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AFC Championship Game: "It's tough"


FOXBORO, Mass. – Marcedes Lewis searched for words.

The Jaguars' veteran found them, but describing the emotions of coming within a few plays of the Super Bowl wasn't easy.

"I feel bad for everybody in here," the veteran tight end said after a 24-20 loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass., Sunday. "I know I speak for everybody: 'We put in too much work. To have it in our hands like that … and us not make enough plays at the end. It's tough.' "

Cornerback Jalen Ramsey called the loss "tough."

"We had bigger goal, bigger aspirations," Ramsey said. "We are pretty pissed off about not winning, but at the end of the day we have to reflect on the season, and be proud of ourselves to a point. We brought ourselves closer together, did our thing to make it this far. We got to figure out a way to make it back, and do a little bit extra to make it to the next level."

Quarterback Blake Bortles called the season "a special ride" and described the locker room as shocked, disappointed and upset.

"It's tough to try to enjoy it right now, but I'm sure that at some point we'll be able to reflect and think about all the good things that happened," Bortles said. "Find a way to fix it to make sure that we don't feel like this at this point again."

Lewis, the Jaguars' first-round selection in the 2006 NFL Draft and the team's most-tenured player, like many of teammates was asked what this season meant for the franchise. The Jaguars hadn't won a division title since 1999 before winning the AFC South this season. They hadn't made the postseason since 2007.

"We'd like to believe that," Lewis said when asked if this could be the beginning of an extended stretch of success. "We knew, brick by brick, we were building the foundation the entire year, just blocking out the outside noise."

Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone said it's his belief that every NFL team starts over every season.

"I am kind of old school when it kind of comes down to I never look a season before or anything of that nature," Marrone said. "I always think you have to start from scratch. You have to start from the bottom. Start building the foundation. Every year is a new year. People come in, people go.

"You just have to start bringing the team together and start training. That is how I view that step, which is down the road."

Jaguars safety Tashaun Gipson agreed, saying "It's just so hard to get to this point. We would like to get back to this stage but we understand how things go, guys leave. The locker room will never be the same and that is the toughest part. We build bonds….

"As a team we have the potential and I think we shocked a lot of people. As corny as it sounds, losing in the AFC Championship, we shocked a lot of people and defied a lot of odds. We have to be proud of that but at the end of the end the goal was the Super Bowl so that is going to be the hardest part to swallow."

Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell, who emerged as a team leader and spokesman in his first season after signing with the team as an unrestricted free agent, expressed pride in what the Jaguars had accomplished. Campbell beginning in the offseason expressed confidence the team would make the Super Bowl.

"We fought hard, we left our heart out there, and I'm proud of my guys," Campbell said. "I told the guys to keep their head up and use this as fuel. We are definitely going to have a lot of respect going into next year, and it's going to be a little harder. We just have to use this as motivation to prepare for it and be prepared for next year."

Said defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., "We made it far and it is the first time we got to the playoffs for the first time in 10 years.  So we changed the culture and we changed the franchise."

Defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, like many Jaguars players, spoke of what the season meant to not only players, but fans.

"I want to thank you for all the support during the season," Ngakoue said. "Thank you for coming to all the games, even the away games, the support means a lot to us. We'll come back next year even stronger."

That was the sentiment in the postgame locker room – that the season absolutely was not a failure, and the accomplishment of making the AFC Championship Game and galvanizing the city will matter for a long time.

"To be honest, I was told signing here that it was the worst decision of my life," said veteran cornerback AJ. Bouye, who signed with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent last off-season. "I was told we were going to lose.

"We brought the city together and sold out games. We made these people proud. The ceiling is high. I don't even think there's a ceiling. We're going to be back next year. I promise you all that."

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