BALTIMORE – By game's end, by the time the last sack had been registered and the last opportunity had been oh-so-painfully missed, this one played out as most expected.
And the fact that it was close – that the Jaguars really could have even beaten the Baltimore Ravens – mattered not a bit in a disappointed visitors' locker room at M&T Bank Stadium Sunday.
That word has been kicked around often by the Jaguars after a lot of losses this season, and it was more than kicked around after a 20-12 loss to the Ravens on a gray day in downtown Baltimore.
It was embraced in a big way, and make no mistake:
The frustration is real right now, as it should be when you're 2-12 and your offense has two touchdowns in the last four games. Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said that frustration is OK.
He made that clear in his post-game comments to the team, saying that moral victories weren't something that satisfied or pleased this team.
Players echoed those thoughts.
"Something's wrong with you if you go out and lose like that and you're not frustrated," quarterback Blake Bortles said. "It's definitely the right emotion to have. We have a special team that can really go learn from it, recover quickly and move on."
That's necessary this week, of course. The Jaguars play the Tennessee Titans on NFL Network Thursday. And while that's a game that the teams' matching 2-12 records say the Jaguars should have a chance to win, playing on four days rest – even at home – isn't easy.
It's especially not easy four days after a very physical effort against a very physical team.
That's what Sunday was for the Jaguars. It was a physical effort, a good effort, and it was nearly a winning effort. That it wasn't a winning effort had as much to do with the Ravens as it did the Jaguars.
The Ravens are very good right now.
Second half images from the Jaguars Week 15 matchup with the Baltimore Ravens.
They're a mature, developed team. They were also in playoff contention, playing at home with a dominant offensive line and elite pass rushers. The Jaguars aren't in playoff contention and they weren't at home. They also don't have a dominant offensive line or elite pass rushers.
So, in a sense what we were seeing Sunday is what the Jaguars very much would like to be, and what they very much hope they are building toward.
They're 2-12 because they're a young offense, and because their veteran players on offense aren't playing well enough to make up for it.
They're also 2-12 because while the defense played very well again on Sunday, there's a limit to how much even a defense playing that well can do when the offense can't take advantage of opportunities.
They're also 2-12 because they're struggling to protect the passer, and because the passer is struggling. Blame will be cast this week on the offensive line because that's what happens when you allow eight sacks, but Bortles must do a better job getting rid of the ball, a better job making decisions. He gets this, and that's good. What will be better is when he indeed gets better at it. That likely won't happen this season, but it needs to happen soon – soon as in, next season.
First half images from the Jaguars Week 15 matchup with the Ravens.
One important note before we close:
The Jaguars in no way have lost hope.
When Bradley talked about frustration Sunday, he talked about it as an understandable thing, a good thing – considering the circumstance, a logical thing.
"Frustration is okay because, for me, it shows we have investment," Bradley said. "You are invested into it. If you put money in the stock market and it crashes, you are frustrated because you invested into it. If you don't put any money into the stock market, and it crashes, you don't care. To me, we're frustrated because we put a lot in to this. I'm good with that. I'm happy that they're frustrated."
Red Bryant, a veteran defensive end brought in from Seattle in the offseason, said he gets what Bradley means. He said, too, he believes in what Bradley is trying to do, in the process.
"I know if we stay the course and continue to get guys to buy in and believe in what we're trying to do it will be sustained success," Bryant said. "That's what we're trying to do. We're trying to sustain the culture. When you're trying to change the culture you go through adverse situations and it's not easy. You have growing pains."
Growing pains – a cliché, perhaps, but applicable for this young team. They're growing, but goodness is it painful. But if growing pains were easy, they would call them something else. They're not easy, and for the Jaguars right now, they're very, very real.
And they're also about as frustrating as you can possibly imagine.