If you don't handle business in December, you're not going to get to where you want to go," defensive end Calais Campbell said. "We have a very tough division. Tennessee is finding a way to gut out tough wins. Our goal is to win the division.
"December football is championship football. We have to win in December."
Never mind that the Jaguars beat the Colts 27-0 at Indianapolis in mid-October. And never mind that the Jaguars entered Sunday heavily favored. Those things mattered little.
What mattered was that the Jaguars needed this game. They hadn't lost two consecutive games this season, and a second consecutive loss Sunday to a team they had dominated a month ago would have felt like more than one loss – and it sure would have sapped the last of the momentum that had been built during the four-game winning streak that pushed the Jaguars to 7-3.
The Jaguars averted those things Sunday.
The Jaguars won Sunday because quarterback Blake Bortles had perhaps the best day of his career, playing efficiently on third downs early and completing 26 of 35 passes for 309 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.
They won because Jaguars wide receivers caught passes on big plays Sunday whereas in recent weeks too often they dropped them. Rookie wide receiver Keelan Cole admitted after the game eliminating drops was a major focus this week. It showed, with Cole and veteran Marqise Lee both making tough catches for touchdowns in the first half Sunday.
They also won because special teams turned a fake punt into a first down. A 29-yard pass by punter Brad Nortman to tight end James O'Shaughnessy kept alive the drive that ended with a four-yard touchdown pass from Bortles to Lee for a 7-0 lead. Considering how the Colts had been keeping recent opponents close, don't underestimate the importance of the Jaguars getting an early lead Sunday.
Mostly, of course, the Jaguars won because a defense that has played at a high level all season continued to do so with four sacks and two interceptions. The Colts had 294 yards offense and crossed midfield just three times before a 63-yard drive on the game's last series. One of the drives ended in a field goal and another ended in a touchdown. The third ended with an interception by cornerback Jalen Ramsey at the Jaguars 7 in the waning seconds of the first half, a play that secured a 16-3 lead and seemed to end the Colts' chances – in spirit, if not in fact.
Yes, this one mattered a lot. This one was special. And because the Jaguars won, the coming weeks look special, too. Sunday was the first of a three-game home stand. Up next: Seattle. After that: Houston.
Think the 'Bank won't be buzzing in a week with the Seahawks coming to town? Think this Jaguars' defense won't be buzzing even louder, and playing hotter than their normal feverish intensity?
Yes, next Sunday indeed will be special – and the next month could be. The Jaguars must keep winning for that to be the case, but the first step was winning Sunday. The Jaguars took that step.
"If you're not on your game, you can get beat; it happens every week," Lewis said. "It's about getting better today. It's professional football. It's one of those things: if we want to be a respected team then we need to win in December. This is a good start."
One workmanlike day down, a month to go.
And what a month it has potential to be.