JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Anyone else still feeling it?
Three days after the Jaguars pulled off the third-largest comeback in NFL playoff history, Jacksonville was still buzzing.
Are you serious? Surely that didn’t really happen.
Yes, it did. And don’t call me Shirley.
Now the Jaguars face two challenges: the AFC’s top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium and the task of turning the page.
Typically in the NFL, the 24-hour rule is in effect. Some games are easier to move on from. A tough loss can linger, but occasionally, a staggering win can, too.
“We just don’t have time to enjoy wins,” head coach Doug Pederson said on Monday. “You’re playing at 8:15 and getting done at 11:30 and you’re right back in the office the next day deciding who you are going to play. I’d rather be doing this and coaching our football team this time of year. It’s part of it.”
The Jaguars have some experience moving on from remarkable wins. The comeback against the Ravens. And the one against the Cowboys. And the Titans to clinch the AFC South.
But Saturday night’s playoff victory was on a whole new level.
As the week began, fans were writing songs to commemorate the victory and celebrate the team. Videos of Trevor Lawrence and some of his teammates dining at Waffle House after the win went viral. The city has fallen in love with this team. They’ve fallen hard. On Tuesday, Lawrence admitted there was a little more to the celebration after the comeback against the Chargers.
“The one thing that helped is that we had a little bit of time,” Lawrence said. “Obviously, gears are shifting, and we’re moving on to the next week, but we didn’t know who we were playing yet, so you kind of pause and take a second that day, and you just, one, you rest, physically, but also emotionally and mentally. It took a lot. It was just an emotional game.
“You recover, you rest, you kind of get all that back, get your energy back. Monday you can kind of fully dive in. Now we know we’re playing Kansas City. You can kind of start all that prep and get ready for the week, so that helped a little bit, but when it’s an emotional game.
“That’s what we talked about, the guys after the game, you don’t really want to take your pads off because once you take them off, it’s done. You’re on to the next one, so you kind of just bask in that moment for a minute because it is special. You’ve got to enjoy them. It’s a playoff win here, whatever, huge comeback, win by one point, it’s just a special moment. You’ve got to enjoy it, but at the same time, we’ve got another game coming in seven more days. We took that night and enjoyed it and had some Waffle House and all that, but you’ve got to move on pretty quick.”
The 2022 Jaguars compare favorably to the 1996 edition. In the same way the city fell in love with Mark Brunell, Tony Boselli, Jimmy Smith, Keenan McCardell and company, so has the area embraced Lawrence, Travis Etienne, Christian Kirk, Zay Jones, Evan Engram and more. And even more than in 1996 when Tom Coughlin’s authoritarian approach produced results, the fan base is celebrating Pederson, who fits right into the area.
Pederson often wears a visor and flip flops to press conferences. His laid-back demeanor would fit with half of the guys on Jacksonville Beach on a sunny North Florida day. And he delivers. As we have referenced in the past, he has changed the culture of the team in mere months. The players in the locker room likely would have respected him in any case, but to come in after Urban Meyer has made Pederson a welcome change for the team.
They don’t panic, no matter how far they are behind. And they don’t sweat the small stuff. Now, they’ll get ready to sweat the big stuff. Patrick Mahomes. Arrowhead Stadium and the biggest game of most of their lives.