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Win salvages Jags' season


They saved their season. That's what it means. It's just that simple.

With their surprisingly easy 35-17 win over the surprisingly woeful Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, the Jaguars literally guaranteed themselves two more weeks of being a playoff contender. That's what 4-4 does for a team on a bye week heading into the final two months of the season.

Consider the alternative for the Jaguars. Had they lost this game, and they were clearly underdogs heading into it, they would be 3-5 and needing to win seven of their final eight games to have any realistic chance of making it into the postseason. Seven of eight? Forget about it.

At 4-4, however, six of eight would likely do the trick and even though 6-2 is a tall order for a team that has suffered four lopsided defeats over the first half of the season, everything would change if this team was to inexplicably get hot. Hey, you never know, right?

"If we had lost this game, it would've been hard to make up the ground. This game definitely kept us in it," cornerback Rashean Mathis said.

Perspective is such a fickle friend or enemy. In victory, all seems well with the world. In defeat, all becomes doom and gloom.

The Jaguars' perspective was radically altered under the giant video board of Dallas Cowboys Stadium on Sunday. This is the new attitude: At 4-4, the Jaguars have Houston and Cleveland coming to Jacksonville in the weeks following the bye week. Just win at home and the Jaguars would find themselves 6-4 and clearly in the thick of the AFC wild-card race.

"If we play the way we can, good things are going to happen," linebacker Kirk Morrison said.

Good things really have happened through the first half of the season.

  • The Jaguars' offseason quest to radically improve the team's pass-rush is officially a success. With two sacks in Dallas, the Jaguars have 14 for the season, which ties the total for all of last season.
  • David Garrard is hot and so are the weapons around him. Just when the fan base wanted to bury Garrard – when hasn't the fan base wanted to bury him? – he came to life in Dallas with one of the best performances of his life. Can you say four touchdown passes, 12 straight completions to begin the game and a 157.8 passer rating? Hey, who needs Todd Bouman, huh?
  • Meanwhile, Maurice Jones-Drew ripped off 135 yards on 27 bell-cow carries, Mike Sims-Walker made a diva-like eight receptions for 153 yards and a touchdown, Mike Thomas came back to life with four catches after being shut out in Kansas City, and Marcedes "Steady Eddie" Lewis just keeps pouring it on, this time with two catches for two touchdowns.

You want really good news? OK, Derek Cox is back, baby. He turned in the top performance by a Jaguars defensive back – isn't that an oxymoron?—this season by intercepting two passes, knocking away three passes and tackling everything that wandered to his side of the field.

Mathis got his first interception of the season and, believe it or not, the Jaguars secondary played well enough on Sunday to be considered a strength. Yeah, it really did.

All of this begs the question: Are the Cowboys really that bad or are the Jaguars really capable of playing at that kind of high level? The answer is: both.

Yes, the Jaguars can play at a high level. Garrard has done it before. Jones-Drew has done it before. Lewis does it nearly every week and Sims-Walker is starting to get that diva look in his eye. Hey, he's a wide receiver; it's what they do. I know, they shouldn't do things like dance on the star on the Cowboys' helmet after they score a touchdown, but it's what wide receivers do and, well, Sims-Walker is a wide receiver and he did it.

The Jaguars had a cocky look about them on  Sunday. They stopped the run, they stopped the pass, they rushed the passer. They ran the ball, they made big plays in the passing game and, oh, by the way, did anybody notice whether DeMarcus Ware was in the game or not? Ware wouldn't even have made it onto the "final defensive statistics" sheet had it not been for one harmless quarterback hurry.

So wadda ya think of Eugene Monroe now, huh? Wadda ya think of the Jaguars? Do you love them today as much as you hated them last week, following the loss in Kansas City?

What you probably love the most about them is they appear to be a team that is on the rise and can play well enough to win a game you never thought they could win. What you probably hate the most about them is that just when you're starting to love them, they make you hate them.

Is there any chance that trend will end in the second half of the season?

"Feels like our best football is in front of us. We just want to build on that. We expect to have some good days in front of us. We talked about setting the tone for a good break and then coming back and earning our way," Head Coach Jack Del Rio said in his postgame press conference.

"Earning our way," by the way, is coachspeak for making it into the playoffs. Del Rio wasn't as direct with his expectations following Sunday's win but, clearly, they still include making it into the postseason.

"We feel we haven't played our best football, yet. We still have our best football ahead of us," Morrison said.

Yeah, Del Rio was selling the "best football" routine in his postgame address to his team. Who knows? Maybe they honestly haven't played their best football, though, it might be tough to top the horse-whipping the Jaguars put on a once-proud Cowboys franchise that is 1-6 and has the look of quit on.

Best football? How about consistent football? That's the bigger question. Can the Jaguars abandon the routine of following their best football by playing their worst football?

"We have to believe we can. If we don't believe, it won't happen for us. We can make anything happen," Garrard said.

"You know that's our mindset. We're going to build from this," Lewis said.

The answer will come quickly. The answer will come at home against Houston and Cleveland. The Jaguars have given themselves a chance, but perspective changes more decidedly in the second half of the season. The games will get bigger with each passing week.

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