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Same tough story

Posted Dec 9, 2012

EDITORIAL: Too many familiar mistakes lead to yet another loss for Jacksonville Jaguars against New York Jets

New week, same story.

And as has been the case too often this season, the story just didn’t read well for the Jaguars.

That wasn’t the case for all of a 17-10 loss to the New York Jets on Sunday. In fact, for three of four quarters, the Jaguars played plenty well enough to win – plenty well enough to pull off what would have been an impressive, uplifting, improbable victory at Everbank Field.

But on Sunday, those three quarters weren’t enough.

Because on Sunday, the third quarter happened and during that quarter the Jets played well enough for 15 minutes that the other 45 minutes mattered little.

And in the end on Sunday, despite a rally and despite some good things for some extended periods, the Jaguars left EverBank saying the same things they have been saying all season.

“We’ve just got to fix the little things, and we’ll end up winning,” linebacker Russell Allen said.

There’s truth in that, and there’s truth in what Head Coach Mike Mularkey said after the team’s ninth  loss in the last 10 games.

“We fought till the end and that is the way we are going to do it until the last play of the 2012 season,” he said.

Mularkey also talked about this one coming down to one quarter, and it did. The Jaguars outplayed the Jets in the first half and led, 3-0. They outplayed the Jets in the fourth quarter and nearly used that quarter to pull off a rally and force overtime.

But that third quarter? In that quarter the Jets outgained the Jaguars 99-6. They held the Jaguars without a first down. They scored twice, taking a 10-3 lead. They started another drive that ended early in the fourth quarter, and after that drive, the Jets led, 17-3.

The Jets chose to run coming out of halftime, choosing to take advantage of an area that has become a Jaguars weakness in recent weeks. The Bills had run for 242 yards on the Jaguars in a 34-18 Buffalo victory in Buffalo a week before, and it stood to reason that would be the Jets’ game plan.

It was early, with minimal effectiveness. At halftime, the Jets had rushed for just 50 yards.

The Jaguars’ three-point lead at that time could have been more. That was how well they played in the first two quarters. They took a 3-0 lead on a field goal by Josh Scobee and appeared to take a 10-0 lead when Dwight Lowery returned a fumble 62 yards for a touchdown.

Officials reversed the play when replay showed that Jets wide receiver Jeremy Kerley had made contact with Lowery while Lowery was on the ground.

That play, that reversal . . .

In a way, it says a lot about the season. It was the kind of play, as Mularkey said, that the Jaguars haven’t made enough this season. And the reversal? When things are going bad, those plays go against you.

Instead of leading by 10, the Jaguars led by three. That meant coming out of halftime, the Jets could run. And run they did.

They ran enough to control momentum and ran enough to wear the Jaguars’ defense down. They ran enough to lead 17-3 after their first drive of the fourth quarter, and though the Jaguars fought and scrapped in the fourth quarter – and although Montell Owens ran well in his first start at running back and although quarterback Chad Henne played better than could be expected with a slew of inexperienced receivers and a struggling offensive line – in the end, it wasn’t enough.

And in the end, that was the story of this game from the Jaguars’ perspective. It wasn’t about whether or not Tim Tebow played (he didn’t, by the way), and it wasn’t about the fight, and the grit and the toughness.

No, as has been the case too often, this one was about what the Jaguars didn’t accomplish.

They entered the game with a chance – not to salvage the season, or certainly to get into the playoff chase. Those things have been gone for a while. But they did enter with a chance to make the final month – and the final half of the season – interesting.

Had the Jaguars won on Sunday, then that would have been two home victories in succession. It would have been two victories in three games, and you would have been able to package that with an inspired performance against the Texans and made a case for a team that was playing well for the last month.

It would have given the Jaguars a chance to finish above .500 over the final seven games of the season, something they set as a goal after playing their way out of the playoffs in the first nine games.

That goal was attainable before the game, and what was frustrating for the Jaguars was it was attainable during the game, too. This was one that was winnable, for the three quarters, they played more than well enough to get a victory that would have made things feel a lot better around EverBank.

Instead, they made too many of the same mistakes, and they played just poorly enough in one quarter that three good ones didn’t matter.

And as result, what could have been an improbable victory just read like an all-too familiar story.

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