Gosselin: Jaguars have thrived in tight spots

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  1. LaTunaNostra

    LaTunaNostra He Made the Difference

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    Rick Gosselin: Jaguars have thrived in tight spots

    The heroics of quarterback Jim Hart in the mid-1970s earned St. Louis the nickname "Cardiac Cards."

    From 1974-76, the Cardinals won 19 of their 31 games by a touchdown or less, including several in the waning moments. But the Cardiac Cards never authored a month like the Jacksonville Jaguars in September – not one entire month of heart-thumpers.

    The Jaguars are one of the four remaining 3-0 teams this NFL season because of their ability to win games late. All three of the victories came in the final 35 seconds.

    Game 1: Quarterback Byron Leftwich fired a fourth-down, seven-yard touchdown pass to rookie Ernest Wilford on the final play of the game to lift the Jaguars to a 13-10 victory at Buffalo.

    Game 2: Trailing 7-6 and at the Jacksonville 23, Denver was positioning itself for the game-winning field goal with 37 seconds left. The Broncos decided to run once more into the line to burn more clock and inch a tad closer for kicker Jason Elam. But Quentin Griffin fumbled and it was recovered by Jaguars linebacker Akin Ayodele, preserving the victory.

    Game 3: Jacksonville's Fred Taylor slashed for a yard around right end with nine seconds left to lift the Jaguars to a 15-12 road victory over the Tennessee Titans.

    "We've been in those situations enough now that we understand what it's going to take," Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said.

    In Del Rio's first season as coach in 2003, the Jaguars suffered six of their 11 losses by a touchdown or less, including three in the final 30 seconds. The Jaguars were one of the youngest teams in the NFL last season and didn't know how to win. That was addressed in the offseason.

    "We identified things we had to be better at," Del Rio said. "We worked very hard on our four-minute offense and defense, our two-minute offense and defense, securing the lead and getting the ball back when you don't have it. We spent much more time focused on closing games."

    Opportunism goes a long way in the NFL. Jacksonville does have a Top 10 defense. But the Jaguars rank last in the NFL in offense and have scored only four touchdowns. That's fewer than Peyton Manning generated in the first half alone last week for the Colts.

    But it's the Jaguars sitting alone atop the AFC South looking down at Super Bowl aspirants Indianapolis and Tennessee. The Colts visit Jacksonville on Sunday.

    "What we've created is an understanding that we're going to be in close games," Del Rio said. "We feel prepared. There's no magic or secret. We're just working at it, and we'd had a couple things go our way.

    "I think the guys are gaining confidence that we've been in these situations in practice. When it comes to the game, we just do what we do. For a young team, we play with a lot of poise and confidence in those situations."

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