MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – This one, as it turned out, was much more of the same. Yet again.
The Jaguars lost to the Miami Dolphins Sunday, 24-3. They lost because they allowed too many rushing yards, and made too many mistakes. They lost because they dropped passes, because they didn't make crucial plays at crucial times and because once adversity hit, it just kept hitting.
If that sounds familiar, it's because it is. Mistakes and missed opportunities . . .
Well, if those things in a very real sense defined the loss Sunday – a game the Jaguars could have won and certainly could have and should have made much closer – in just a real sense they have defined a lot of Jaguars games this season.
And if it's a bit of a cliché to say a game sums up a season on Sunday the cliché came awfully close to being true.
"There's no way around it," cornerback Rashean Mathis said in a quiet visiting locker room at Sun Life Stadium, "It's been a disappointing year."
Disappointing enough that a team that began the year talking feel-good turnaround now enters the season's final two weeks trying to avert the worst record in franchise history.
"It's been a disappointing year, obviously, with our record," Jaguars Head Coach Mike Mularkey said. "We've had a number of things that just have not fallen into place."
How disappointing? Well, we could spend paragraph after paragraph outlining ways, but there's time for that later, on another day. This editorial is about Sunday, and while it would be nice to say the 21-point margin wasn't indicative of the game, that's only partly true.
The Jaguars had chances, so in a sense this game could have been closer. There was the touchdown by Justin Blackmon that was nullified when officials called offensive tackle Guy Whimper for failing to report as eligible. There was the touchdown the Jaguars didn't score on an earlier red-zone drive. There also was the fourth-quarter red-zone drive that ended when Montell Owens got no yards when he needed one on fourth down from the Dolphins 15.
So, yes, there were chances, as there absolutely have been chances all season. All those overtime road losses? All those near-misses when a play or two could have turned a game? Those are what players and coaches have talked about all season and those are what they will discuss again this week. They happened again Sunday, they're why the Jaguars on Sunday could have left Sun Life feeling far different.
But in truth, Sunday wasn't just bad breaks. And it wasn't just the missed opportunities.
When you're 10 games under .500 in December, it isn't just missed opportunities and being close. It's also inexcusable things happening too often, and that happened again Sunday.
The Jaguars on Sunday showed life early. They outgained the Dolphins 147-109 in the first half, and an argument could be made at halftime that the Jaguars had outplayed the Dolphins.
By game's end, that argument couldn't be made.
A week after allowing the Jets to dominate and pull away in the third quarter, the Jaguars allowed the same thing to happen Sunday. The Dolphins scored just two third-quarter field goals, but they outgained the Jaguars 200-31 in the period, and the score would have been more one-sided if not for a failed fake field-goal on the first drive of the half.
The Dolphins outgained the Jaguars 280-152 in the second half, a statistic significantly more lopsided until a 77-yard Jaguars drive that ended without a touchdown on the Dolphins 4-yard line with 1:11 remaining,
The Dolphins were in the red zone on each of their five second-half possessions, and with those sorts of statistics painting a bleak picture, players afterward said things that have been heard too often.
"I'm not looking for moral victories," Jaguars defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said. "I want to win."
Quarterback Chad Henne summed it in general terms.
"It's just one of those days that was tough," he said.
Know this: players didn't want to be saying those things Sunday, as Mularkey didn't want to again be taking blame for a lack of discipline.
Those things bother players. And they bother Mularkey. Never think they don't, because however bad things may be – and it's worse than anyone around this franchise thought possible – the players and coaches do care. They work too hard, put too much in, and have too much at stake for things to be otherwise.
But in the NFL, a loss is a loss is a loss, and for the Jaguars, the reality is they left Miami Sunday as they arrived – still convinced they should have been better than 2-12 and still not sure exactly why they're not.
They left talking, too, about how to approach the final two games.
"It's our jobs, so we have to get over this, look at what we did wrong and what we can improve on," Mathis said. "We have to get ready for next week. We still have two more games left. We're trying to end on a positive note, so we have to make that happen."
And yes, that's what's left – trying to squeeze something out of a disappointing season, trying to find something to motivate in the final two games.
It's not satisfying stuff to hear, but after a day that in the end was too much like too many other days this season, there really wasn't much else to say.