|Record-setting offense has Jaguars near postseason berth|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 17 December 2007 14:34|
He finally has one.
Buoyed by quarterback David Garrard and running backs Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew, the Jaguars have set franchise records by gaining at least 400 yards in four consecutive games and scoring at least 24 points in eight straight.
That's right, the Jaguars. The team a former NFL linebacker modeled after the defense-minded 2000 Baltimore Ravens has become an offensive juggernaut.
``This is a message to send to the rest of the league: we're for real,'' Garrard said following Sunday's 29-22 victory at Pittsburgh. ``We've always said we can beat anybody. We don't want to be too bold and too brass, but we want to make sure we still have confidence and swagger going into the playoffs.''
The Jaguars (10-4) have reason to brag.
They racked up 421 yards against the Steelers, the league's top-rated defense. They did it in windy, snowy, muddy - just plain sloppy - conditions, too.
Taylor ran 25 times for a season-high 147 yards and a touchdown, a 12-yarder with 1:57 remaining that essentially sealed the win and moved Jacksonville one victory shy of securing a wild-card spot for the second time in three years.
Garrard threw three TD passes, including a 55-yarder to Dennis Northcutt.
Jones-Drew added 69 yards on the ground and picked up three crucial first downs in the second half. He had a 6-yard run on fourth-and-1 and a 17-yard gain on third-and-10 on the opening drive of the third quarter. Jacksonville eventually scored to take a 16-7 lead.
Jones-Drew ran for 20 more on third-and-11 to set up Taylor's game-winner.
``We've consciously built a team that can play when it's hot, can play when it's cold, can play indoors, can play outside,'' said Del Rio, who had an 11-year NFL career as a linebacker, making the Pro Bowl once. ``There are a lot of different ways to skin a cat, but this is the way we've approached it.
``If you look at the landscape (of the NFL), it really would be foolish to approach it any other way.''
Jacksonville can clinch the No. 5 seed in the AFC playoffs with a victory Sunday against Oakland (4-10). The Jaguars point to their offense as the biggest reason they are so close to returning to the postseason.
Taylor and Jones-Drew have combined for 1,815 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground and are the league's second-best rushing tandem, behind only Minnesota's Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor.
Garrard has 16 touchdown passes and two interceptions, and ranks second in the NFL with a 101.6 passer rating. Only New England's Tom Brady is rated higher.
Garrard's mobility and precision passing have elevated the play of Jacksonville's offensive line (five sacks in the last six games) and receivers (five guys have at least 32 catches but no one has more than 43).
``I don't think the stats do justice to where we are as an offense and our ability to throw the football,'' Del Rio said. ``The bottom line is I know we're better at throwing it now than we have been. And what's most important is we're going to need to be able to get that done down the stretch here to be the kind of team we need to be, that we want to be.''
Jacksonville has produced at least 400 yards six times this season. Only New England (11) and Green Bay (six) have more. And the Patriots are the only other team to reach that mark in four consecutive games.
The offensive numbers have helped the Jaguars average 28.4 points over the last eight games, second in the AFC behind New England.
``Our quarterback and our receivers are making plays and doing things that give you a chance and offer some reason for optimism,'' Del Rio said. ``We're excited about that phase developing, for sure. And there is more there. We're going to continue to work it and there is more there. It starts with protection up front and the quarterback making good decisions and receivers getting open and catching the ball. It all comes together.
``And now it's kind of coming a little bit for us, so that's good.''