They were amazed at the craziness and back-and-forth momentum swings in the final two minutes of regulation and overtime. They also were adamant that none of the teams of the past several seasons wins that game.
No way they bounce back from two interceptions in the final two minutes, including one that came after a Chargers fumble and ruined a potential game-tying field goal. No way they overcome a pair of taunting penalties. And the game-winning field-goal attempt being tipped and still making it through the uprights on Sunday doesn’t even come close the last few years.
“If any of those things happen, if half of those things happen, two years ago we fold and it’s over,” quarterback Blake Bortles said.
Yet the Jaguars (6-3) didn’t fold.
They kept making mistakes and committing stupid penalties, yet still found a way to make a couple critical plays late to win their third consecutive game and keep pace with Tennessee in the AFC South. The players say it’s because they’ve bought into the culture that Doug Marrone and Tom Coughlin have established and because of the leadership in the locker room.
They also said the team is much closer than in past years, in part because they bonded while going through what was an emotionally and physically exhausting training camp.
But, really, the bottom line is this: The Jaguars have better players than they’ve had over the past several seasons.
The bulk of the roster is the same from last season but the additions of cornerback A.J. Bouye, defensive end Calais Campbell, left tackle Cam Robinson and running back Leonard Fournette have made a huge difference. They’ve made significant contributions throughout the season and on Sunday it was Bouye who made the game-changing play.
Bouye and Jalen Ramsey are two of Pro Football Focus’ top-graded cornerbacks. Campbell entered the day as the NFL’s sack leader (11) and Fournette began the day sixth in the NFL in rushing despite missing two games.
In addition, quarterback Blake Bortles -- until his two fourth-quarter interceptions -- has played much better than he did in 2016. The offensive line has played well enough to have the Jaguars lead the NFL in rushing entering the Chargers game.
Better talent makes it easier to overcome adversity and mistakes, and the Jaguars had plenty:
Bortles threw two interceptions, Marqise Lee and Aaron Colvin were penalized for taunting, the Jaguars ran for 79 yards (not counting Corey Grant's 56-yard fake punt), and the defense didn’t record a sack for the first time this season.
The Jaguars were down two starting offensive linemen because of injuries and lost their long snapper to injury as well.
“To be able to overcome adversity, overcome mistakes, overcome turnovers, penalties and do all that and still win a football game is pretty impressive,” Bortles said.
Especially because that was what Bradley, who was on the opposite sideline on Sunday as the Chargers’ defensive coordinator, had been trying to get the Jaguars to do during his four-year tenure with the Jaguars.
Now they’re able to do so, which is a sign they really are a legitimate playoff contender.
“Your true character shows when you have adversity, and we had a lot of adversity today,” Campbell said. “Literally, I was like, nothing’s going our way, but nobody blinked, we believed, and we made it happen.”