INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The last one was a frustrating one.
And in a sense, the frustrating Jaguars 2016 regular-season finale sort of defined the entire frustrating Jaguars 2016 season.
This was a team capable of contending. And it was a team that played well at times.
But it was not a team that finished well – and the Jaguars' certainly didn't finish in a 24-20 loss to the Indianapolis Colts Sunday, a game that for a long time looked as if it would tell a dramatically different season-ending story.
The Jaguars led 17-0 in the first half and could have – maybe should have – been further ahead. But once the Colts and quarterback Andrew Luck cut a 17-3 halftime lead to 17-10 early in the third quarter, this felt like a game that was getting away from the Jaguars.
When they couldn't drain more clock late in the fourth quarter and took a 20-17 lead on a 41-yard Jason Myers field goal, the 1:33 that remained felt like longer.
The story in Indianapolis after this game will be how Luck's touchdown pass to tight end Jack Doyle with nine seconds remaining allowed perennial Pro Bowl defensive end Robert Mathis to go out a winner in his final game.
The story in Jacksonville will be too familiar, because it will be how the Jaguars once again couldn't close a game that they could have and probably should have won.
Let's get to it …
Michael from Section 122 and Port Orange, FL:
Why do the pro coaches coach the team out of another win? 1. Conservative second-half play calls. 2. Ball on Colts 30 late in the game … run three times to set up the field goal. 3. Play the pro version of prevent defense … let Colts march down the field for the winning touchdown. We should have won this game just like several others this year. Don't want to hear it was Bortles fault!
John: I didn't sense that the Jaguars' were overly conservative throughout most of the second half Sunday, though maybe I'll see differently when I re-watch the game Monday. As far as the strategy at the end of the game, interim head coach Doug Marrone said afterward his philosophy with the score tied late is to run, force the other team to burn timeouts and kick a field goal if a first down isn't gained. Agree or disagree, that's his philosophy. Would I have liked a pass on third down? Yeah, maybe. As far as prevent defense … yeah, in that situation the coverage seemed soft. Do you play pressure there and risk the big play? Conventional wisdom says you play to prevent the touchdown. It's maddening when it doesn't work. It appeared to be more about lack of pressure than soft coverage, but again … that has been the story much of the season. As far as blaming Bortles … no, I wouldn't say this one was on him. He played better in the last two games – not great, but better. That doesn't make him a guaranteed franchise quarterback, but maybe it's progress.
Bill from Hawthorn Woods, IL:
That Bortles fumble in the second quarter, and the tipped ball play right before it ... those are the ones that make me so nervous about Blake. He was looking good until that point, and in back-to-back plays he just tried too hard. He got careless again. No points for the Colts off it (this time), but that is the stuff that needs to stop. There is some momentum-building that will hopefully carry over into next season, but that stuff has to stay in 2016.
John: Bortles looked better in the last two weeks. He did not look like an elite, perfect quarterback. It wasn't reasonable to think he was going to look perfect or elite in the final two games after the way he played the first 14 games. The good news is the "looked better" part. The reality is the part where he still needs to improve.
Tommy from Jax:
O-You can't let Bortles off that easy. He had two turnovers ...
John: Pocket awareness is an issue. He must improve it.
You didn't expect this one, did you?
John: This was the much-ballyhooed, much-anticipated, much-discussed First Email of the Game. I have no idea what it meant.
Jeff from Atlantic Beach, FL:
We are who we thought we were.
John: Indeed. Marrone said it best after the game – that the loss Sunday was in a lot of ways a microcosm of the season. He addressed it with the team afterward and he talked to the media about it, too. The Jaguars had a chance to win Sunday. They should have won. They made too many errors at critical times. As a result, they did not win. That's what they have been for much of the season and that's how the season will be defined -- despite the euphoria that followed the victory over Tennessee. This is not a team without talent. It's a team with potential. But as Marrone said, it very much is a team that must learn to stop beating itself.