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Holding out hope

Posted Nov 22, 2011

Jones-Drew: 'We've got a chance. That's all that matters.'

Maurice Jones-Drew’s not ready to talk about the future.

The Jaguars’ two-time Pro Bowl running back this week also said he’s not ready – not even in the wake of a disappointing loss to the Cleveland Browns Sunday – to stop thinking about goals involving this season. Not yet, anyway.

“There’s a quote I always live by,” Jones-Drew said this week as the Jaguars (3-7) began preparing to play the AFC South-leading Houston Texans (7-3) at EverBank Field Sunday at 1 p.m.

“It’s from my man in ‘Dumb and Dumber:’ ‘We’ve got a chance. That’s all that matters.”’

The problem:

As of Sunday, the chance got a lot smaller than anyone around the Jaguars wanted.

The Jaguars, after victories in two of three games, entered Sunday’s game in Cleveland needing to beat the Browns, then return home and beat the Houston Texans, to reshape the AFC South entering December.

The Jaguars’ third-ranked defense held the Browns to 14 points, and the 32nd-ranked offense played well in spots, but trailing by four points late in the game the Jaguars failed to score after driving to the Browns’ 1-yard line.

The result? A 14-10 loss, the team’s third this season by six or fewer points and the fourth in which the Jaguars had the ball with a chance to take the lead late in the game.

 “It’s about winning,” Jaguars guard Uche Nwaneri said. “You want to win those games. We’ve had multiple opportunities in different games to do that and we haven’t done it. If you want to be a great team and you want to be considered a great team in the NFL, you have to win games at the end when you have to. It doesn’t really matter how close you get.”

Said Jones-Drew, “Somehow, some way we have to learn from our mistakes. We had an opportunity to make plays. We just didn’t make them at the end of the game.”

It was a loss that dropped the Jaguars four games under .500 after 10 games for the first time since 2003, Jaguars Head Coach Jack Del Rio’s first season as coach. It also left them four games behind the Texans in the AFC South.

During his next-day press conference Monday, Del Rio discussed motivation with the postseason hopes so distant.

 “One thing you can always tap into in this league is the fact that you’re here in this league, that you’re representing the Jacksonville Jaguars, putting that cat head on your helmet,” he said. “You’ve got that National Football League shield, emblem, on your uniform. It’s the best of the best the world has competing, and guys have a lot of pride.

“We work hard all year long to be able to play the games that we have scheduled and we’re looking forward to going out and competing our butts off.  So there’s a professional pride that kicks in at some point if you’re not in the hunt for some of the loftier goals, but being a man of substance and standing for what’s right and going out there and living the dream.”

Nwaneri said there’s no reason for the Jaguars’ approach to change dramatically.

“Right now, I think you just try to do what you’ve been doing,” Nwaneri said. “You have to look at it as a one-game season each and every week so you can go out and play your best. Don’t try to look to far ahead, and stay focused on the task at hand.”

Wide receiver Mike Thomas said while the record is disappointing, “the league is week to week.”

“You see it every week – week in and week out,” Thomas said. “Guys look tremendous one week and they don’t look so tremendous the next week. For us, today it’s over with. We have to try to hit next week running.”

Thomas said Del Rio is correct when he said that at 3-7, there is an element of professional pride that comes into play in the final six games.

“I think it has to,” Thomas said. “We’re judged on wins and losses in the league. We always want to win, but I think you do have to kind of find a little extra to play for. That will be it.”

Said Jones-Drew, “We have to take it one game at a time. Really, right now, that’s all it can be. We have a tough Houston team that beat us up down there. We have to get healthy, get back and get ready to play them.”

Also for the Jaguars:

*Jones-Drew said Monday he doesn’t quite grasp people in Cleveland being upset with his touchdown celebration Sunday. Jones-Drew followed a first-half touchdown with a LeBron James-style “poof” celebratory gesture, drawing boos from the crowd and criticism from fans afterward. “It’s a celebration,” Jones-Drew said. “That’s what you do when you score. It’s so hard to get in. I remember my first couple years I was getting in like double digits. It’s tough to get into the end zone so when you get in there you’ve got to be creative.” Jones-Drew said defensive tackle Terrance Knighton suggested the gesture on Saturday night.

*Del Rio said this week he liked the progression of rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who threw for a career-high 210 yards while completing 22 of 41 passes against Cleveland Sunday. “Without a doubt a step forward,” Del Rio said. “He had his best week of practice this past week. I really had a good feeling going into the game, we all did, that this would be an opportunity to break out. We were close to doing that, certainly an opportunity there at the end. . . . The work that’s going in, the steps that are being made, the progress that’s being made, it’s there. There was evidence of that yesterday and like I said, was it perfect? No, it wasn’t perfect but there were certainly some very nice football plays in that game.”

*Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis also had his best game of the season Sunday, catching seven passes for 64 yards. Lewis entered the game with 16 receptions for 170 yards. “Marcedes was as sudden as he’s been,” Del Rio said. “He continued to be a dominant blocker for us at the point, he did a nice job there and that’s something that he’s really grown into and we’ve become accustomed to seeing.”

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