Sunday, November 10, 2013
Jaguars finally get to celebrate
By Michael DiRocco
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The noise coming from the Jacksonville Jaguars' locker room was muffled by the concrete block walls, but not by much.
Those standing outside couldn’t make out what was being said, but every 10-15 seconds there were shouts and claps and whistles and stomps. And finally, after four or five rounds of cheers, there was one final, rousing roar.
That is what it sounds like after a victory in the NFL, and it’s a sound the Jaguars haven’t made in nearly a year.
"There was a lot of talking," cornerback Will Blackmon said after the Jaguars held on for a 29-27 victory against the host Tennessee Titans at LP Field. "It’s been silent the past eight weeks."
The last time the Jaguars (1-8) celebrated a victory was Nov. 25, 2012, when they beat the Titans 24-19 at EverBank Field. That was 350 days ago, and since then the Jaguars had lost 13 consecutive games, including the first eight this season by double digits.
They were soundly thumped by Kansas City, Indianapolis, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle. In three games at EverBank Field they have scored a total of 11 points: three field goals and a safety.
So damn right they celebrated. They celebrated linebacker Paul Posluszny’s forced fumble and recovery on the game’s first offensive snap, which allowed the Jaguars to take a 7-0 lead – the first time they had held a lead since early in the second quarter of a Week 5 loss to St. Louis.
They celebrated rookie cornerback Dwayne Gratz’s first career interception, which led to a field goal and a 13-0 second-quarter lead.
They celebrated Bernard Pollard’s roughing the passer penalty, which nullified a third-down incompletion and extended a drive that eventually ended with Jordan Todman’s 5-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
They celebrated the holding penalty in the end zone by Titans rookie guard Chance Warmack, which gave the Jaguars a safety and essentially provided the winning margin.
They celebrated Blackmon’s sack, strip and 21-yard fumble return for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
And they celebrated Johnathan Cyprien’s recovery of an onside kick with 38 seconds remaining.
"Just a long time coming," receiver Cecil Shorts said. "Long overdue. It was good. Everybody was excited and happy."
And a little relieved, too.
Head coach Gus Bradley had been adamant about staying true to the plan he, the coaching staff, and general manager Dave Caldwell had implemented. Keep practicing the way we’ve been practicing, keep doing things the way we want you to, keep working hard. Trust that if you do all those things, the results will come.
Well, they didn’t. It hadn’t even been close, either, until a cool, cloudless Sunday in the Music City.
"To have the ability to stay the course, stay true to who we are and come out and execute the way we did is an awesome deal and an awesome feeling for our guys," Bradley said. "I just appreciate them staying tight with it and really holding true to it."
There was something else in the locker room as well: a bit of defiance. Guard Uche Nwaneri expressed it, but he surely isn’t the only one who felt that way. Through the first eight weeks, the players patiently answered question after question about the team’s poor play. They answered questions about whether they were expecting to be traded. They answered questions about whether there was any feeling that the players were beginning to tune out Bradley as the losses continued to pile up.
Of course, they also answered questions about 0-16.
They saw the stories and tweets about how pathetic they were, about how this was one of the worst teams in NFL history. They heard the jokes and the analysts’ remarks. Each one was an attack on their pride.
So when the clock finally hit zero on Sunday afternoon, Nwaneri was finally able to vent.
"Finally validating the work we’ve put in and getting this win today, it did feel like a breath of fresh air," Nwaneri said. "It was kind of like [giving the] middle finger to all the people who want talk about the Jaguars not winning the game or being the worst 0-8 team in history.
"It’s kind of, ‘Eat this.’ That’s kind of how it feels."
It feels, he said, pretty good. Winning always does.