No moral victory

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Paul Posluszny wasn't hearing it.

Maybe logically what Jaguars Head Coach Mike Mularkey said was true, and maybe in time good would come from fighting hard, from coming close, from giving themselves a chance, but as the defensive captain and middle linebacker saw it, that wasn't the theme for the day. Not even close.

The story for this game, as Poluszny saw it, was as simple as it was painful:

This one got away, needlessly so.

And as far as Posluszny was concerned, blame was easily placed.

"It was our game," Posluszny said in the wake of the Jaguars' 26-23 overtime, season-opening loss to the Minnesota Vikings at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minn.

"If you had said going into the game the defense was going to be on the field with 20 seconds left and all we have to do is stop them to win the game, I'll take that any day of the week.

"We didn't play well enough to win."

Simple, honest words, and while we have come to expect no less from Posluszny, that was the theme around the locker room Sunday.

Yes, it was good to have fought. Yes, it was good to have overcome.

And no question, the circumstances were difficult. Not only was starting running back Rashad Jennings out, three offensive linemen went down with injuries. At the end of the game, starting guard Eben Britton was out. So was starting right tackle Cameron Bradfield. Guard Uche Nwaneri had left the game and had come back in.  

How perilous was the situation on the offensive line? Enough that Mularkey said the Jaguars were reviewing offensive tackle blocking assignments with tight end Zach Potter. That's something the Jaguars kind of sort of plan for, but something they definitely don't really think will happen.

It didn't happen Sunday, but it was very close, and that was why Mularkey spoke afterward not just of the disappointment of losing a three-point lead with 20 seconds remaining, then of not producing a first down on an overtime drive with a chance to win the regular-season opener and set a tone for the season. No, he talked of more than that, of what he liked.

"This team has serious fight in them," Mularkey said.

But talk of fight, of want-to, of will -- that wasn't what players wanted. Not on this Sunday. Not after grinding in a difficult training camp, not after the way they came together, and not with the new feeling this team had entering the regular season. That's a feeling they still have, and there are still positive vibes long term running through this organization, but for the short-term, expectations are higher.

That's why what happened Sunday wasn't enough.

"We don't work hard to lose games," tight end Marcedes Lewis said. "We believe in the process and we're going to take it one game at a time, one play at a time. That's going to win us games. We're going to win these games down the road. We just have to stay with our process."

That's easier to believe than this time last season. It's easier because of the positives. Blaine Gabbert looked better. Much better. He looked like a quarterback who has improved and will continue to do so. Laurent Robinson looks like a contributor, and it looks like a team lacking offensive weapons a year ago suddenly has them. Lewis. Cecil Shorts. Robinson. Justin Blackmon. Maurice Jones-Drew. There are things to build around – now. Not later. There is hope. A lot of it.

But hope and building are big-picture, long-term things, and the Jaguars right now are correctly thinking about the short-term, and in the short-term this one hurt.

 "You don't practice and bust your butt like we've been doing to lose games," Lewis said. "We did some good things, but it would have been better if we'd gotten the W. We're about winning, being relentless, never getting down on ourselves. We're going to be that way."

There was disappointment in Lewis as he said it, and there was palpable disappointment around the Jaguars' locker room. Minutes later, with the locker room nearly empty, as Posluszny echoed Lewis' thoughts, and when told of Mularkey's pride in what had been overcome . . .

Well, he got it. But he just wasn't hearing.  Not right then.

What could have been – should have been – a thrilling victory to remember, a victory with Gabbert's improvement and career day the primary storyline was suddenly a loss about could have beens  and might have beens.

And because of that – the pride stuff?

 "That doesn't help," Posluszny said, shaking his head. "We're leaving here with a loss. We had the game. The game was over. It was one where we're going to look back and say, 'We beat ourselves.' The Vikings are a good team, they have talented players and their players made plays, but at the end of the day, that's a game we should have won. The defense was on the field and we should have been able to win."

Posluszny paused and shook his head again.

"There's no moral victory," he said.

Not on a day like Sunday, not even with the long-term looking better.  Not even close, because in the short-term, this one hurt too much.

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