JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Break up the Jaguars.
The team that many pegged for 0-16 has won two of its three games since the bye week. Last Sunday’s victim was the Houston Texans, a preseason Super Bowl contender that has now lost nine consecutive games.
It wasn’t pretty and the game was still in doubt until less than a minute remained, but it was a victory -- and that’s all that matters for a franchise with that had lost its first eight games by double digits.
It was the defense’s best game of the season, and Maurice Jones-Drew had his best day, too. They’re pretty high on this week’s list of top 10 playmakers.
Remember, this isn’t a list of MVP candidates, but a compilation of the players who are making the biggest difference each week.
Here we go, with last week’s rankings in parenthesis:
1. RB Maurice Jones-Drew (NR): He ran for a season-high 84 yards and one touchdown and had a season-high 144 total yards. He also did something he hasn’t done all season: bust a big run, a 44-yarder, that helped set up a field goal.
2. CBs Alan Ball (3) and Dwayne Gratz (NR): These two get listed together because of the job they did on Texans receiver Andre Johnson. He entered the game second in the NFL with 72 catches but managed just two catches for 36 yards. His second catch didn’t come until the Texans’ final drive. The Jaguars got good pressure on QB Case Keenum and forced some rushed throws and safeties and linebackers helped, but Ball and Gratz did a darn good job against on the NFL’s best receivers.
3. QB Chad Henne (NR): Henne’s numbers weren’t anything special: 23-for-32, 239 yards, no touchdowns, no interceptions. One of his completions was a short pass that Ace Sanders took 51 yards. But Henne hung in the pocket under some intense pressure and delivered the ball and didn’t get forced into any poor throws or mistakes. He was sacked four times and hit nine other times but never got rattled.
4. DE Ryan Davis (NR): Davis was playing in just his second game but delivered one of the season’s biggest plays when he intercepted a deflected pass to seal the victory with 34 seconds remaining. It was a pure effort play as Davis was rushing Keenum and could have stopped after Keenum throw a short pass to receiver Keshawn Martin, but he instead ran toward Martin to try to help make the tackle and caught the deflected pass.
5. LB Paul Posluszny (NR): He picked up right where he left off after missing the Arizona game with a concussion, leading the Jaguars with 14 tackles (two for loss) and adding one pass breakup. He blitzed more against the Texans than he had all season. He also keyed a run defense that held the Texans to 77 yards rushing. Ben Tate gained 1 yard on seven carries.
6. DT Sen’Derrick Marks (NR): Marks continues to add onto what is already a career year with two more pass deflections at the line of scrimmage, including one that was thrown toward Johnson.
7. WR Cecil Shorts (NR): After catching just two passes against Arizona (and complaining afterward), Shorts was targeted 11 times and caught eight passes for 71 yards. He would have been higher had he not dropped two passes, including a deep pass from Denard Robinson out of the Wildcat formation.
8. S Winston Guy (NR): He appears on the defensive stat sheet just once, but it was a pretty significant play: He hammered Johnson and knocked the ball loose to ruin what would have been about a 20-yard gain.
9. WR Ace Sanders (7): He was forced into a bigger role because Mike Brown (shoulder) couldn’t play and he responded with four catches for 61 yards. His biggest play was a 51-yard catch-and-run on third-and-4 that helped set up the Jaguars’ only touchdown.
10. DE Andre Branch (5): He continues to improve and had a sack against the Texans. It’s the first time in his career he’s had sacks in back-to-back games.