HOUSTON—The Jaguars didn't get the help they needed from the Tennessee Titans, but that fact didn't ease the Jaguars' pain in the face of a 34-17 loss to the Houston Texans that left a gaping hole in the Jaguars' pride and denied the team a winning season.
"I'm proud of the fact that we remained alive until this point. I'm disappointed that we didn't seal the deal," coach Jack Del Rio said following the loss at Reliant Stadium.
The deal to which Del Rio was referring is the AFC South title, which the Jaguars had a chance to clinch in Indianapolis in week 15, but which the Colts clinched with a 23-20 win over the Titans on Sunday. The Jaguars' only hope of winning the division title rested on a win in Houston and a Titans win in Indianapolis. The Jaguars got neither.
"I know Tennessee had a shot at the end. We saw that they fumbled, but we talked about coming in here and getting a win for us. We talked about winning our division and winning in our division and we didn't get it done," Del Rio said.
A win would've given the Jaguars their first winning season in the division and overall since 2007. They got neither, which made this an especially hurtful defeat. This one was about more than making it into the playoffs. This one was about validating the team's improvement from last year's 7-9 record. At 8-8, that improvement isn't as distinct.
One of the worst defensive performances in Jaguars history – the Texans gained 497 total yards, 244 of those on the ground – casts an especially dim light on the team's finish. Following four consecutive losses to end the 2009 season, the Jaguars finished with three straight defeats to end this season.
"Just a shame we couldn't play better defense today when it was called for. That really bothers me," Del Rio said. "We got handled a little bit where we think we are strong. They handled us pretty good. They knocked us around more than we're accustomed to. Our front got handled by their front. I'm stunned we didn't play better. They won the battle of the hitting."
The big question to be answered about this team is: Why did it collapse down the stretch?
"I think we're going to talk about this tomorrow, back at home," Del Rio said, referring to a press conference scheduled for two p.m. on Monday, at which time Del Rio is expected to give his season-ending address to the media. "I'll spend some time analyzing it."
Del Rio was asked in Sunday's postgame press conference if he is concerned about his job security.
"I'm only concerned about seeing that being a lead idea for your stories," he said. "I feel we're a better team this year. In the end, we just weren't good enough."
Despite being without star running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who Del Rio said will undergo knee surgery on Wednesday, the Jaguars running game was good enough on Sunday. Rashad Jennings rushed for 108 yards and rookie Deji Karim added 52.
Making his first start at quarterback, Trent Edwards threw for 140 yards, one touchdown, one interception and a 62.1 passer rating. He replaced David Garrard, who underwent surgery on his passing hand this past Thursday.
"We didn't make many plays throwing the ball today," Del Rio said.
The Jaguars made no plays on defense. The Jags didn't get a turnover and finished the season minus 15 in turnovers. Texans quarterback Matt Schaub threw for 253 yards, a touchdown and a 129.7 passer rating. Arian Foster rushed for 180 yards and won the NFL rushing title.