The mark on Fred Taylor's back wasn't the only thing that was red. So was Taylor's mood.
"When you see blood, you're supposed to kill somebody," Taylor said following the Jaguars' 18-15 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.
Oh, for sure, the Jaguars sensed blood in the water. The Jaguars led, 15-10, and they had the ball at the Tennessee 49-yard line with 9:03 to play in the game. Defensive end Greg Favors had just sacked Steve McNair for a safety and the Titans were at the desperation point of the game and of their season.
Alltel Stadium was a sea of red and the Jaguars were circling. It was time to deliver the death blow and the drive began with an 18-yard pass completion from David Garrard to wide receiver Jimmy Smith. At the Titans 31-yard line, the Jaguars had a first down and the scent of death hung in the air.
Then, all of a sudden, the water turned clear. The Jaguars didn't complete another pass the rest of the game; didn't gain another first down. On their home turf against their archrival and with their season on the line, the Jaguars went lifeless.
Garrard threw incomplete on first down, Taylor gained five yards on second down, and Garrard threw incomplete on third down. A field goal would've given the Jaguars a more-comfortable eight-point lead, but kicker Josh Scobee sailed his 44-yard try wide to the right.
"You just have to stick the dagger in their heart and kill them," Taylor said.
OK, it was up to the defense. They'd have to hold on, right?
Yeah, but they came up empty, too.
McNair moved the Titans offense as though it was playing against air. Completions of 25 and nine yards to wide receiver Drew Bennett were followed by a 21-yarder to tight end Erron Kinney. From the two-yard line, running back Antowain Smith plowed into the end zone, then McNair did the same on a two-point conversion run. The Titans needed only 37 seconds to go 59 killer yards.
Statistically, the Jaguars were pretty good. Taylor went over the 100-yard mark – 103 yards on 21 carries for a 4.9 yards-per-carry average – but it wasn't good enough.
"Even though we got Fred his 100, I felt we left a lot of yards out there because we were not able to move the chains," head coach Jack Del Rio said.
Yeah, third-down conversions were the problem, again. The Jaguars were just three of 13 (23 percent) and most of that could be blamed on dropped passes. Del Rio had said for two weeks it was imperative his team rally around backup quarterback David Garrard. On this day, however, they did not.
Garrard was most prominently victimized on the Jaguars' last true possession. Needing a field goal to send the game into overtime, the Jaguars began a drive at their 27-yard line with 3:24 to play in the game.
Garrard's first-down pass was dropped by Jimmy Smith; it would've been good for 15-20 yards. On second down, rookie wide receiver Reggie Williams appeared to be open down the right sideline, but Williams fell as the ball spiraled toward him; it almost hit him as he lie on the ground. On third down, Garrard was sacked.
"I think he was pretty solid," Del Rio said of Garrard. "Some of the drops were on third down. The one thing we'd like to have more as an offense is third-down conversions."
It wasn't as though McNair was having a big day. He completed 18 of 30 passes for 209 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions and a very pedestrian 64.4 passer rating, but McNair made plays at crunch time; at the killing time.
The Jaguars sensed blood in the water. Everyone in Alltel Stadium felt the kill coming on, but then the Jaguars suddenly, inexplicably stopped circling.
"When you don't make the plays, you don't get a chance to have fun. We had plenty of opportunities to put that thing away and didn't get it done," Del Rio said.
It is a game, an opponent spared, that could haunt the Jaguars at season's end. Clearly, their playoff chances were damaged. They let one get away and, frankly, it's difficult to understand why.