- Mike DiRocco, ESPN Staff Writer
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But his teammate and head coach knew he needed one, and they were glad it finally happened against Oakland last Sunday. Sanders’ 30-yard reception in the fourth quarter was the perfect medicine.
"I think confidence is a big thing for anybody, so for him to make that big catch at the end on third-and-forever, that was big," Jaguars receiver Cecil Shorts said. "He also made some other big catches in the game so I’m happy for him. I think he will continue to get better."
Sanders had dropped a pass earlier in the game against the Raiders and had two drops in the season opener against Kansas City. He hasn’t been used as a punt returner despite being drafted for that role. So despite his protests, it was pretty obvious the 5-foot-7, 178-pound Sanders needed something good to happen.
It finally did when he stretched to make a catch to convert a third-and-21 situation. He took a good pop in the ribs from cornerback Tracy Porter but held onto the ball, and that would turn out to be what kept the Jaguars’ only touchdown drive of the season alive.
Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said that was the first time Sanders had flashed the play-making ability he has shown in practice. Sanders followed that big play up with a 23-yard catch on fourth-and-12 on the Jaguars’ next possession.
"Ace is playing multiple positions. He plays Z, he plays H, and you’re seeing at times where he’s thinking a little bit too much," Bradley said. "I don’t know in the past if that has hampered his ability just to make the routine plays that he normally makes in practice. For him to go out there and make that play I am hoping he can really build on that and say, 'That’s all I have to do is just go out there and utilize my talents and perform.' We’ve got to build on that for him."
Sanders, who has caught eight passes for 78 yards in two games, said it wasn’t about him needing confidence. It was about the entire offense needing some -- especially with Seattle, which tops the NFL in total defense and passing defense, on tap Sunday.
"Big plays get the offense going," he said. "We’re struggling a little bit with that and we needed it. Cecil made a bunch of big plays at the end. I made the big catch. You saw how the offense just fed off it, kept moving the ball down the field, down the field, down the field.
"It wasn’t a confidence booster [for Sanders]. Probably from a quarterback standpoint he knows that now we can go up and make those plays. It’s more of now we see what the offense can do when we get the ball moving. We make those big plays everybody’s up, spirits are up, we’re not thinking about all the negative stuff. Now, we’ve got some joy. Let’s keep it going, keep it going. That’s what it does."
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Jacksonville Jaguars receiver Ace Sanders says he didn’t need a confidence boost, but that’s what you’d expect a struggling rookie to say.