JACKSONVILLE – You want it? Go earn it.
If Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone isn't saying these things to players this week, it may be because uttering the words aloud isn't necessary.
Yeah, the Jaguars' game Sunday has that feel – even if they don't really want to say it.
"Statement game? We don't want to put that kind of pressure on this game," safety Tashaun Gipson said as the Jaguars (8-4) prepared to play the Seattle Seahawks (8-4) at EverBank Field Sunday at 4:25 p.m. "We know it's a big-time game and there are a lot of implications."
So, not even the teeniest, tiniest feeling of wanting to make a statement?
"This is one of the games where I don't think anybody thinks we can pull this game off," Gipson said. "So, obviously if you get a win … huge … in December …"
Gipson added with smile: "A little teeny, tiny bit? Of course it is. Don't let me lie."
That's how it went around the Jaguars' locker room this week. Some players talked a bit about the idea of beating Seattle maybe being a statement. Most followed the lead of Marrone, who spoke of focusing on the task at hand.
"I'll ask the team, 'What does that do?' Is that going to help us win the game?''' Marrone said of contributing to the hype of the biggest game at EverBank Field in a decade.
But make no mistake:
The storyline of respect – tired and trite as it may seem – resonates this week. When Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey was asked Wednesday about this game being a "statement game," he noted that the Jaguars haven't gotten the respect they wanted yet this season – not even after a 30-9 victory over the now 10-2 Pittsburgh Steelers early this season.
Cornerback A.J. Bouye echoed the sentiment.
"No matter what happens, even if we win, there's going to be someone who doubts us or has something negative to say," Bouye said. "We can use it as motivation, but why worry about making it a statement game? It's the next game.
"What we did to Pittsburgh [a game that featured five interceptions off quarterback Ben Roethlisberger] … how was that not a statement game? I don't hear anybody saying Roethlisberger's retiring now. Now, they're the 'best team in the AFC.' What does that tell you about how people look at the Jaguars?
"We can't worry about that. We have to focus on what we can and that's ballin'."
Jaguars players talked after beating the Colts this past Sunday about the importance of winning in December to earn respect, and that victory indeed sent a necessary message that the Jaguars are ready to beat teams they should beat as the playoffs draw near.
Beating the Seahawks would have a decidedly different feel.
The Seahawks are tough. And playoff-proven. And experienced. And confident. They don't "think" they can win a tough game on the road such as Sunday's, they "expect" to win – and that matters late in tight, road games. They have one of the NFL's most-dangerous quarterbacks, Russell Wilson, a player who can beat you even when you've done more than enough right on a play to beat him.
Something else the Seahawks have: respect, and reputation. They're the "Legion of Boom." They have made the postseason the last five seasons, and always they have the feel of one of the postseason's toughest outs.
For the Jaguars this week, there is something else still:
The Seahawks for a half-decade have held the mantle of the NFL's best defense. They led the NFL in points allowed from 2012-2015 and were third last season. They are seventh this season, and are without two of the more renowned Boom members – safety Kam Chancellor and cornerback Richard Sherman – but free safety Earl Thomas is perhaps the NFL's best free safety, and there's no perhaps about the Seahawks' defense: They're still proud, still good and still a reason the Seahawks are dangerous as the postseason approaches.
The Jaguars' defense has a similar feel to the Seahawks' defense of 2013 – an ascending group hungry to take its place as a dominant NFL force. The Jaguars through 12 games this season have the NFL's best defense. They lead the NFL in points allowed, yards allowed, passing yards allowed, sacks and so on and so on …
Those statistics are as real, and so is the Jaguars' defensive dominance this season.
Doing it against the Seahawks …
Beating the Seahawks …
Yes, that would be worthy of respect. Yes, that would be a statement. For the defense – and indeed for the entire Jaguars team. At some point in the NFL, old guards are replaced. Sunday is the Jaguars' chance. For ascension, for a statement – and yes, for respect.
It's there for the taking. Now, they have to earn it.