Chad Henne has salvaged the Jaguars' season.
When the Jaguars were 0-8 at the bye after eight double-digit losses, they were not only being called the worst team this season, they were being called one of the worst teams in NFL history.
And one of the keys has been that Henne had an advantage over the inexperienced quarterbacks who started against the Jaguars in their four victories.
He's gone against Houston's Case Keenum twice, Tennessee's Jake Locker and Cleveland's Brandon Weeden. Keenum was yanked in the second game for Matt Schaub and Locker got hurt and was replaced by Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Although Henne isn't the team's quarterback of the future, he has started 47games and is one of the better backups in the league. And the Jaguars are the only AFC team that has won its last three games.
Henne hasn't been flashy and hasn't put up big numbers but he's thrown only one interception. He will give the Jaguars the edge against Sunday against Buffalo when they face another young quarterback in rookie EJ Manuel, who threw four interceptions last week.
Henne said his experience helps him deal with the ups and downs.
"The situations that arise you've been there. Sometimes, you start out 3 for 11 and think, 'Oh, my day is ruined.' You have to go back to your fundamentals to try to get back on track. You're not trying to force a ball. When you get older the plays will come if you stay true to your reads and true to your system," he said.
Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch also said that it helps that Henne is scrambling more. He scrambled four times for 33 yards against Houston.
"I think guys need to scramble. They need to get first downs with their legs as well as their arms," he said.
On the Jaguars keeping their momentum going, he said, "Just keep improving on what we did last week and the weeks prior to that. Obviously, there are things to get better on in the game tape that we watched. We had a little break but it's more about getting the enthusiasm and getting that edge back on our shoulders for this week and going into this game."
Henne is at something of a crossroad in his career. He's a free agent at the end of the season so he has the option of leaving, especially since the Jaguars are likely to draft a quarterback on the first round.
But unless another team is going to offer him a starting job, he may decide to stay and mentor the new quarterback.
That would be a win-win for the Jaguars because they wouldn't have to rush the rookie into the lineup and could start Henne until the rookie is ready.
For now, Henne has proved to be a valuable backup who was able to step in when Blaine Gabbert was injured for the second time. He kept the job when Gabbert was healthy and Gabbert will likely be released in the offseason.
The Jaguars' focus, meanwhile, will be on trying to sign Henne to a new deal.
SERIES HISTORY: 12th regular-season meeting. Bills lead series, 6-5 and won last year, 34-18, as their ground game shredded the Jaguars' defense. Fred Jackson ran for 109 yards and C.J. Spiller ran for 77 and a touchdown. The two teams have met nine times since 2001.
--The slogan, "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing," is a popular one in pro football.
Although it is often credited to Vince Lombardi, he didn't originate it and there is some debate about who the original author was.
Former UCLA coach Red Sanders is credited with saying it in 1949 and in a 1953 movie called "Trouble Along the Way" in which John Wayne plays a football coach, and the actress playing his daughter utters it.
The origins of it may go back even further, but it is one of the most popular lines in football history and is part of the winning obsessed culture of football.
One coach who doesn't buy into it is Gus Bradley of the Jaguars. When the Jaguars were 0-8, it was not surprising that he kept emphasizing the most important thing was improving, not wins and losses.
Now that the team has won three in a row and four of the last five, Bradley isn't changing his tune and is staying consistent. He said after they beat Houston last Thursday night that he wanted them to be motivated internally and added, "Wins and losses are external so I don't want go to there. I don't want them to be motivated through wins and losses. That's why you're not hearing me talk about wins and losses."
And when he met with the team Wednesday before they started practicing for Sunday's game against Buffalo, he stressed again he doesn't want them to get caught up in the wins.
"Our only focus is on getting better. I really believe that should be the focus. Stay in the zone and don't let distractions come in," he said.
"I talk to the team about it, 'don't revel in the accomplishments.' Don't go on and on and on about it. People pat you on the back and say good job and that's great, but it can take you out of your zone," he said.
He also believes in humility so it is easier to recognize and work on correcting their weaknesses. Another thing Bradley won't talk to the team about is the fact the Jaguars have won four of their last five and are still 21/2-point underdogs at home against a Buffalo team that has lost five of six games.
That's another one of those external things and Bradley doesn't want to go there for motivation. Bradley isn't saying his approach is right, but it works for him.
"I just know this is me," he said. "I've got to be the one talking to the team and I think it's been (a) fairly consistent (message)."
--Another thing Bradley isn't mentioning to the team is that the Jaguars, despite their 4-9 record, aren't mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.
With two 7-6 teams, two 6-7 teams and a 5-8 team ahead of them in the battle for the final wild card spot, it would take a miracle to get in, but they aren't officially out yet.
"It hasn't been brought up in any of our meetings," quarterback Chad Henne said. "It's not on our minds."
