KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Through the pain there was hope. A lot of hope.
And while Jaguars players expressed very real disappointment following a season-ending loss Saturday, they expressed just as much confidence in what they consider a bright future.
"This is the new standard," Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence said, adding: "This won't be last you guys hear of us. We'll be back.
"I'm confident this is more the beginning than the end of something. This is just getting started for us. Guys are already hungry to get this opportunity again."
Lawrence, speaking moments after the Jaguars’ 27-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in a 2022 AFC Divisional playoff game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., spoke of equal parts being "crushed" and equal parts "proud."
"It's hard to talk and think about that, but it's special what we were able to do," Lawrence said after completing 24 of 39 passes for 217 yards and a touchdown with one interception. "No one thought we should be here. We just kept believing and it's really cool to be a part of.
"This year obviously was huge for this organization, for our city, for our franchise moving forward. It sets the bar of we're going to and then what we're going to do moving forward. That's the mindset. We won't settle for less than that.
"We got a taste of being here, but there's more's more left."
Lawrence wasn't alone.
"Nobody probably would have thought prior to the season that we would have made it this far," Jaguars tight end Chris Manhertz said. "Ultimately, we didn't achieve our goal and win the whole thing, but there's a lot of things to be proud of, of all the men in this locker room and how we bounced back in the midst of adversity all season.
"This is a special group from top to bottom."
The Jaguars, after a 2-6 start, trailed the Tennessee Titans by four games with seven games remaining in the regular season before winning their last five regular-season games to win their first AFC South title in five seasons.
They had finished with the NFL's worst record in back-to-back seasons, with a 31-30 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers in an AFC Divisional Playoff last weekend making them the first NFL team to win a playoff game after having the NFL's worst record the previous season.
"It's tough," wide receiver Jamal Agnew said. "It's honestly surreal right now because of how much we've been through this season. Nobody panicked. There's something special about this team. The sky's the limit for this team going forward. We know what it tastes like to get to the divisional round and win a playoff game. The sky's the limit."
Said wide receiver Marvin Jones, "Every game was a playoff game at one point, and we capitalized on all of those opportunities. It was a great year and a great step forward for the future of this program. A lot of these young guys now know what winning tastes like and now they are going to want to come back."
- Jaguars wide receiver Christian Kirk sustained a fourth-quarter knee injury and returned to finish the game. "I'm not feeling great," said Kirk, who caught seven passes for 52 yards and a first-quarter touchdown. "It's my knee. We are just going to see what it is, but I wasn't going to finish the game not on the field. We have gone through so much and gone through so much adversity. I was going to finish the game on the field with my brothers."
- Agnew: "I'm definitely proud of where this team is trending, especially after last year. To get where we got, nobody believed we'd even be in this spot, in this position. That a testament to the coaching staff, changing the culture that fast, bringing the right guys in. It's a testament to everybody."
- Manhertz: "Regardless of what transpired, there was never a shadow of a doubt that we thought we were out of the game. Unfortunately, we just missed a few opportunities that were critical down the stretch. We got to live with that."
- Kirk: "It hurts the most because of everything we have overcome this year, how far we've come in one year, making the steps we've wanted to make and in our first year of being together. Everybody in this locker room plays for one another. They love one another. When you go out there and it all finally comes to an end, it hurts. It stings. There are emotions, there are tears."
Playoff football! 😎 Swipe through to view the live action game photos from Jaguars vs. Chiefs matchup.