FOXBORO, Mass. – The hurt was brutal. Make no mistake.
You can cover a lot of games in a lot of seasons and not see a locker room as stunned and full of pain, regret, disappointment and anger as the Jaguars' locker room after a 24-20 loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium Sunday.
This will hurt a long time. This will linger.
And make no mistake: Recovering won't be easy.
The guess here is the Jaguars will do it because this is a strong, young team with strong locker-room leaders. It's a team with a bright future and the young talent to fulfill what seems endless potential.
But no matter what lies ahead for this team, this loss will linger. It's a game the Jaguars could have and perhaps should have won. They led by 11 points in the first half and 10 in the second.
Another first down or two by the offense …
A stop on 3rd-and-18 midway through the fourth quarter by the defense …
Any number or borderline penalties going the other way …
All of those things were running through players' minds and into microphones and recorders in an emotional locker room Sunday. This one hurt. This will linger. The Jaguars will recover, but it's going to take a long time.
There's a lot to parse through. This O-Zone Late Night won't cover everything and probably will mostly dwell on the hurt and the emotion of the moment.
There's an entire offseason to go through the rest. Sigh.
Let's get to it …
Marlin from Newberry, FL:
Life is meaningless and full of pain. I didn't think it would hurt this bad. They had a great season – one to be proud of, one to remember. I told myself it didn't matter if they lost to the Steelers, and then I told myself it didn't matter if they lost to the Patriots. But damn, I feel like my dog just died. Is this normal?
John: Yes. This is how it feels like to get close and not get there. It's awful. It's frustrating. You spend hours and days saying, "What if?" It stings and wrenches your gut and ruins your mood for a long time. It's a helpless feeling, and it's painful. I am reminded as I write this on the bus to the charter of a Charlie Brown comic strip. I believe it was from the 1960s. Charlie if I recall correctly was a Willie Mays fan. If I recall correctly, the Giants lost the World Series one year when New York Yankees second baseman Bobby Richardson caught a line drive by a Giants player with two outs and runners on in the ninth inning. Charlie is sitting next to Linus in the strip looking forlorn and lost in one cell, and the next, and the next. Finally, in the final cell, Charlie stands and yells something along the lines of, "What if the ball had been three feet higher?" The same strip ran the next day with Charlie standing and saying, "What if the hall had been hit two feet higher? If Charlie were a Jaguars fan he would feel a familiar feeling tonight. And tomorrow. And for a long, long time.
Jay from Salem, OR:
No question here, just statement. … The Jaguars have exceeded all my expectations and that of probably 99 percent of people outside of their locker room. It has been a fun ride this year and I like the foundation this team has in place to be a contender for years to come. #DTWD! Thanks John and Jag's Nation!
John: I hope people feel this way. I think many do. It may be a while before many people are ready to express this, and that's OK. Grieve, Duval. This is a tough one.
Tim from Fernandina Beach, FL:
John: How do the refs call pass interference on A.J. Bouye and the miss the hold by Dany Amendola on the TD? #conspiracy Theory
John: I didn't see a hold on Amendola on the Patriots' first touchdown. I thought the pass interference call on cornerback Bouye that set it up was a bad call. I thought wide receiver Brandin Cooks was already out of bounds, but there was contact so …
Glen from Orange Park,:
First New England drive, first Jag sack! We got this!!
John: This was the much-ballyhooed, often-controversial First Email of the AFC Championship Game. Dante Fowler Jr.'s sack in the first quarter didn't mean the Jaguars "got this," but it did signify that they weren't going to be pushed around or blown out. But no, the Jaguars didn't "got this." You don't got this against Tom Brady and these guys until you're kneeling and everyone leaves the field.
Chris from Section 437:
Tough to beat the Patriots and the refs, congrats cheaters!
John: There were some tough calls to explain. I don't know why the Myles Jack fumble recovery was whistled dead. I haven't re-watched the game. Maybe there will be something that explains it.
Jonathan from Mechanicsville, VA:
What did you think of the calls?
John: My first instinct is that the Patriots got a lot of calls the Jaguars didn't. I have been doing this long enough to know that's not often the case. When I rewatch the game, I'll have a better feeling. That's not a great answer in the emotion of the moment, but it's the one I feel is the fairest and most accurate.
Nicholas from Virginia Beach, VA:
This is rough. How do we recover and move on?