Winless no more: Jaguars upset Browns for first victory of the season
Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon.
Apologies to you movie buffs for bastardizing a Casablanca line there, but that more or less sums up the Jaguars' mantra over the past few months.
Despite turning over much of the roster in the offseason and starting 0-6, Jacksonville maintained that it was not that far removed from being competitive, despite what results indicated. Sunday provided the first tangible proof, with the Jaguars demolishing the resurgent Cleveland Browns 24-6.
"I'm just so excited for our guys," Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said.
The postgame tone was a complete 180-degree turn from Week 6. The Jaguars let one slip away last Sunday, losing 16-14 to Tennessee on a late blocked field goal. Bradley misfired on a pair of challenges along the way, including one in the fourth quarter that cost his team an important timeout.
"I know I could have led better," said Bradley one day later. "I could have done better with the game management, with the challenge flags. ... I challenged the team and I pointed out the things that I could get better at, too."
There should be less self-flagellation in Jacksonville this week.
If anyone points a finger in the mirror this time around, it might be rookie QB Blake Bortles. He was responsible for three interceptions, one coming with Jacksonville up four and inside the Cleveland red zone. Bortles now has thrown 10 interceptions to five touchdown passes over his brief career.
On the flip side, his lone touchdown pass Sunday handed the Jaguars a 7-6 lead just before halftime, and they never trailed again.
This is, in a nutshell, the argument for playing a rookie quarterback early. The hope will be that Bortles is working out some of the kinks this season, as his team rebuilds, thus allowing him to take steps forward headed into 2015. That red-zone INT, for example, was simply a poor decision. Bortles eluded pressure on a 3rd-and-5 and appeared to have room to run for a first down; instead, he fired one right into the gut of Cleveland's Buster Skrine.
"The more game-time reps, the more game-time experience and exposure that you get, the easier or better job you'll be able to do," Bortles said this week.
While he was talking specifically about his own game, Bortles' statement can be applied to this entire Jacksonville team -- still a very young group.
Case in point: Sunday's top performers, which included second-year running back (and college quarterback) Denard Robinson and rookie receiver Allen Robinson. Between them, the Robinsons (no relation) accounted for 187 yards and two touchdowns.
It was Allen Robinson who hauled in that Bortles scoring strike just before halftime. Denard Robinson then helped ice the victory with an 8-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Chalking up all that has ailed Jacksonville this season to youth or injury or inexperience may be too easy an out. Merely keeping the roster exactly as it is for the coming weeks and months will not turn the Jaguars into a powerhouse. The frustrating days like Week 6 probably will outnumber celebratory showings like Week 7 for the time being.
Bradley has stayed the course thus far. Not once has he promised that he will repair the downtrodden Jaguars' reputation overnight, nor have the wins and losses hinted that he might do so.
He has preached patience instead, even while at the same time demanding better efforts from all involved, himself included.
The Jaguars are a long way from where they want to be. Sunday's win -- and ceasing any talk of an 0-16 finish -- at least inched them a little bit closer.