Zach Miller (JagNation.com)
The Jaguars won their fourth game in their last five tries Sunday as they defeated the Houston Texans, 23-18. Although the victory was far from a thing of beauty, the Jaguars currently find themselves firmly in the driver’s seat for the final AFC wild-card berth.
“I think as a football team we recognize that we’ve got three quarters of our season behind us,” Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio said. “We played well enough in those three quarters to be in the hunt.”
The Jaguars took advantage, but not complete advantage of some early Houston miscues to get out to a two score lead, but the Jaguars won the game without enormous contributions from their stars. Running back Maurice Jones-Drew had just 35 yards rushing through three quarters, and wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker finished the day with just one catch for 12 yards.
“If they want to continue to load the box that’s fine,” Jones-Drew said. “David (Garrard) is doing a great job of spreading the ball around and getting everybody involved.”
Instead of the Jags folding because teams are keying on their stars, new contributors stepped up such as Nate Hughes and Zach Miller. Hughes caught a 35-yard touchdown pass on a perfectly executed deep pass from quarterback David Garrard.
"I knew with the play-action I had Nate Hughes, and he was able to wrap around the corner and I was able to put it out there for him," Jaguars quarterback David Garrard said of the play.
Zach Miller showed off why the Jaguars used a sixth-round pick on him by catching a short pass underneath and quickly turning it up the field for a 62-yard gain. The gain was the longest in team history for a tight end.
“Zach Miller, he has excellent speed and he has a knack for running that inside route,” Garrard said. “He got good separation from Cushing and he made the catch.”
Defensively, the Jaguars held the eighth-ranked Texans offense to just 16 points, and when they had to make big stops they did.
“We came out and put it together today,” Jaguars linebacker Daryl Smith said. “They’ve got some weapons and they made some plays and they kept fighting until the end, but we had a pretty good performance.”
A few of the players who really stepped up were safety Gerald Alexander and cornerback Tyron Brackenridge. Alexander finished with a pair of passes defensed and a big red-zone interception. Brackenridge was strong in run support as he made six tackles, as well as tipping a pass that was intercepted Anthony Smith.
“Gerald Alexander played real well,” Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio said. “I thought T-Brack played real well. We have a scrappy unit. We knew we had to scrap to win up against one of the better offenses in the league, certainly passing offenses, with (Matt) Schaub being very accurate, and Andre Johnson being very explosive.”
Brackenridge, a 25-year old who has been with three organizations has seemingly found a home with the Jaguars. The third-year pro from Washington State has played well in a nickel role, and has filled in admirably for the injured Rashean Mathis over the last two weeks.
“I appreciate the faith that they have in me,” Brackenridge said of the Jaguars coaching staff. “I have some pretty big shoes to fill with Rashean, and I’ve been sitting back and watching him play and I’ve been able to ask him questions when I play. It’s a great deal.”
The Jaguars margin of victory isn’t spectacular and there’s no real signature victory on their 2009 resume, but for the first time since 2005 the team has won three division games and if this keeps up they will be making their second trip to the postseason in three years.