This day deserved better than this. A lot better.
There’s no way to spin it, and really no other way to say it. Fred Taylor, all of the alumni players in attendance, even the now-retired teal jerseys – they all deserved better on Sunday. And actually, early on, it seemed like better might be what they all got.
Early on, there was energy and hope at EverBank Field. There were opportunities that looked like they might become big plays, and while that was happening you had a good feeling about what might happen for the Jaguars on the day they put Taylor in the Pride of the Jaguars.
It didn’t end with a good feeling for the Jaguars.
It ended with the Bengals beating the Jaguars 27-10 on a sunny day that turned rainy in a hurry, and by the time a heavy downpour helped usher the fans out of EverBank, you had coaches and players unhappy and disappointed for a third time in four games.
“Everybody’s ticked off,” quarterback
It wasn’t a happy post-game locker room, or a happy post-game press conference. And it shouldn’t have been. When you’re 1-3, those places aren’t supposed to be happy.
“It happens,” Jaguars running back
Jaguars Head Coach Mike Mularkey, too, talked about wanting a better performance on a day in which the Jaguars unveiled Taylor’s name and No. 28 high above EverBank Field.
He talked of the positive energy early, but then he talked of how opportunities were missed and how the game just got out of hand late. He also talked about the need to make plays, and how the Jaguars just haven’t done that enough this season.
Still, through it all – as he has done through a difficult first month as head coach – Mularkey stayed positive.
There is a plan in place, he said, and it was a plan the Jaguars believed and followed through a positive off-season and training camp. It was the blueprint for the season and the future.
You can’t abandon that plan after four games.
“We may have to take a couple of lumps along the way to get where we want to go,” Mularkey said. “We have plan here as a staff, as an organization. That plan is going to stay the course. We see the way it can go.
“We’re going to stay the course. Eventually, it will go in our direction.”
Afterward, in a disappointed locker room, the theme was about opportunities missed, and plays not made.
The Jaguars had energy early, and early on there were chances to take control of the game. The Jaguars, who entered the game with two turnovers created this season, created one on the first Bengals possession when linebacker
Later in the same drive, cornerback
Those plays didn’t lose the game. The Jaguars stopped the Bengals on that drive, held them to a field goal, and they followed it with a 77-yard drive to take the lead, but you couldn’t help think: a touchdown and the touchdown that could have been . . .
That could have been a 14-point lead, and a ton of momentum . . .
Mathis is the Jaguars’ most tenured defensive veteran, and in this case – as is often the case – he spoke a lot of truth. The Jaguars weren’t perfect Sunday, and a lot of things happened after those early opportunities that need to be addressed. The offensive line allowed six sacks and too much pressure on a lot of other plays. The defensive line registered no sacks. The Bengals outgained the Jaguars 382-212, and Gabbert threw his first interception of the season, so there was a lot that went wrong.
But making plays, and taking advantage of opportunities can make a lot go right, and too often this season so far, that hasn’t happened.
“We have to learn how to make plays,” Mularkey said. “It’s not just defensively, it’s all phases.”
Mularkey talked afterward about that being the difference, that Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton could throw up the ball and Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green and tight end Jermaine Gresham could come down with it.
“We have to learn how to do that,” Mularkey said.
He’s right, and in saying that, he touched on a tough thing about a young team that’s learning to win, that’s trying to find its way, trying to find an identity. Making those plays? Doing things at key moments that turn losing into winning? There’s no way to coach it, no way sometimes to accelerate the learning curve.That’s why the only thing for the Jaguars to do this week is do what Mularkey said – stay the course. Go back to work. It won’t be a fun Monday, and it won’t be an easy week, but you’ve got to keep working and hope that eventually, your days start ending up with the feelings you’re hoping for.