In a season of frustrating errors and late-game collapses, the Jaguars were left to consider one more careless mistake that may have cost them victory.
"I'm going to take responsibility there. If you don't have the play ready, you just take the time out," coach Tom Coughlin said of a fourth-down, delay-of-game penalty when the Jaguars were at the Kansas City Chiefs' eight-yard line with just under two minutes to play in the game.
The Chiefs held a 30-24 lead when the Jaguars faced a fourth-and-four play. That quickly became fourth-and-nine following the penalty, and just as quickly became the Chiefs' ball when quarterback Mark Brunell's seven-yard completion to Jimmy Smith was two yards shy of the first down.
It was almost unforgivable; not having a play ready at a point in the game when time is so valuable, and at a place on the field where yardage is so precious.
"I needed to call a timeout right there," Brunell said in taking responsibility for the clock mismanagement. "We had a substitution problem. Once you break the huddle, you have to find the (play) clock. For whatever reason, I didn't do it that time and the clock ran out on me. It was unfortunate. We needed that. You break the huddle. You call the timeout. That is entirely my fault."
It was the most glaring mistake in a 30-26 loss to the Chiefs that ended whatever hope the Jaguars had of a non-losing season. Their record fell to a 6-9 with a game remaining in icy Chicago next Sunday.
In their most recent loss, the Jaguars saw the Chiefs take a 7-0 lead following a Brunell fumble that was recovered by the Chiefs at the Jaguars' 14-yard line on just the second play of the game.
The Chiefs' second touchdown followed a 12-men-on-the-field penalty on a Chiefs punt play, after the Jaguars had stopped the Chiefs at midfield.
"There were no excuses for that, either. That particular player was not on the depth (chart) for that particular team," Coughlin said of the "12 men" penalty.
It was a game that was supposed to be a heart-warming farewell for several veteran Jaguars players who are expected to become salary cap casualties this winter. Instead, the loss was just another chilling experience for players who've become accustomed to heartbreak.
"The thought of losing and the way we lost today; you can't even explain it. It's the worst I've felt in a long time," defensive end Renaldo Wynn said. Wynn, the Jaguars' first-round pick in 1997, will almost certainly sign with another team in free agency.
"I love Jacksonville. All of my memories here have been great. This place has definitely been good to me," Wynn said.
It has been speculated wide receiver Keenan McCardell will be one of those cap victims. If that happens, McCardell's last game in Jacksonville will have been an impressive farewell. He caught seven passes for 132 yards and one touchdown, and was Brunell's go-to receiver in the clutch.
"I'm not even worried about it," McCardell said when asked if he considered the possibility he was playing his final game at Alltel Stadium.
Jimmy Smith took exception to the suggestion he'll lose his receiving mate this winter.
"Don't mess with the equation: Jimmy Smith, Keenan and Mark Brunell. The reason I'm successful is because of number 87," Smith said of McCardell.
The Jaguars' cap problems will soon become the team's major concern, but, for at least one more week, the Jaguars will have to live with the frustration of a disappointing season.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs continued a late-season surge that has seen them win three straight and advanced their record to 6-9.
"I think the whole scenario of getting on an airplane and coming down here to play a team that had won three games in a row, had played a series of games in which fluke plays at the end of the game cost them the game, a team that very well could have been in the playoffs, and if you look at their eight losses it's unbelievable, as I explained it to the squad all week," Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil said in assessing his team's competition today.
"We felt they were the best losing team in football, and if we can come down here … and beat them, we'd be the best losing team in football," Vermeil added.
The Chiefs claimed that distinction. It was, yet, another loss for the Jaguars.