Toward the end of the game with the Titans, even after Josh Scobee hit a field goal to give the Jaguars a 5-point lead I sent a Tweet with the hashtag #noleadfeelssafe. Perhaps a bit cynical, but honestly a comment not necessarily on how the Jaguars have played this year but how hard it is to learn how to win in the NFL.
That’s right learn how to win.
They’re a young team without much success this year so winning games is as much a learned art as it is something that could come naturally. Twice the Jaguars have had 14-point leads on the road only to see them go away late. Even in their opener in Minnesota (which seems like a lifetime ago) the team had a lead that they easily could have held on to but let slip away.
“We have to learn how to get out of our own way,” Jeremy Mincey said in the post-win locker room. “We didn’t play as well as we can but we found a way and that’s important.”
Head Coach Mike Mularkey agreed, “We just made plays at the right time. Little things, getting to third and short. Good special teams play. All three phases doing their part.”
The Jaguars got solid if unspectacular play across the board but they didn’t make a critical mistake at the wrong time. They didn’t have a critical penalty negate a good play. On the other side of the equation, they made the routine catch and occasionally came up with something special.
Cecil Shorts became the first Jaguars receiver to have 4 50-yard or more receptions for TD’s. Not Jimmy. Not Keenan (they both have three). Cecil Shorts. Remember, this is a guy who had two catches last year and looked like one of those busts of a reach from a small school (Mount Union). Instead, he looks like a guy who is progressing into a bona fide NFL receiver.
Justin Blackmon came in with the credentials but up until last week, nothing of note on his professional resume. Last week he racked up yards, this week he made the critical catches that kept the Jaguars in control.
“It’s us coming together as a unit,” Blackmon said in front of his locker. “It’s not really about me. Chad played well, Cecil played well, Marcedes made plays. When that happens, things go well.”
While that’s true, Mularkey has seen Blackmon’s progress.
“I’ve seen it every week. He’s taking it from the practice field to the games and I credit Jerry Sullivan (Blackmon’s position coach). The first step, crisp cuts. Those things I’ve see in practice that he’s now doing on Sunday.”
“I’ve never been on a team like this,” Montel Owens said when asked about the Jaguars ability to stick together. “This team works hard. We practice hard. We’ve practiced hard after the losses and we’ll keep it up. Don’t flinch.”
With that, Rashad Jennings in the next locker chuckled and chimed in with “Why.” And he’s right of course. Why flinch at 1-9 or even 2-9? Go out, do your job and try to get better each day, good things might happen.
“I’m pleased for those guys in the locker room,” Mularkey said at the podium. “The way they work, how they approach it every day. There are a lot of quality people in there and to see it pay off with a win is great.”