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Jaguars defeat Carolina: Media Wrap-up!

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It's time for our final look back at what happened on Sunday, as well as a re-cap of what the rest of the world is saying about our Jaguars.  After that, it'll be full on "Steelers Week" as we prepare for what should be a huge December test for the Jaguars.  But let's not get ahead of ourselves just yet.

Let's start with some odds and ends from Sunday:

Fred Taylor: On Fire: Before we get to anything less important, let's take a moment and admire the game that Fred Taylor had on Sunday.  Even with the Fumble, he had a fantastic day with 132 yards rushing, most of which came on a 80 yard touchdown run.  That run, for an hour or so, was the longest play from scrimmage all season in the NFL, but Chester Taylor would pass it later with an 84 yard run.  The 80 yard scramble was the Jaguars longest in regular season history, one of very few records that Taylor didn't already have.

Fred also passed Eddie George and Tiki Barber for 18th on the all-time rushing list.  Fred's averaging 4.9 yards per carry, has 944 on the season, and is doing mighty fine toward his career goal of 12,500.  He'd need one more season and 107 yards a game to do it, or two seasons averaging 58.3 to move from fringe Hall of Fame candidate to sure thing.

Here are Fred's post game comments:

(on making the Pro Bowl) "It's not up to me. I just go out there and play as hard as I can. I would like everyone on the face of the planet to vote for me but it's not up to me at the end of the day, so we will just see."
(on running through some of the defenders) "The scouting report on those safeties was to just run into them and force them to tackle. When I got into the open field I got an opportunity to see if they were going to tackle me or not. I put my head down and ended up getting some positive yards."
(on how you are playing) "This is probably the best I have felt all year as far as an overall game. I was able to catch the ball off some short dumps, I showed some good burst, but I am still upset about that 23-yard fumble that took those yards. I got to keep working."
(on having the longest two runs of the season in the NFL) "I try to take care of myself on a week-to-week basis. In the offseason I work hard. Throughout the course of the season I try to eat right, stretch, I get massages like crazy and I just started acupuncture. I use a chiropractor. I'm really not feeling this well as it might seem out there sometimes, but I am trying to keep my head up. I'm trying to do all the small things so good things will happen."
(on the offense) "I feel good about our offense. I still think that we are leaving points on the field; my fumble and they stopped us on fourth down. We work real hard all week and the guys are studying hard. I think our receivers are really underrated. They need to start getting some credit because they have been busting their butts, especially downfield blocking in the run game. The tight ends are going a great job in allowing us to stretch the run to get outside. They have made some good catches. I think our offense is poised to take off and is getting better each week."

Battle Brewing at Left Tackle: You might have noticed that Offensive Tackle Richard Collier was active on Sunday, rather than having Guard Uche Nwaneri as a Offensive LIne backup.  You might have even noticed that Richard too the place of Left Tackle Khalif Barnes at times during the game.  Yeah, you're reading this right, an undrafted free-agent out of Valdosta State University replaced a 2nd round talent.  It speaks volumes for the talent in Collier that he's even in discussion for a starting role on the team.  Especially if you knew what he had to over come in order to reach the NFL:

Collier didn't have the grades or test scores to attend most colleges out of high school, so he gave up football and worked at a Wal-Mart in Shreveport, La.

He eventually enrolled at Tyler Junior College in Texas, but showed up weighing 390 pounds and having not worked out in two years.

Collier got his grades - and body - in order and transferred to Valdosta State in 2004. He helped the Blazers win the Division II national championship that season and earned All-America honors as a senior in 2005.

Nonetheless, the Jaguars were the only NFL team to show interest in Collier before the 2006 draft. He signed with Jacksonville as an undrafted rookie and made the roster mostly because the Jaguars knew they couldn't hide a 6-foot-7, 350-pound offensive lineman on the practice squad.

