The coldest home game in Jaguars history wasn't nearly as chilling as the final moments of the Jaguars' 20-17 loss to the Washington Redskins on Sunday. That's when the wind blew hardest and the cold cut to the heart of the Jaguars faithful.
As Graham Gano's 31-yard field goal soared over the crossbar and the two officials in the end zone raised their arms to signal the kick's success, a chill descended on those hearty souls that remained at EverBank Field for the overtime period. It's the kind of chill you feel when you know you've lost something important. It's the kind of chill of inner emptiness you experience when something you don't want to end does, indeed, end.
C'est la vie, Jacksonville. It was a good year. No, it was a very good year.
The Jaguars brought to a close one of the most exciting home regular seasons in team history with one of the most exciting defeats in team history. It's not a loss that eliminated the Jaguars from postseason contention but the Jags' hopes now depend fully on Tennessee winning at Indianapolis next Sunday, and I don't think much analysis needs to be dedicated to that confrontation.
"I did peek up at one time. I saw Kansas City was rolling on Tennessee and I thought we can't count on Tennessee to take care of Indy," coach Jack Del Rio said. "For us, it was about getting win number nine at home and we didn't get that done, and that's what has my attention."
Del Rio spoke of disappointment in his postgame address to the media. On this day, he spoke more as a friend and less as a coach needing to defend himself against the slings and arrows of the media. Sometimes, we just have to open up and trust that those to whom we are speaking have a heart. This was one of those times.
"The crowd was ready to get fired up and into the ballgame. We just didn't do enough to get them into it," he said.
After David Garrard rallied the Jaguars to a game-tying touchdown with 2:44 to play, the defense stopped the Redskins to force overtime and the Jaguars won the overtime coin toss and elected to receive the kickoff, however-many-thousand were left at "The Bank" bounced to the music and delighted in the thought of one more fantastic finish.
Maybe the whole season flashed before their eyes: the opening-game win over the Broncos on a 90-degree day that threatened to melt everyone; the 59-yard field goal to beat the Colts; the Hail Mary to beat the Texans; the rallies that beat the Browns and the Raiders. One more time, right?
No, not this time.
The good times ended just three plays into the overtime period, when cornerback Kevin Barnes stepped in front of a Garrard pass that was intended for Marcedes Lewis. It was man-to-man coverage. It was the right place to go with the ball on third and four but Garrard got pressure in his face and Barnes easily read Garrard's body language and stepped in front of Lewis.
Three plays later, Gano stepped onto the field. This was the same guy that choked a kick to lose a game only a few weeks ago. He didn't choke this one.
All of the emotions of a season that had flip-flopped from lopsided defeats to exhilarating wins left a crowd numb with cold, a different kind of cold. Fans dressed in coats they didn't even know they owned, poured out of EverBank Field with a glazed look on their collective faces.
Disappointment? Hey, let's just go straight to hurt, OK? Let's not fool around with the preliminaries. Everybody got hurt. The coach hurt. The players hurt. The fans got hurt. The whole damn town is hurting.
"Just couldn't get it done down the stretch," defensive end Jeremy Mincey said. "The fans got their money's worth, but we wanted to get our money's worth."
Whoa, Jeremy. That's pretty deep.
Mincey is one of those players whose emotions for the game and his desire to play it exceed the talent with which he has been blessed. He's not as big as he is tough, he's not as fast as he is dedicated, and he's not as mercenary as he is vulnerable to defeat.
"The fight was there. We just made mistakes. We had chances. It just didn't go our way," he said. "Should've played better all the way around. If we want to be in the playoffs, we have to play like it."
With that, Mincey no doubt graduated from disappointment and went directly to hurt. He talked about needing more than 24 hours.
Twenty-four hours? Are you kidding me, Jeremy? This one may take an offseason to get over.