CHICAGO—The Jaguars' fall continues and the hope of winning another game this season shifts to two home games in a five-day period.
Frigid Soldier Field and the Chicago Bears handed the Jaguars their ninth loss of the season on Sunday, 23-10, guaranteeing the Jaguars will experience their first losing season since 2003, Jack Del Rio's first year as the team's head coach.
Who in the offseason would've believed it would turn to this? A team that was being trumpeted as the AFC favorite for the Super Bowl is desperate to score its fifth win of the season as we head into the year's final three weeks.
"We gave ourselves a tough situation, starting out poorly and letting them jump out in front of us," Del Rio said in opening his postgame address. "We just didn't generate anything offensively."
What the Jaguars generated offensively was a game-changing turnover on only the third play of the game. On third and seven from his 35-yard line, quarterback David Garrard looked for wide receiver Jerry Porter on a crossing route, but Garrard found defensive back Danieal Manning and Manning returned the interception 42 yards to the Jaguars five-yard line.
"I don't believe there was a miscommunication on that. I think the defensive back settled into the hole we were trying to get in," Del Rio said.
"We had been watching tapes and they had been running with guys," Garrard said. "(Manning) figured he'd pass it off to someone else. I've got to be better than that."
Two plays later, Bears quarterback Kyle Orton found tight end Desmond Clark for a two-yard touchdown completion and the Jaguars trailed, 7-0. Falling behind has become a weekly trend.
"I thought the guys were excited to come up here and play in the elements," Del Rio said, referring to wind chill of six degrees. "We came up here and fought hard but didn't play very well."
The Jaguars didn't force the Bears to have to do much. When Orton hit tight end Greg Olsen with a 22-yard touchdown pass right before halftime, the Bears were comfortably ahead, 20-3.
A third quarter of three-and-out possessions was followed by a Garrard to Maurice Jones-Drew touchdown play of four yards early in the fourth quarter, cutting the Bears' lead to 20-10 and offering hope the Jags might stage a comeback.
That hope was dashed, however, when the Bears followed with a 55-yard drive that produced a field goal, and the last hope of a Jaguars comeback ended when the Jags turned the ball over on downs with 2:44 to play.
"We were never able to get into a one-possession type of game," Del Rio said. "Having success can snowball in a positive way and we weren't able to get any of that … over the last month, month and a half. We haven't been able to get that turned."
The Jaguars ran the ball for 119 yards against the number six run-defense in the league. Fred Taylor (53 yards) and Jones-Drew (55) ran hard but their efforts were betrayed by a slumping passing game. Garrard completed 19 of 38 passes for 178 yards, one touchdown, one interception and a 61.1 passer rating. Seven of those completions, however, went to Jones-Drew, who has become Garrard's favorite receiver in recent weeks.
"No one in here settles for that kind of outcome. Trust me, these guys will be sore in the morning. We had effort across the board," Taylor said. "I love playing football. I love competing. As long as I have breath in me, I'll compete in every facet of life."
Taylor went past O.J. Simpson and Corey Dillon and into 16th place on the all-time rushing list. He now has 11,271 career rushing yards.
"It's an honor. Maybe I'll be able to sit back and enjoy it with my kids some day. Right now it's a sour feeling," Taylor said.