MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – It was over, then it was over again, and just as suddenly, it wasn't.
And when the Jaguars' 2012 regular-season opener – a wild game of twists, hope and heartache – finally ended, it did so with an incomplete pass by quarterback Blaine Gabbert in overtime, finalizing a 26-23 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in front of 56,607 at the Metrodome Sunday afternoon.
The Jaguars came close. Very close.
And while Head Coach Mike Mularkey spoke afterward of disappointment, he also spoke of being proud of what the team overcame.
"We're obviously disappointed," Mularkey said, adding just as quickly that he was "proud of the players, to stay in the game, to have a chance to win out there at the end. I was very proud of them. I was just proud of the way our guys responded.
"They gave us a chance to win at the end of the game, and that's all you can ask for."
The Jaguars fought injuries throughout Sunday, with offensive guard Eben Britton leaving with an ankle injury, offensive tackle Cameron Bradfield leaving with a leg injury, and offensive guard Uche Nwaneri leaving and returning with an ankle injury.
Those injuries came during a first half the Jaguars dominated statistically, leading 9-0 late in the second quarter after a 1-yard touchdown pass from Gabbert to tight end Marcedes Lewis and a 19-yard field goal by Josh Scobee.
A 2-yard run by Vikings running back Adrian Peterson cut the lead to 9-7 with 41 seconds remaining in the half, and another 2-yarder by Peterson 5:18 into the second half gave the Vikings a 14-9 lead.
The teams each converted two field goals later in the third quarter and early in the fourth, but as time ticked past two minutes, the Jaguars drove inside Vikings territory. A 39-yard pass from Gabbert to second-year wide receiver Cecil Shorts made it 21-20, Jaguars, and a two-point conversion from Gabbert to rookie wide receiver Justin Blackmon made it 23-20 with 20 seconds remaining.
But Vikings fullback Mark Asiata returned the ensuing kickoff to the 31, and a pass from Christian Ponder to Devin Aromashadu was good for 26 yards and a first down at the Jaguars 43. Ponder threw six yards to tight end Kyle Rudolph, and kicker Blair Walsh's 55-yard field goal sailed through the uprights with :00 remaining.
Walsh's 38-yard field goal made it 26-23 with 11:06 remaining in overtime, and on 4th-and-3 from the 31 on the ensuing series, Gabbert's long pass to wide receiver Laurent Robinson fell incomplete, ending the game.
"The thing you learn very quickly in the NFL is the game is never over until it's over," said Gabbert, who completed 23 of 39 passes for 260 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. "You've got to fight through the emotional highs and emotional lows week in and week out. We saw that today.
"You have to stay even keel because you never know what's going to happen. We have to fight through that, and bounce back next week. We just have to rebound."
Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who ended a 38-day holdout a week ago, played extensively in place of Rashad Jennings, who started but left the game in the first half with a knee injury. Jones-Drew, the NFL's leading rusher a year ago, rushed for 77 yards on 19 carries.