A controversial call by Jack Del Rio may have saved the Jacksonville Jaguars' season. Dick Jauron just couldn't get enough of his decisions to work out with the Buffalo Bills.
The Jaguars look to win three straight for the first time in nearly two years Sunday as they host a Bills team in disarray following the firing of Jauron.
At a critical point in its season last Sunday, Jacksonville (5-4) pulled out a 24-22 win over the New York Jets to move above .500 for the first time since 2007. A win against the Bills (3-6) would give the Jaguars three straight for the first time since Dec. 9-23, 2007.
Del Rio made an unconventional move late in the game, telling running back Maurice Jones-Drew to take a knee at the 1-yard line with less than 2 minutes left rather than score and give the Jets the ball with a chance to win.
The Jets had no timeouts left, so Jaguars quarterback David Garrard took a knee on the next two plays before Josh Scobee made a 21-yard field goal as time ran out.
Del Rio believes the "book" that dictates what coaches should do in certain situations is outdated.
"Books have been updated," he said. "I really don't have an answer to when it's changed and how it's changed. It has changed. There are things that you kind of learn that the so-called book percentages don't always apply.
"For us, we just want to do the best things we can for our football team to help us win games. That's really all we're after."
Jauron was highly criticized for a debatable call against the Jets on Dec. 14, 2008, calling a pass instead of running out the clock with Buffalo up 27-24 and less than 2 minutes left. J.P. Losman ended up fumbling on a sack and New York recovered and returned it 11 yards for the go-ahead score to win 31-27.
Buffalo ended up finishing its third straight 7-9 season under Jauron, and many expected the coach to be fired. Turns out that wouldn't happen until the midpoint of this season.
Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell was selected by owner Ralph Wilson to take over as interim coach following Jauron's firing Tuesday. The final straw for Wilson was a 41-17 loss at Tennessee last Sunday.
Jauron failed to get much out of the offense, even though it has big-play threats at wide receiver in Lee Evans and Terrell Owens.
Fewell has done a respectable job of keeping the defense competitive despite multiple injuries, but he faces a daunting task in trying to fix Buffalo's many problems.
"We are who we are," said Fewell, in his 12th NFL season and fourth with Buffalo as a coordinator. "We have that identity. We're going to try to give a little spark, but we are who we are."
On Wednesday, Fewell named Ryan Fitzpatrick the starting quarterback over Trent Edwards. Fitzpatrick is 1-1 in two starts and also rallied the Bills to a 16-13 overtime win over the Jets on Oct. 18, after Edwards was knocked out of the game.
Buffalo is averaging 15.5 points per game, failing to generate 300 yards in eight of nine. Evans, who had two touchdown catches versus the Titans, expressed his support for Fewell.
"The way our defense is playing with all the injuries, it's a testament to him. They've done a great job of keeping us in games," Evans said. "I think this is a great opportunity for him. ... I think he should try to stick with the things that made him the coach he is, rally the team and keep us on the same page."
The defense has been resilient under Fewell, finishing 14th in the NFL in yards allowed last season. The Bills rank 26th in that category, but they've been without as many as six regulars and have two starters on injured reserve.
Jacksonville will be without top cornerback Rashean Mathis, who injured his groin against New York.
The Jaguars struggled without Mathis in a 30-13 loss at Tennessee on Nov. 1. With Mathis nursing a broken finger on his left hand, safety Reggie Nelson was moved to cornerback and he missed several tackles and got beat for a score.
"I get a sense that Reggie Nelson is a proud guy who's working hard, wants to be better and the only issues he had were tackling," Del Rio said Wednesday. "I think he's tackled better the last two weeks and we're going to continue to grow there."
Jacksonville might also be missing linebacker Justin Durant, second on the team with 83 tackles. Durant said he suffered a "mild concussion" in the third quarter last week.
Edwards went 20 of 25 for 239 yards and a TD in Buffalo's 20-16 win at Jacksonville on Sept. 14, 2008. Evans averaged 19.3 yards on four catches.
Jones-Drew was held to 17 yards on seven carries.