|Jaguars put consistency motto to test against problematic Texans|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 11 October 2007 12:58|
The real test comes Sunday against Houston.
The Jaguars (3-1) are coming off impressive road victories at Denver and Kansas City, two of the toughest places to win in recent years, and have a Monday night matchup with defending Super Bowl champion Indianapolis looming.
Some would call this a trap game. Not Jacksonville.
The Texans (3-2) have given the Jaguars more trouble than anyone else the last three years, sweeping the AFC South series in 2004 and 2006 and essentially knocking them out of playoff contention both seasons.
``They're going to come in all fired up, ready to go, thinking it's just going to happen,'' Jags running back Fred Taylor said. ``But we'll see what happens.''
The Jaguars were 1-4 against teams with losing records last season, including two turnover-filled losses to Houston. Those games, combined with wins against Indy, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Philadelphia and both New York teams and mind-boggling losses to Buffalo and Washington, prompted coach Jack Del Rio to make ``get off the roller coaster'' his motto for 2007.
He talked about it during the first team meeting before training camp and has mentioned it repeatedly since. It's become the main focus this week, too, especially because the Texans have struggled to run the ball and could be without talented receiver Andre Johnson for the fourth consecutive week.
``The moment you overlook anybody and you've already moved on to somebody else, that's when you get beat,'' Jags quarterback David Garrard said. ``It's shown in years past. We have to make sure we don't do that.''
Jacksonville has been criticized for having a tendency to play up or down to the level of competition under Del Rio, and no opponent has provided more fodder than the Texans.
Houston used to have several former Jaguars on its expansion roster, most notably defensive linemen Seth Payne and Gary Walker, and those guys helped jump-start the rivalry. The Texans also won the first meeting between the clubs in 2002.
Payne and Walker are gone now, but others have stepped up to carry the torch.
``I'm glad to be on this side to get an opportunity to beat up on my old team,'' said Texans linebacker Danny Clark, who spent four years (2000-03) in Jacksonville.
Added running back Samkon Gado: ``There is a sense of bad blood between us, but I wouldn't say it's the rivalry of the NFL. But it is to us.''
The Texans have provided plenty of headaches for Jacksonville.
In 2004, the Jaguars had a chance to secure a playoffs spot against Houston in late December, but they came out flat, lost 21-0 and were knocked out of the postseason picture.
Jacksonville made the playoffs the following year after sweeping the series. But the Texans bounced back in a big way last year. Then again, the Jags created many of their own problems.
The first loss, 27-7 in Houston, was Byron Leftwich's last game as a starter for Jacksonville. Leftwich injured his ankle the previous week, then convinced team doctors and Del Rio he was ready to play.
Leftwich badly missed several open receivers early. Nonetheless, the Jaguars seemed poised to make a late comeback, but Taylor and receiver Ernest Wilford fumbled on consecutive plays to help seal the outcome.
Safety Deon Grant also was benched at halftime after he tried to give teammates a pep talk during the break - right after Del Rio said he didn't want anyone to say anything.
``It's just one of those things,'' Jaguars offensive lineman Maurice Williams said. ``Every team just has one of those teams (opponents). We understand that.''
Taylor guaranteed a victory in the rematch three weeks later, providing bulletin board material for the Texans, but Garrard threw a career-high four interceptions in the 13-10 loss. Two of the picks came after Matt Jones bobbled perfect passes. Wilford also dropped two balls, including a deep one that could have been a touchdown.
Jacksonville's frustration boiled over in the closing minutes, when Wilford and fellow receiver Reggie Williams got into a shoving match on the sideline.
``I'm not sure what it is, but when you're making mistakes out there that's always key,'' Garrard said. ``You don't want to turn the ball over no matter who you're playing. If you turn the ball over, that's just helping them out. We don't need to do that this year.''
The Jaguars have tried not to talk about the past, convinced that this year's team is different from the ones that suffered meltdowns against Houston.
But no one will truly know until Sunday.
``In terms of ups and downs and being consistent, we are going to be a more consistent team this year,'' Del Rio said. ``But I think we also recognize that there are some really good teams that we're going to be facing over the next 12 weeks and this is one of them and they're next.''