“Learning how to win” sounds like such a trite phrase but when it comes to a pretty equal competition, it’s the team that knows how to win, or figures it out that comes out on top. My friend and ten-time Grand Slam champion Tony Trabert attributes winning to “knowing how to play the big points” in tennis.
In the second half of the season, the Jaguars look like they’re learning how “to play the big points.” In the first half of the year, the Jaguars looked outmanned every time they took the field. And save for Oakland and St. Louis, they were. But since the bye, Tennessee, Houston and Cleveland have had problems of their own equal to the Jaguars. And in those games the Jags have held their own, taking advantage of the other team’s mistakes. And that’s how you win in the NFL. You have to prepare, you have to execute, but when the opponent gives you an opportunity, you have to make them pay.
In the first half against Houston, the Jaguars did just that. Penalties and miscues by the Texans gave the Jaguars several “second” chances and they pounced on them, scoring 17 points.
While Houston had lost 10 straight coming into this game, they still have a lot of talent on their roster and remember, this is a team that was one of the favorites to go to the Super Bowl in 2013. They also know how to win, they just forgot for a while.
So when the Jaguars stopped producing on offense, the Texans took advantage of field position and made a game of it.
It didn’t hurt Houston that Head Coach Gary Kubiak put Matt Schaub in the game at quarterback. Schaub has played road games in the Jacksonville and knows the Jaguars aren’t going to put a lot of pressure on him in the pocket. So in his first drive he marched the Texans right down the field for a way-too-easy TD, 24-17 Jaguars. You could tell Schaub was playing “angry” with some real purpose in his actions. In fact, he brought some life to a heretofore-lifeless Texans team.
And this is where the Jaguars started making crucial mistakes.
Houston sends in their kicker to attempt a 51-yard field goal on 4th and 10. He misses it but the Jaguars are penalized for 12 men on the field. So Kubiak sends his offense back on the field and they convert easily. A much easier 30-yarder is made and it’s 24-20 Jaguars.
What a team does in times of stress is a good measure of who they actually are. In this situation the Jaguars could have stayed on their heels and let the Texans take control of the game. Instead, they relied on their instincts, went back to what they do best and that’s play hard. They’re not going to “out talent” anybody and when they are successful it’s usually pretty. But if you’re looking for effort, they’ll deliver.
Two different times, the Texans had the ball with a chance to take the lead but instead the defense for the Jaguars made a play. Once on fourth down and another with an interception by Geno Hayes that lead to a Scobee field goal and a 27-20 lead.
Say what you want about the quality of the opponents or how their winning but there’s something going on with Gus Bradley and the Jaguars that has a very positive feel about it.
Maybe this win didn’t change any minds of those watching around the country who like to make fun of Jacksonville and the Jaguars but here in town, and inside the stadium, there’s a momentum being built that has the potential to create a lot of fun.