In the losses to Indianapolis and Tennessee, short-yardage failures were to blame. Following the Jaguars' 27-16 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, Jack Del Rio knew right where to put his finger.
"The bottom line stat for me is the red zone. We were 0-4. (That's) hard to overcome. If you want to look at one glaring area in which we didn't get it done; 0-4 made it hard to win," Del Rio said.
Jacksonville's red-zone failures in the Metrodome may serve as another example of what stands between where the Jaguars are and where they want to go. The playoffs may only be a few plays away but, clearly, they are the most important plays of any game.
This is where the Jaguars failed in their loss to the Vikings:
• Early in the second quarter, leading the Vikings 7-3, the Jaguars faced a third-and-three at the Vikings' 13-yard line. Running back LaBrandon Toefield was dropped for a two-yard loss and the Jaguars had to settle for a 33-yard field goal by Josh Scobee.
• Midway through the second quarter, tied with the Vikings at 10-10, the Jaguars moved from their 40-yard line to the Vikings 14 where, on third-and-four, quarterback Byron Leftwich's pass in the end zone glanced off Toefield's fingers. The Jaguars settled for a 32-yard field goal by Scobee.
• In the fourth quarter, trailing 20-16 with 2:18 to play, the Jaguars faced a third-and-six play from the Vikings 19-yard line. Leftwich was sacked and stripped of the ball by rookie defensive end Kenechi Udeze and teammate Kevin Williams picked up the ball and raced 77 yards for the game-clinching touchdown.
• The Jaguars fought back and had a fourth-and-five play at the Vikings 15 with 51 seconds to play, but Leftwich's pass was incomplete.
Simply put, the Jaguars left too many points on the field. There was also the matter of a fumble by wide receiver Troy Edwards following a catch that would've left the Jaguars inside the Vikings 20-yard line on the opening drive of the game, and on another occasion the Jaguars got to the Vikings 24 before the drive stalled.
"We're too good a football team to allow games like this and last week. If we're going to be that (playoff) team, we have to get it done," running back Fred Taylor said.
Taylor rushed for 147 yards and a 6.7 yards-per-carry average. It marked the fourth time this season and the third consecutive game in which Taylor had reached the 100-yard mark, but for the second consecutive week the Jaguars were unable to translate Taylor's success into their own.
"Fred Taylor ran very well. He ran hard," Del Rio said.
Statistically, the Jaguars were impressive. Leftwich, in his comeback game after having been sidelined for two games due to a knee injury, completed 19 of 34 passes for 235 yards, one touchdown and an 87.3 passer rating, but the fumble and subsequent return for a touchdown broke the Jaguars' backs.
"He came from the back side," Leftwich said of Udeze. "You wish you could feel him; you wish you could see him."
The Jaguars converted an impressive 47 percent of their third-down opportunities, out-gained the Vikings (379 yards to 330) and won time of possession by two-and-a-half minutes, but the Jaguars didn't make plays when it was most important. They came up short with the end zone a play or two away.
"I wish I had a few passes back. I know I can play better. We just fell a little short," Leftwich said.
"Falling short" is rapidly becoming the storyline of the Jaguars' season, and they will fall short of making the playoffs for a fifth consecutive year if they don't beat the 10-1 Steelers at Alltel Stadium this Sunday. At 6-5, the Jaguars are also in danger of a fifth consecutive losing season. They desperately need to begin making those few plays they haven't been making in recent weeks, and they must begin making those plays now.
"That's what's hurting us. Instead of scoring touchdowns we're kicking field goals," Leftwich said.
The Jaguars acknowledged the immediacy of their situation.
"We just gotta win. Pittsburgh, whoever it is, we just gotta win," Taylor said.
"A game like that, national television, we have nothing to lose, which should allow us to take advantage of the kind of game it is," safety Donovin Darius said of the game against the Steelers.
They know they must begin making those plays that are the difference between winning and losing. Early in the season, they were the plays the Jaguars made at the most dramatic stages of the game and it earned the Jaguars the nickname, "Cardiac Cats."
All of a sudden, this team and this season are in cardiac arrest.