MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Again and again, there were opportunities.
That was the story for the Jaguars on Sunday afternoon in their third consecutive loss – this one coming 24-3 to the Miami Dolphins in front of 53,667 at Sun Life Stadium.
Yes, the Jaguars were outgained 389-299, and yes, they continue to struggle offensively and defensively. But on Sunday, the Jaguars had ample chances to not only be in the game, but to win.
They didn't take advantage, and this time what Head Coach Mike Mularkey said what was particularly frustrating was the Jaguars hurt themselves.
"We're not going to win a lot of games that way," Mularkey said afterward.
The Jaguars, who on Sunday failed twice to convert 4th-and-1 in the red zone, also were penalized 10 times for 88 yards, with one of those penalties nullifying a first-half touchdown.
"Obviously, we were not as disciplined of a football team as we have been or will be," Mularkey said. "We have got to not do some things where every time we take a step forward we take two steps back. That cost us again today.
"That's not what any of us in that locker room stands for, and that starts with me. I will take total blame for that. That's something that's very important to me and that was important in this game."
The loss was the third in as many games for the Jaguars, who slipped to 2-12. They have lost 10 of their last 11 games and need victories in their final two games – at home against New England and at Tennessee – to avert the worst record in franchise history.
"We can't keep doing things to hurt ourselves, you know?" Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis said. "One thing coach talks about is playing disciplined, tough, physically consistently. We just didn't do that today."
The Jaguars for a second consecutive week entered the third quarter with a chance to win only to be dominated in the period.
Miami outgained the Jaguars 200-31 in the period, turning a 10-3 lead into a 16-3 advantage. A week ago, the Jaguars led the New York Jets 3-0 at halftime before allowing 10 third-quarter points.
"The third quarter was our biggest problem," quarterback Chad Henne said. "It was just the third quarter. The Dolphins took over and had a bunch of yards, and controlled the quarter. We've got to come out and start the half better and get things started off right."
Henne, who threw for more than 600 yards and six touchdowns in his first two games after replacing Blaine Gabbert as the starter, struggled to get the Jaguars going offensively for a third consecutive game. On Sunday, he completed 18 of 34 passes for 221 yards and was sacked twice. He has been sacked 20 times this season.
The Jaguars for the game registered 13 first downs to 26 for the Dolphins.
"We've got to keep fighting," Henne said. "This group of guys fights and comes to practice with the right attitude. It's enjoyable to be around these guys. I just hope we can get some wins in these last two games."
As much as the Jaguars struggled, the game in a very real sense turned on missed chances.
The game was tied 3-3 in the second quarter when end Jason Babin forced a fumble by Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Defensive tackle Tyson Alualu recovered at the 20, but a touchdown pass from Henne to rookie Justin Blackmon on the ensuing play was negated when offensive tackle Guy Whimper was ruled to have failed to report as eligible.
That drive ended when Henne was stopped on a quarterback sneak on 4th-and-1 at the 11.
The Jaguars had another red zone opportunity in the fourth quarter, but trailing 16-3 with 12:13 remaining, running back Montell Owens was stopped on 4th-and-1 from the Dolphins 15.
"We got down there a couple of times and went for it on 4th-and-1," Henne said. "Unfortunately, we didn't get it. It was one of those days that was tough. We have to take care of business and score some points.
"We were confident in the playcalling. We just didn't execute to our fullest ability. It's foruth and 1. Coach has confidence in us. We have to convert those situations."
The Jaguars also struggled against the run for a third consecutive game. Two weeks ago, the Bills ran for 242 yards in a 34-18 victory over the Jaguars. Last week, the Jets dominated the third quarter with the run and finished with 166 yards rushing.
The Dolphins on Sunday rushed for 189 yards on 36 carries, with 139 of those coming in the second half as Miami pulled away and as another game turned disappointing for the Jaguars in what can only be defined as a disappointing season.
"We won't be a good defense until we stop the run," defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said. "It's getting old. Being 2-12 is frustrating. Teams running on us three weeks in a row puts a bad feeling in my stomach. Hopefully, it does to everybody else, because if not, nothing is going to change."