CINCINNATI--The Jaguars had just lost any opportunity for a fifth consecutive winning season, but they were most upset at the field conditions at Paul Brown Stadium.
"The NFL should do something about this. They should shut this thing down. It's not fair to the Bengals and it's not fair to teams that come in here. You're risking your career on this field," Jaguars offensive tackle Tony Boselli said, following a 17-14 defeat to the Bengals that has to be considered rock bottom for the 7-8 Jaguars.
It was a loss that was the result of a late-game collapse. With 4:37 to play, Mike Hollis lined up a 28-yard field goal attempt that would've pushed the Jaguars' lead to 17-7. That's how quickly it all fell apart for the Jaguars, after Hollis slipped on the sloppy field and managed only a ground ball that barely made it across the goal line from 18 yards away.
In a season of bizarre collapses, this one was the most embarrassing. The Jaguars lost to a 3-11 Bengals team that was 31st in the league in passing, but passed the ball right down the field when the game was on the line.
The Jaguars have one game remaining, against the Giants in the Meadowlands this Saturday and, finally, this team would seem to have absolutely no incentive to win.
So, what was the Bengals' motivation? In the second coldest home game in Cincinnati pro football history the Bengals came to life when almost everyone else in the stadium had long since lost feeling in their toes and fingers. The temperature at kickoff was nine degrees with a minus-20 wind chill value and blowing snow.
The game was played on a snow-covered field that could be aptly described as a sand pile. Thankfully, it was the Bengals' home finale, and even though the Jaguars escaped without injury, they were furious the league would allow the Bengals to present such terrible field conditions.
Meanwhile, coach Tom Coughlin was furious his players would permit such a collapse. This is what happened down the stretch, following Hollis' miss:
• Bengals quarterback Scott Mitchell, who had been totally ineffective for the first 56 minutes of the game, completed a 38 yard pass to rookie wide receiver Danny Farmer on a third-and 19 play from the Bengals 11-yard line.
• Mitchell then completed passes of 22 and 19 yards to Farmer, before capping a 10-play, 80-yard, game-tying drive with, of all things, a 12-yard touchdown run.
• Rookie kicker returner Shyrone Stith fumbled the ensuing kickoff, with the Bengals recovering at the Jaguars 34-yard line.
• On a second-and-two play, Jags linebacker Kevin Hardy was flagged for a personal foul, which resulted in a mark-off that put the Bengals in immediate field goal range at the Jags 12-yard line.
• Three plays later, rookie Neil Rackers kicked the game winner as time expired.
"Today was not a problem at all if we had finished the game," Coughlin said of the weather. "All the stats would've been in our favor. It started with the third-and-19," he said of the late-game collapse.
The Jaguars and their star running back, Fred Taylor, won the statistical battles. The Jags' statistical edge would've been much greater had they stopped the Bengals on third-and-19, but they didn't. Meanwhile, Taylor won his personal battle with Corey Dillon, 110 yards rushing to Dillon's 76.
"They played to the end. You've got to give them credit," Taylor said of the Bengals.
Though Taylor seemed to have handled the field conditions, he lashed out at the Bengals. "That's not a field, that's a horse track. That's the best cowpasture I've ever played in," Taylor said.
The Jaguars were quick to criticize themselves for having lost another game they should've won, but they were passionate in their attack on the field.
"This was, by far, the worst field I've ever been on. I know the conditions were the same for both teams, but that was a dangerous field to be on and it shouldn't be that way," quarterback Mark Brunell said.
Brunell turned in an effective 170-yard passing performance, in conditions that included a 25 mph wind. Coughlin had Brunell throw a surprising 28 times, despite the weather.
"You've got to score more than two touchdowns," Brunell said. "It was cold. You deal with it, and for the most part I thought we did that as a team."
What the Jaguars couldn't overcome is their ongoing penchant for not making plays at critical times. In football parlance, this team continues to find ways to lose. Fortunately, it may do that only one more time this season.
"Turnovers were going to be the game today. We have no one to blame but ourselves," Coughlin said.
Yeah, Stith's fumble was critical, but it was the only fumble the Jaguars lost, and Brunell didn't throw an interception, and both Jaguars touchdowns were the result of Bengals fumbles, and the Jaguars got the benefit of almost every officials call (Coughlin was 3-0 in "coach's challenges").
The Jaguars can't call this loss a give-away as much as it was a collapse. With the lead and the Bengals 89 yards away from the end zone, the Jaguars defense caved in.