Jaguars WR Mike Thomas has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Every week it seems, Thomas converts another key third down or puts his team in great position with another big punt return or end-around run.
But his heroics on Sunday were far more dramatic.
With three seconds remaining in a tie game, Jaguars QB David Garrard took the shotgun snap at midfield and dropped back for a last-second heave to the endzone — Texans CB Glover Quin and Thomas answered his Hail Mary prayer. Quin deflected Garrard's throw right into the hands of Thomas, who was standing at the Texans' two-yard line waiting for the rebound. Thomas waltzed into the endzone, giving his team a miraculous 31-24 victory over the Texans — the second divisional win of the season on the final play for the Jaguars.
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Head coach Jack Del Rio would have loved it if his defense didn't pull a disappearing act in the second half, forcing Thomas to reach into his constantly expanding bag of tricks. Nonetheless this win has to taste sweet for Del Rio, knowing that his starting QB continued his torrid stretch of 13 TDs (11 passing, two rushing) and only one interception in his last four complete games, his franchise RB's mojo is rising and the defense, which actually performed very well in the first half against a potent Texans offense, should continue to grow and learn from its mistakes.
And in the meantime, the offense is playing well enough to keep the defense afloat.
Don't look now, but Garrard, who has a career QB rating of 86.6 and completion percentage of 61.8, is second and third in the NFL in those categories, respectively, with a 104.9 rating and completion percentage of 69.4. He is also on pace to shatter his career-high in TDs (18). And he is doing it while attempting far less passes. It goes to show what Garrard is capable of when the running game is popping and he is not asked to do too much.
Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, who is putting Garrard in better positions to be successful, is certainly worthy of praise. Koetter's play-calling has been more imaginative this season, with QB options, WR screens and gadget running all being dialed up more frequently.
It helps when Koetter has Thomas, who has been arguably the Jaguars' most consistent player this season. The second-year pro out of Arizona isn't the biggest or fastest guy around, but what he lacks in size he makes up for with courage and determination.
Texans DBs Bernard Pollard and Eugene Wilson absolutely punished Thomas on multiple receptions on Sunday, but he never hesitated to pick himself up off the field and get back in the huddle. For a player who has had a couple of fumbles on punt returns this season, it bodes very well that he continues to play with such a high level of confidence.
Perhaps most impressive about Thomas' production is that he is doing it all as the Jaguars' only real receiving threat. Mike Sims-Walker's enigmatic season continued against the Texans — Sims-Walker has been held to 46 receiving yards or fewer in seven of the Jags' nine games, including two games in which he was held without a catch. The rest of the WR corps has a total of 10 receptions on the season.
So the Jaguars find themselves tied for second place in the AFC South heading into Week 11, with an offense that is clicking on all cylinders and a defense that has shown flashes. Jacksonville hosts the Browns on Sunday before playing four of the final six games on the road, including three remaining divisional games all played away from EverBank Field.
And while many will argue that it will take a miracle for the rebuilding Jaguars to win four of five of those games and earn a playoff berth, one thing we're learning about this team is that their prayers have been answered before.