JACKSONVILLE – A day later, Mike Mularkey felt much the same.
And that meant while a lot went right for the Jaguars Sunday in the final home game of 2012, including maybe their best overall performance of the season, the end result was still a loss.
So, within a lot of talk from the Jaguars’ head coach about pride and heart Monday, there was just as much talk about disappointment and frustration. A lot of disappointment.
“I thought our guys played extremely hard, and fought all the way to the end,” Mularkey said a day after the Jaguars lost, 23-16, to the New England Patriots at EverBank Field. “I was very proud of them the way they played.
“Again, somehow, some way, we can’t get over the hump to win those close games. It’s frustrating in a couple of ways. One, we haven’t been able to overcome that for 15 weeks. Two, is they haven’t been rewarded with some positives when they’ve played well.
“We have to somehow find a way to win these close ones.”
The Jaguars (2-13) entered the game on a three-game losing streak, and the loss assured the team of the most losses in a season in franchise history. The Patriots (11-4) entered playing for a first-round postseason bye.
The Patriots also were heavy favorites in the game, and Mularkey said the Jaguars’ focus throughout the week – and the fight during the game – was impressive.
“We knew going in what their reward was – a bye,” Mularkey said. “Ours was respect, and how are we as people responding to an adverse year? What do we really stand for? That’s the way they’ve been coming to work every day. That’s why I have felt very confident in all these games they have played. I think they have, too.”
At the same time, Mularkey emphasized a season-long inability to make a key play at a key time. The Jaguars on Sunday twice had possession inside the 20 in the final five minutes with a chance to tie, but each drive ended with Patriots safety Patrick Chung intercepting Jaguars quarterback
“We just have not pulled out the plays when we needed them at critical times,” Mularkey said.
Mularkey said considering the team’s record, motivation could have been an issue – not only for Sunday’s game, but throughout the last month. He also said in theory that could be an issue this week as the team prepares for the regular-season finale at Tennessee amid the distractions of Christmas and an upcoming offseason.
He said that hasn’t been an issue, and doesn’t anticipate it being one.
“It could be, but it’s not, based on the people I work with every day,” Mularkey said. “It certainly would be easier if you had some wins, because of your energy – anything that’s positive is going to recharge you. I’m fortunate to have an excellent staff that has a lot of energy, especially at this time of year.
“Even the teams that are headed to the playoffs are fatigued, but our guys – I have to give them credit – they have worked diligently to put our guys in position, and some of these guys are playing their first games in the NFL. There are no shortcuts by this staff by any means and that says a lot about them.
“I think the players see that, and they see how we’re preparing to win. Regardless of the record, and regardless of what people are saying or writing, they’re doing whatever they can to win every Sunday when they line up.”
Also on Monday:
* Mularkey said wide receiver Cecil Shorts and guard
* Running back
* Running back