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October was the "right time of the year"

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It is said matter of factly that they are playing their best football at the right time of the year, but it is not the right time of the year for the Jaguars. The right time of the year was in the first half of the season, when everything for which they had hoped and aspired was crushed by a display of their worst football at the worst time of the year.

The result is that in December, when the NFL's playoff-bound teams are desperate to put their best foot forward, that same endeavor is almost a useless exercise for the Jaguars.

"I just think it's a humbling experience," safety Donovin Darius said. "This year, we won on the Sundays that were least significant, and lost on the Sundays that were most significant."

It is a profound statement. It is how we will remember this team, this season. When it counted, they faltered. When it didn't matter, they played as no one else in the league is playing.

Why? The Jaguars scratch their heads for an answer. It is the question they want to answer so they might have an offseason of peace. Why didn't they respond at the "right time of the year?"

"We didn't have Fred (Taylor) early, and we just weren't playing smart football. Even without Fred, we should've been 3-0 going to Indianapolis. And you've got to remember that we had two guys playing on the offensive line who weren't here for training camp," Tony Boselli said in giving his best explanation.

No one would argue with Boselli. Injuries massacred this team early in the season. Clearly, this team needs Taylor in its lineup.

"That's when we play our best; when we're balanced and we run the ball. Look at today. They came out to stop the run and put man coverage on Jimmy (Smith) and Keenan (McCardell). You kidding me? That's like stealing," Boselli added, referring to the Jaguars' 44-10 victory over the visiting Arizona Cardinals.

Without a healthy Taylor, the Jaguars couldn't steal a win. They lost five in a row before Taylor became comfortable playing on a knee that was far from 100 percent healthy. Then, he got back the bounce in his step, and the Jaguars have won five of their last six games.

Yes, Taylor is the reason for everything. You could make that point, except for one fly in the ointment, Seattle. With Taylor back at full speed, and following a bye-week rest, the Jaguars lost at home to a Seattle team playing out the string and having flown across the country for a one o'clock game.

How do we explain that one? How do we explain that with their playoff hopes on the line, the Jaguars folded against a team with Jon Kitna at quarterback?

It goes back to what Darius said. For some unknown reason, the Jaguars always found a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Why couldn't they win the big games? That's the burning question.

"Coming into the season, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves. As the season went on, we stopped pressuring ourselves. I hope this carries over," McCardell said.

They did not respond in the pressure games. That should tell us something. Maybe this team needed more than an offseason of rest. Maybe it needed to distance itself more from its devastating AFC title game defeat of last January.

It would've helped most had this team's schedule been the reverse. The Jaguars are currently playing through the soft part of their schedule. October was the killer month, and the Jaguars weren't ready for it.

"The injuries caught up with us, and we were killing ourselves," says guard Brenden Stai, one of those two offensive linemen who had not been in the Jaguars' training camp. "We're playing our best football now, but we had hoped to do that by midseason.

"You have to take note of the pride these guys are playing with," Stai added. "A lot of teams pack it up and don't want to be there."

Arizona is one of those teams. They won't admit to it, but they know in their hearts they packed it in a long time ago. They are not playing with December-like desperation.

The Jaguars could play the what-if game, but they resist, because they know they had plenty of chances to make the playoffs in plenty of significant games, and every time they faced one, they lost. It is their greatest lament.

"Everyone says play your best football in December, but if you don't play decent football in September and October, December won't matter," Kevin Hardy said.

Yeah.

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