They were one play away from sending the game into overtime but, in some respects, it's a play the Jaguars have been five years away from making.
The Tennessee Titans' surprisingly-narrow 10-3 win today kept the Jaguars winless on the Titans' home turf. The losing streak has reached five straight at The Coliseum, and the Jaguars have now lost nine of the last 11 games between the two teams.
When will they make that play? Will they ever make that play?
If you're looking for hope for better days ahead, pin that hope on a game in which the Jaguars scored several statistical victories. Truth be known, the now 2-8 Jaguars outplayed the now 8-2 Titans, who represent the highest level of the NFL.
"Good, solid effort. Very tough defensive struggle. At the end, we had an opportunity and didn't capitalize on it. Give credit to the Titans for finding a way to win," Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said.
Here's the way the Titans won:
• With the ball at the Jaguars five-yard line early in the second quarter, Titans quarterback Steve McNair threw well behind wide receiver Justin McCareins on a slant route. McCareins reached back with one hand and tipped the ball into the air. As McCareins lie on the ground, he tipped the ball three more times before catching it.
• The Jaguars faced a fourth-and-goal at the Titans two-yard line with 48 seconds left in regulation. Rookie quarterback Byron Leftwich dropped back to pass and threw quickly in the direction of Kyle Brady and Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala, both of whom were on the ground.
That was the Titans' formula for victory: Make a play while falling down, while the Jaguars just fell down.
"It's a play that didn't work. Tennessee did a great job of defending that play," Leftwich said in a vague recount of the most important play of the game.
Brady offered a little more of an explanation.
"He had so much pressure in his face that he threw the ball quickly. I turned around and it was by me," Brady said.
Leftwich may have been guilty of throwing the ball too quickly, but, he was also victimized repeatedly by receivers who had slipped on the soggy turf and fallen to the ground.
"We just didn't make plays when we needed to make plays. I apologized to the defense. They stopped the MVP of the NFL and we didn't do our part," wide receiver Troy Edwards said.
The Jaguars defense held quarterback Steve McNair to just 13 completions in 25 pass attempts, for a mere 166 yards, one touchdown and a 69.8 passer rating. The Jaguars defense also intercepted McNair once and sacked him twice, and forced and recovered two Titans fumbles.
That left the Jaguars at plus-one in sacks and plus-two in turnovers. Normally, that would spell victory, but not today because the Jaguars just couldn't make that one more play.
"I think we did some really good things up front. We were able to run the ball and give Byron time (to throw)," offensive tackle Maurice Williams said.
Star running back Fred Taylor appeared to be headed for a second straight 100-yard game, but that came to a halt in the third quarter when Taylor appeared to have injured his right knee when his leg was bent under him as he was tackled out of bounds. As a result, Taylor was not in the game during the Jaguars' final drive.
"I bent my leg back pretty good. It started getting sore at the end. Then I took a shot on the other leg. I could've been in there, but I don't know if I would've been as effective as those other guys," Taylor said.
His replacement, rookie LaBrandon Toefield made a key pass reception that took the ball down to the Titans three-yard line.
Del Rio did not rush to Leftwich's defense when Del Rio was asked to describe what happened on the Jaguars' final play. "There were options available and guys open. We just missed them. They made the play to win," Del Rio said.
Leftwich suffered a dismal statistical performance. He was 15 of 31 for 151 yards and two interceptions that left him with a 35.8 passer rating. One of his interceptions was the result of having his right arm hit by defensive tackle Robaire Smith as Leftwich released a pass. The other interception could be blamed on Brady having fallen to the ground.
Defensive end Hugh Douglas came to life, registering one-and-a-half sacks and forcing a fumble defensive tackle John Henderson recovered.
The Jaguars defense's greatest accomplishment was its ability to stand firm when the Titans got into scoring territory. That occurred five times in the game. The Titans settled for a field goal on one drive to the Jaguars' 15-yard line, then had drives to the Jaguars' nine and 18-yard lines spoiled by fumbles. The Jaguars also held on downs at their 35, and Gary Anderson missed a long field goal try after the Titans had reached the Jaguars' 30-yard line.
Titans coach Jeff Fisher executed a very aggressive gameplan. After the Titans gained possession at the Jaguars' 36-yard line, Fisher had McNair attempt a pass into the end zone on the Titans' first play of the game. That pass was intercepted by Jaguars rookie cornerback Rashean Mathis.
Fisher also attempted a fake-punt play that failed and a successful long pass from McNair to Derrick Mason on a third-and-one play. But it wasn't daring that won for the Titans. It was their time-honored homefield advantage that did it, again.
"We happen to have two of the better teams in the league in our division. I don't see any reason to think we don't belong," Del Rio said.