--When offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch was asked if the Jaguars have more trick plays planned, he said he doesn't view them as trick plays.
"We want our guys to believe they're not trick plays, they're just part of our offense. I think that was something that I got from coach (Steve) Spurrier is that these are just plays in our offense," he said.
Coach Gus Bradley indicated they aren't likely to repeat the same trick play, but likes having them in the offense.
"I like that part of our personality," he said.
--A surprising name turned up on the injury report Wednesday. Kicker Josh Scobee didn't practice because of a hip injury. Bradley said he expects Scobee to be ready to kick, but was asked what he would do if he had a setback.
"That's a good question. I need to talk to (special teams coach) Mike Mallory. I know Bryan (Anger) has done some in a pinch so we'll get that ready. It's (Scobee's injury) not anything too alarming, but that's a good point. We've got to have a plan for that," he said.
Of the injured players, Bradley said the "big question mark" is Maurice Jones-Drew, who has a hamstring injury. Jones-Drew has rushed for 719 yards and needs 281 more to reach 1,000 yards, but indicated that milestone is not a priority.
"It's not that big a deal," Jones-Drew said. "I think getting this organization on the right track is the most important thing right now."
--Mark Brunell will be inducted into the Pride of the Jaguars Sunday. He will join Tony Boselli, Fred Taylor and former Jaguars owner Wayne and Delores Weaver.
Another future candidate is 14-year veteran center Brad Meester, who is expected to announce he is retiring at the end of this season.
BY THE NUMBERS: 68 - Maurice Jones-Drew's rushing touchdowns, second among active players to Adrian Peterson's 86.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm learning. I've got these voices talking in my head. You've got to go with your gut a little bit, not that it's right all the time." -- Coach Gus Bradley on being reluctant to go for it on fourth-and-1 even though the odds are in favor of making it.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
With the status of running back Maurice Jones-Drew uncertain with a hamstring injury and with Justin Forsett sidelined for the season with a foot injury, the Jaguars signed running back Delone Carter and put Forsett on the injured reserve list. He was a fourth-round pick of the Colts in 2011 and has 133 career rushes for 499 yards. He has been in 26 games with three starts and was traded to Baltimore in August and waived nine days later.
The Jaguars also put wide receiver Stephen Burton, who has been in the concussion program, on injured reserve. His spot may be taken by linebacker LaRoy Reynolds, who is eligible to return after serving a four-week suspension for testing positive for performance enhancing drugs.
They also signed wide receiver Chad Bumphis to the practice squad and waived wide receiver Marcus Jackson.
--QB Chad Henne has a 74.9 passer rating with eight touchdown passes and 10 interceptions but has only one pick as the team has won the last three games.
--MLB Paul Posluszny leads the team with 126 tackles, including 96 solo tackles.
--RB Maurice Jones-Drew missed practice Wednesday with a hamstring injury and his status is uncertain for Sunday.
--DT Roy Miller missed practice with a shoulder injury Wednesday but is expected to play.
--K Josh Scobee missed practice Wednesday with a hip injury but is expected to kick Sunday.
--WR Cecil Shorts didn't practice Wednesday because of a groin injury.
--DE Jason Babin had a veteran's day off and didn't practice Wednesday but will play Sunday.
--DT Sen'Derrick Marks had a veteran's day off Wednesday but will play Sunday.
--C Brad Meester had a veteran's day off Wednesday but will play Sunday.
--S Jonathan Cyprien was limited with a thigh injury Wednesday but hopes to play Sunday.
--S Josh Evans was limited with a shoulder injury Wednesday but hopes to play Sunday.
--LB Geno Hayes was limited with a knee injury Wednesday but hopes to play Sunday.
--OT Austin Pasztor was limited with a shoulder injury Wednesday but is expected to play Sunday.
--S Chris Prosinksi was limited with a concussion but hopes to play Sunday.
--RB Jordan Todman was limited with a shoulder injury but is expected to play Sunday. Todman will start if Maurice Jones-Drew is sidelined. He has 43 carries for 138 yards.
The key for the Jaguars is whether they can mount an effective running game if Maurice Jones-Drew either can't play with his hamstring injury or is limited. If they can't run, they will have to rely on the pass and the Bills have a good pass rush so the Jaguars need to establish the run.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Jaguars LT Cameron Bradfield vs. Bills RE Mario Williams -- Although Williams hasn't had a big game recently, he is still a threat and should pose a big challenge for Bradfield, who took over at left tackle when Luke Joeckel was lost for the year.
--Jaguars CBs Dwayne Gratz and Alan Ball vs. Bills WR Stevie Johnson -- Johnson leads the Bills with 51 catches for 593 yards, but EJ Manuel threw four interceptions last week so the Jaguars may have opportunities for turnovers.
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