No buts: Jacksonville Jaguars improving

December, 1, 2013
12/01/13
7:45
PM ET
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Yeah, but …

That was the reaction to the Jacksonville Jaguars' first two victories.

Jacksonville 29, Tennessee Titans 27: Yeah, but the Titans turned it over four times and gave the Jaguars a short field. The offense didn't have to put together any sustained drives.

Jacksonville 13, Houston Texans 6: Yeah, but the Texans and quarterback Case Keenum were awful offensively and the Jaguars did nothing on offense after the first quarter.

[+] EnlargeCecil Shorts
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsCecil Shorts' fourth-quarter touchdown sealed the game for the Jaguars.
There won't be any of that after Sunday's game, and there shouldn't be. Not after the way the Jaguars beat the Cleveland Browns 32-28 at FirstEnergy Stadium, driving 80 yards and scoring the go-ahead touchdown with 40 seconds remaining.

With the game on the line, the Jaguars delivered. That is something that seemed impossible two months ago.

"When I came in I said to our guys: 'Some things may happen around you. Some things may happen to you. But what's really important is the things that happen in you,'" Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said. "That's where I think this team has really gravitated around. It's not so much what happens to us. All those things can take place. [There is] a lot of noise out there, but it's more about where we're at inside and we're growing in that aspect.

"Whenever you have a victory like this, a tight, close game like this, it helps with that process."

The Jaguars appeared to be headed for another loss in typical Jaguars fashion: giving up a 95-yard touchdown pass to fall behind 28-25 with 3:55 remaining. Taking over at their own 20, the typical Jaguars response would be a three-and-out and Cleveland takes over and runs out the clock.

Instead, quarterback Chad Henne drove the Jaguars 80 yards on nine plays, capping the drive with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Cleveland native Cecil Shorts with 40 seconds remaining. Shorts, who had two drops earlier in the game, had pretty much been bottled up by Browns cornerback Joe Haden until then. He somehow got behind the Pro-Bowler who had shut down Calvin Johnson and A.J. Green earlier this season.

"I can't really put it into words," Shorts said. "It's a dream come true. For that play to happen in this game, in that situation, and in the home town … That last drive, guys were making plays and that one felt good."

This game for sure wasn't pretty. The Jaguars had just 5 yards and no first downs on offense in the third quarter. The secondary allowed Josh Gordon to catch 10 passes for 261 yards and two touchdowns. Cleveland out-gained Jacksonville 439-314, including 342 yards passing. None of that matters, though.

The Jaguars (3-9) made plays when it mattered and won the game in the final minutes, giving them their third victory in four games since the bye. That's a significant improvement from the first eight games, all of which the Jaguars lost by double digits. Heck, they scored just two points in the season opener and have scored just two touchdowns in four games at EverBank Field.

Bradley, in his first year as a head coach at any level, kept the team positive throughout the first half of the season. He preached to trust in the process and work on improving and not worry about winning games. By doing that, the victories would eventually come, Bradley said. The players never wavered.

Now they have the proof. Three wins in the last four games, back-to-back wins for the first time since Week 13-14 of the 2010 season, and victories in three consecutive road games for the first time since 2007.

"It's a good feeling as long as you keep it in perspective," Bradley said. "I think the big teaching for our players is [to] understand what got us to this place. What was our mentality? What was our approach? How did we practice? Those are the things that we want to concentrate on, not 'We've won two in a row' or whatever out of the last four since the bye week.

"I really want them to focus on what got us to this point and then build on that and then just trust."

Let's be honest: This game really meant nothing. The Browns (4-8) were mathematically still in the playoff race, but at 4-7 entering Sunday you didn't need to have aced calculus to figure out that wasn't going to happen. The Jaguars are one of the worst teams in the NFL and are at least two more years away from even being in contention for a playoff spot.

But that process has to start somewhere, and maybe it did today.

Mike DiRocco | email

ESPN Jacksonville Jaguars reporter

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