Photo: Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew, left, runs for fourth-quarter yardage against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2009, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phil Coale)
The morning after the Jaguars rallied to beat the visiting Buffalo Bills 18-15, a dense fog rolled in and covered Jacksonville. Although I'm 100% sure it's just a coincidence, and in no way prophetic, I feel like the fog is appropriate. At the moment, the 6-4 Jaguars are at the forefront of the AFC Wild Card race and one of the surprise teams of this season. However, their identity and future are still unclear.
After struggling most of the game to build any kind of rhythm, David Garrard once again pulled the offense together when it mattered most and lead the team to victory. Trailing 15-10 with about a minute left, Garrard hit Mike Sims-Walker from three yards out, with a feather-light, touch-pass. A thing of pure beauty. Garrard then added the exclamation point by running in the two-point conversion, putting the Jags up 18-15. The entire stadium (40,000 or so people that were inside the building) erupted in celebration.
Well, almost the entire stadium. I kind of just stood up and clapped. Don't get me wrong, I was thrilled that the Jags won. I just couldn't believe that's what it took to beat the Buffalo Bills; a team ranked at or near the bottom of just about every category you can think of. A touchdown in the final minute? Really?
Why couldn't the offense get going? The Jaguars have one of the most explosive running backs in the game today, in Maurice Jones-Drew. The Bills were coming in with the league's worst run defense and were missing their best defensive lineman, former Jaguar Marcus Stroud. The Jaguars were coming off a huge win in which they ran all over the league's best run defense. Jaguar domination seemed certain. What happened?
I'd have to watch it again to find out specifics, but regardless of what each team did or didn't do, this game just reiterates the fact that "on any given Sunday", stats and rankings are completely meaningless.
The "worst" run defense came out with a game plan to shut down Maurice Jones-Drew and succeeded. All day, the Jaguars' offensive line struggled to create holes for the running game and close holes in the pass protection. Jones-Drew was held to just 66 yards on 25 carries (2.6 yds/carry), and David Garrard was hurried all day, hit five times and sacked twice.
No, it wasn't pretty by any means. But it wasn't all ugly either. After all, the Jaguars, once again, fought to the very end and won. And in the end, that's all that matters. Now, with three wins in row, the Jaguars have some pretty good momentum going. The question is, "Can they continue to build on that momentum and become a team to be reckoned with in December?" I think they can.
The Jaguars have exceeded their 2008 win total and with that, all expectations any fan had for this year. It's been said all season they're rebuilding their roster, and consequently their identity. However, the ups and downs of this young football team make it hard to see exactly what that identity is.
Fortunately, whatever brand of football they play, it's clear that the Jaguars have the ability to go round-for-round and win football games. In due time, the fog will lift and the true identity of this Jaguars team will be revealed. But for right now, "Playoff Contender" sounds just fine to me.
I write Jaguars articles for the Urban Jacksonville blog. My first article on BCC was Is A Wild Card Enough? was posted by another writer from Urban Jacksonville. I'm looking forward to your comments and feedback.