It wasn't a playoff game. A playoff berth wasn't even at stake, and the fans that showed up at Paul Brown Stadium Sunday afternoon wouldn't have filled one end zone, but Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin said his team's 17-14 loss to the Bengals was the most disappointing defeat of the season.
"Without a doubt. That was a bad one," Coughlin told reporters today, the sting of the defeat and the frigid conditions in Cincinnati less than 24 hours old.
Coughlin verbally blistered his team in the postgame locker room, after the Jaguars had blown a 14-7 lead in the final four-and-a-half minutes of the game. They had gone from a 28-yard field goal attempt that would've put the game out of reach, to helplessly watching the Bengals kick a chip-shot game-winner as time expired.
Between those two kicks, the Jaguars allowed the Bengals to convert a third-and-19 from the Bengals' 11-yard line, and march the remaining distance for a game-tying touchdown.
At all other times in the second half, the Jaguars dominated. They controlled the ball for nearly 22 minutes of the second half.
"All that time came off the clock … and we missed a field goal," Coughlin said of Mike Hollis' ground-ball boot with 4:37 to play. It first appeared as though Hollis had slipped on the sloppy field, but tapes reveal that Hollis' left foot remained firmly planted in the turf through the kick.
"You talk to your team about the cold, about alertness, about ball security," Coughlin said, referring to rookie kick-returner Shyrone Stith's fumble on the kickoff following the Bengals' game-tying touchdown.
The loss defied logic. The Jaguars controlled time of possession, were plus-three in turnovers, and won all three "challenge" reviews. "You know how hard that is?" Coughlin said of losing a game with a plus-three in turnovers. "That's 85 percent," he said of the average rate of victory for teams plus-three.
Jaguars players complained vehemently about the playing-field conditions in Cincinnati, but Coughlin would only say: "The field is an issue that's over. I'm thankful we didn't get anyone hurt. Both teams played on it."
In addition to missing a chip-shot field goal attempt and Stith's kickoff fumble, the Jaguars allowed an 82-yard punt return for a touchdown by Bengals rookie Peter Warrick. Meanwhile, the Jaguars recovered a Warrick punt near the Bengals 10-yard line in the third quarter and turned that into a 14-7 lead.
"You don't think special teams is important? You should look at that (game)," Coughlin said.
The Jaguars are 7-8 with one regular-season game remaining, this Saturday against the New York Giants at Giants Stadium.
"It'll be a great test for our football team, to see how they respond," Coughlin said.