They were the "Cardiac Cats" but they ran out of lives.
The Jaguars weren't the team making the big plays at the end of Sunday's game at Alltel Stadium. This time it was their opponent who rallied, and it was no less an opponent than the Tennessee Titans, the Jaguars' chief tormentors, who claimed an 18-15, come-from-behind win that strikes a major blow to the Jaguars' playoff hopes.
"This is the NFL. Calling us the 'Cardiac Cats' isn't going to work every time. We have to have the killer instinct and put the game away. We have to put the game out of reach," wide receiver Jimmy Smith said of the loss to the Titans, who trailed 15-10 with 8:19 to play and the Jaguars first-and-10 at the Titans' 31-yard line.
The loss left the Jaguars at 6-4 and a full game behind the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC South title race. Just as importantly, the Jaguars fell another game behind the Colts in division record, which is the second tie-breaker. It means the Jaguars almost certainly must finish with a better record than the Colts to have any chance of claiming the division title.
A wild-card berth may be the Jaguars' most realistic way into this year's postseason. A game ahead of the Jaguars in the AFC wild-card chase are Denver, San Diego, the Jets and Baltimore, all of whom have 7-3 records.
"We've been in a bunch of these games this year and we've been able to come out on top. Today, we were unable to do so," head coach Jack Del Rio said.
The Jaguars' fourth-quarter failures were at the heart of their defeat.
• Leading 13-10, the Jaguars faced a second-and-two at the Tennessee 43-yard line. LaBrandon Toefield was stopped for no gain, then, on third-and-two, Greg Jones gained nothing.
• The next time the Jaguars had the ball they were leading 15-10, following Greg Favors' sack of Steve McNair in the end zone. On first down at the Titans' 31-yard line, David Garrard threw incomplete for Reggie Williams. On second down Fred Taylor gained five yards, then Garrard threw incomplete for Williams, again, on third down. Kicker Josh Scobee capped the drive by missing a 44-yard field goal attempt wide to the right.
• Tennessee took over at their 41-yard line and McNair and the Titans cut through the Jaguars defense with ease. He completed passes of 25 and nine yards to wide receiver Drew Bennett, then found tight end Erron Kinney for a 21-yard completion. Running back Antowain Smith scored from two yards out and McNair ran for a two-point conversion.
The Jaguars made no "noise" down the stretch. They went three-and-out for the second consecutive possession, then, needing a field goal to send the game into overtime, Garrard was intercepted at the Jaguars 38-yard line with about 20 seconds to play.
"With the lead, with the ball and a chance to establish ourselves physically, we did not get it done offensively," Del Rio said in his postgame interview.
The Titans turned in a courageous performance. They were playing with several starters sidelined by injuries, yet, coach Jeff Fisher's team displayed the heart and character for which it has been famous over the past several seasons.
"They were all banged up. They fought hard, hung around and gave themselves a chance late in the game," Del Rio said.
Fisher complimented his team's effort and referred to the win as "one we snuck away with. It's good to get a win down here and good to get a win period," Fisher said.
At 4-6, the Titans are thought to be out of playoff contention.
"Tennessee came to play football and we didn't. Tennessee found a way to win and we didn't," Jaguars middle linebacker Mike Peterson said.
Defensive tackle Marcus Stroud, who was playing on a knee he sprained against Detroit a week earlier, said "they were the better team at the end of the game and they pulled it out. They just were the better team.
"We're still in it. We still have a chance. We still have six weeks of football left. A lot can happen between now and then," Stroud said.
In his second consecutive starting assignment, Garrard began to heat up in the second quarter after a rocky start. He was sabotaged, however, by dropped passes. His statistical performance – 13 of 27 for 129 yards, no touchdowns, one interception and a 46.7 passer rating – would've been considerably better had his receivers not dropped passes at key points in the game.
Jimmy Smith dropped a pass in the Jaguars' next-to-last possession. Smith was running a crossing route that might have produced a big play had he caught the ball. Some wondered if Smith might have taken the ball to the end zone; it was the same play that had produced the game-winning touchdown in overtime against Detroit the previous week.
Rookie wide receiver Reggie Williams caught only one pass for 13 yards. He fell down on a deep ball, on the play immediately following Smith's drop.
Del Rio had deactivated rookie wide receiver Ernest Wilford, opting to activate an extra running back, Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala.
"It's nothing against Ernest. You can only dress so many guys. We hoped to be able to run the ball more today than we were able to get done," Del Rio said.
The Titans were playing with a make-shift defensive line and the Jaguars intended to pound hard at that line with the running game, but the Jaguars failed to take an early lead. Tennessee had leads of 3-0 after one quarter of play and 10-6 at halftime. When the Jaguars took a 13-10 lead in the fourth quarter, however, their running game betrayed them on two short-yardage downs and that probably caused offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave to turn back to the passing game in the team's next offensive possession.
"Very disappointing for me. We didn't play our game. It was nothing they did. We didn't get the job done. They had a lot of injuries on defense I feel we should have taken advantage of. You have to give them credit," Smith said.
The Titans also lost cornerback Samari Rolle to an injury in the second half.
Jaguars starting quarterback Byron Leftwich will have his left knee injury re-evaluated this week, to determine whether or not he will be available for the team's game in Minnesota.