Pederson pays tribute to Jaguars as AFC South title caps remarkable turnaround

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Jacksonville Jaguars coach Doug Pederson believes their AFC South title win was made all the sweeter by the team's turbulent past couple of years.

The Jaguars beat the Tennessee Titans 20-16 at TIAA Bank Field on Saturday to clinch the AFC South and a first playoffs spot since 2017, a year on from finishing bottom.

That made them only the fifth team since the merger in 1970 to record the league's poorest record one season and then win the division the next year, with the Miami Dolphins the last to achieve it in 2008.

The Jaguars began the 2021 season with five defeats that took their losing streak to 20, the third-longest in NFL history, and in December of that year they eventually fired coach Urban Meyer following a string of scandals and controversies.

Meyer was dismissed while the Jags held a 2-11 record – they finished the season at 3-14, but Pederson has helped transform their fortunes.

It has not been straightforward for the 9-8 Jags though, whose hard-fought victory over the Titans ensured they had recorded both five-game losing and winning runs this season.

"This game tonight kind of symbolises our season," Pederson said. "There were some struggles, there were some highs and lows, but in the end, we had the victory.

"I'm so proud of the guys for the way they have all season long just hung together through the face of adversity.

"Obviously, to be in this position, to be the AFC South champion, and just to know the journey that it took us to get here... it's just a step in the direction that we want to go.

"I want it to be sustainable. I just don't want to be like, 'OK, you were the 2022 champs and not in 2023'. You want to be competing for this division every year.

"But it makes it special just because of the way these guys battled and kind of what they've been through in the last two years."

Quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the number one overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, has undoubtedly played his part after a disappointing first season.

The 23-year-old became only the third Jags QB in NFL history to throw for more than 4,000 yards in a single season, helping the franchise dig their way out of a hole when they found themselves at 2-6 in October.

"Nobody ever lost faith," he told ESPN. "Everyone believed in one another. We never started pointing the finger. We lost five straight, and we just got tighter. After the bye week, we started correcting some things and started rolling. It's cool to see a team come together like we have, and we're just excited to get another opportunity next week.

"It's hard to sum up this season and what we've been able to do. To get an opportunity to go play in the playoffs. Sounds great. Sounds really, really good."