An offseason of intense commitment was re-inforced by the sweet taste of victory on Sunday. Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio quickly turned attention toward his team's second game, in San Diego.
"It was great to have that effort and commitment pay off in our first game. We have to keep it in perspective, but it's validation of this work. We'll quickly put that behind us and get ready for the San Diego Chargers," Del Rio said at his Monday press conference.
His Jaguars scored one of the feel-good victories in franchise history on Sunday, a 24-17 win over visiting Denver at EverBank Field. It was a game that never lacked for billing. Now the Jaguars have to find the same energy for their trip to the West Coast, which wasn't a kind venue for last year's team.
"We'd like to do more offensively than we did. We weren't good enough on third down. The quarterback was very efficient, not turning it over, and the line protected for him," Del Rio said in praise of David Garrard, who registered the third-best passer rating in Jaguars history, 138.9, which is also the best in 10 years.
Garrard didn't post gaudy numbers – he completed 16 of 21 passes for 170 yards – but three of his tosses went for touchdowns. Most importantly, he avoided costly turnovers.
Meanwhile, defensive end Aaron Kampman and linebacker Daryl Smith posted sensational stats. Kampman registered nine tackles, six quarterback hurries and 1.5 sacks. Smith made 11 tackles, one of which was for a loss, forced a fumble and clinched the win with a final-minute interception.
Kampman and Smith shared game balls for defense, Tiquan Underwood got the special teams game ball for his two long kickoff returns, and tight end Marcedes Lewis got the game ball for offense.
Lewis caught two touchdown passes. On his first, he out-ran exhausted linebacker Mario Haggan to the end zone.
"We knew they were gassed way before that. You look for certain tips," Lewis said, referring to the effects on the Broncos of the hottest game in Jaguars history. The temperature at kickoff was 90 degrees and the thermometer topped out at 93 during the game.
Why were the Jaguars able to deal with the heat better than the Broncos, Lewis was asked?
"Maybe because we practice in hell," he said.
Practice shouldn't seem as painful to the Jaguars this week, largely because at 1-0 they find themselves tied for the AFC South lead with two other teams and, amazingly, one of them isn't Indianapolis. Houston's upset win over the defending AFC-champion Colts gives the rest of the division hope.
"I'm sure the Texans feel pretty good about closing that out," Del Rio said, referring to the fact that Houston has lost leads late in games with the Colts in recent years. "Obviously, I took note of that ballgame yesterday," the coach added, dryly.
As it turned out, the combination of the Jaguars' win, the Colts' loss and the new-found energy of a re-ignited fan base pushed the Tim Tebow story off the front page, metaphorically speaking, of course. Del Rio said on Monday that he never bought into the Tebow hype.
"I never looked at it the way everybody else did. It became just another piece in the preparation. It wasn't a big part of our preparation," Del Rio said.
Tebow was in the game for three plays and carried the ball twice for two yards total. The bigger story was the Jaguars and the challenge they answered.
"There was a little challenge put forth to me, right?" Del Rio said in including himself in the offseason demands. "My whole deal was I was going to be as passionate as I can every day."
Call it buzz, call it hype or whatever you please, but it's real and Jacksonville has bought into it, too.