By Jeff Moeller
JACKSONVILLE (Florida Sports Wire) -The thump around Jacksonville came around 4:20 p.m. Sunday afternoon. A few minutes later, “Sweet Home Alabama” rang loudly through TIAA Bank Field.
This could be fate. Better yet, call it about mettle and character. The days about wondering if they will get the top pick in next year’s draft are officially over. Welcome, Jaguars’ fans, to the beginning of the next chapter.
Down 27-10, the Jaguars seemed destined to lose to the 10-3 Dallas Cowboys as a team that is still not there against a team that is there. This was supposed to be the game for the Cowboys to clinch a playoff berth and let them concentrate on their first-place showdown with Philadelphia Christmas eve.
Yet, we got another glimpse of what could be.
Rayshawn Jenkins’ 51-yard pick six gave the Jaguars a 40-34 overtime win over the Cowboys and sent the more than 60,000 into a state of pandemonium. Jenkins earlier had an interception in the third quarter that stopped a potential scoring drive.
If you’re a Jaguars’ fan, you have to believe.
Down 27-10, the Jaguars showed the mettle and character that most thought head coach Doug Pederson would bring to this team.
They battled back to 11 second left in regulation when kicker Riley Patterson booted a 48-yard field goal to send it into overtime. The Jags overcame two booth reviews during the final stretch.
Mettle and character.
Not long before Patterson’s field goal, it again looked doomed. Trevor Lawrence, who threw for 318 yards and four touchdowns, coughed up the fumble after he was hit trying to get a first down on his own running upfield after he escaped a sack.
That play deflated the crowd and the magic was apparently gone.
But the Jaguars’ defense held Dallas and forced them to punt. The Jaguars got the ball back with 1:01 left and worked their way down the field for Patterson’s field goal.
Lawrence earlier tossed a perfect lead pass downfield to a wide-open Zay Jones for a 59-yard scoring play, and he later connected with Marvin Jones on a 10-yarder in the back of the end zone that brought them to within 27-24.
Lawrence also endured a costly interception that led to a Cowboys field goal and apparently helped seal a victory.
Mettle and character.
This also was a Jaguars’ defense that allowed Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard to combine for 91 yards in the opening quarter, but they allotted Dallas 63 yards on the ground the rest of the way.
It was a statement victory in the Lawrence/ Pederson era, and suddenly there is plenty of chatter about the Jags being back in the hunt for the AFC South title. They needed help from the Chargers late Sunday afternoon.
Jacksonville will now head to New York for a quick Thursday night turnaround against a Jets team that has its playoff chances hanging like a low bulb on a Christmas tree with a bad home loss to the Lions.
The Jags likely have to run the table against the Jets, Houston in Houston, and then have a showdown against Tennessee in their home and season finale for a postseason bid.
Whatever happens, it will be an interesting and meaningful final three weeks of the season, a situation that has avoided Jacksonville for quite some time. It isn’t about figuring out the order of the Jags’ high draft pick next season.
It was a magic Sunday afternoon at TIAA field that easily could have been a glimpse of the future Lawrence/Pederson era.
Call it fate. Call it mettle. Call it character. With this win, the Jags may have finally turned the corner onto another road.
We’ll find out if their course has changed in a few days.