Now, I'm not saying there  is a battle brewing for the Left Tackle spot, but this move was clearly designed both to reward the rising talent in Collier and as a shot across the bow toward Barnes that he's gotta get his head straight or lose his starting spot.  Jacksonville has some unusual depth on the Offensive Line, something that few teams can claim.  

Jack Del Rio had this to say about the rotation:

Richard Collier has really been coming on and practicing very well, and we want to make sure we kept that competitive. He did a nice job. I saw him getting after some people today, and we wanted to give him a little taste

Dennis Norman also saw time in the second half.

Cornerback Confusion?: I was stunned to see some out of character movements by our cornerbacks on Sunday.  Rashean Mathis was glued to Steve Smith, even when he changed sides of the field.  Yeah, I'll wait a second to let that sink in.

...

...

Ok, here we go.  Jack Del Rio and Mike Smith decided to put our best cornerback on the Panthers best wide receiver.  To which I say, "Why the Hell didn't we do that with Reggie Wayne?".  But I'm just bitter.  Seriously though, for the first time in as long as I can remember watching Mathis, he was actually playing both sides of the field.  And he had a pretty damn good day to boot, though I think he got robbed of an interception.  Maybe doing the "shadow" gave him the confidence he needed after what can only be described as a disappointing season.

Jack Del Rio had this to say:  

I think anybody that was really watching the detail knows that we put Rashean (Mathis) on Steve Smith, top 15 early in the week.  We said we're going to put our Pro Bowler on their Pro Bowler and going to shadow him all day, and Rashean did a nice job of that. We got him out in the second half along with a few other guys but it was a good solid effort.

That last sentence is a huge relief, when I saw Terry Cousin come in and cover, I thought we had suffered another injury to Mathis and I was going to cry.  But no, Jack was just rotating some players in for some experience.  It's nice to be able to do that in december with a playoff spot a near likelihood.  Also, the solid performance against the Panthers passing game boosted the Jaguars overall standings from 22nd overall to 17th.  Which goes to show how crazy statistics can be...

Playoffs approaching Mathematical Certainty: Yeah, I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say that the Jacksonville Jaguars will make the playoffs.  No doubt about it.  In fact, some of the more mathier folks out there can prove it using their black magic statistics.  For example, good friend of Big Cat Country, Brian of NFL Stats.com, has determined that the Jaguars have a 98.52% chance of taking 2nd place in the AFC South, with only a 0.04 of getting the top spot.  Which is nothing but old news.  What is far more interesting is This Chart:

The number that matters is the 99.16% total chance that Jacksonville makes the playoffs, and the 92.46% chance that it's the 5th seed.    It'll be a trip to San Diego or Pittsburgh for the first playoff game, both (presumably) teams that we've already beat.

Another site, Sports Club Stats puts the total chance of making the playoffs at 92%, not quite as comfortable as I'd like, but solid nonetheless.  That site also breaks down the "impact" of each game this week and predicts how each outcome effects the overall chance.  By their logic, we're rooting for the Jaguars, Chiefs, Bills and Raiders, and against the Steelers, Titans, Browns and Colts.  I'm ok with that logic, they're all teams I'm happy to root against.

Stroud's Special Sprain Spectacular:  If you're like me, you cringed when you saw DT Marcus Stroud finally return to the lineup, only to take a nasty right ankle sprain and limp off field.  If only the Panthers had held onto the ball better, we'd be a bit healthier on the defensive line, but it won't be that way.  Jack Del Rio described the sprain as "pretty good", some news we didn't really need to hear.

Misc: Remember the days when we'd be excited if the Jaguars scored more than 18 points?  Those days seem pretty far behind us given where the numbers are this season.  Jacksonville is 10th in offense, three consecutive 400+ games, Jacksonville has scored 24 or more points in the last 7 games for the first time in team history, and we're averaging 28.3 points per game, only behind the Patriots in the AFC.  Finally, we've got eight 50 yard + plays, and six 50 yard + TD's on the season. Stats from here.

That's all for now, back later!

-Chris