JACKSONVILLE – This one hurt. More than a little.
On this day, close wasn't close to being enough for the Jaguars – and as a matter of fact, the whole "close" thing …
Well, the Jaguars are tired of it.
Have we said that before during this 2014 season? Was it true before Titans 16, Jaguars 14 made what could have been a memorable afternoon yet another frustrating Sunday?
Maybe, but make no mistake:
While the Jaguars don't talk much about winning and losing under Head Coach Gus Bradley – and while they rarely talk in terms of "needing" victories – if you don't mind those terms this game would have been a good place to use them.
The Jaguars entered Sunday 0-5, but the schedule was difficult. Philadelphia. San Diego. Indianapolis. Good teams, contending teams; elite quarterbacks, or at least very good ones …
This game didn't feel the same and not just because of the Titans' 1-4 record. There was a backup quarterback – Charlie Whitehurst – starting for a team that had lost a 25-point lead the week before. All of that also made Sunday feel winnable – and like one the Jaguars needed. So, when Titans nose tackle Sammie Hill blocked Josh Scobee's 55-yard field goal with 12 seconds remaining …
Well, there was a lot of pain in Nashville Sunday. It was pain that could be felt in the post-game locker room.
"This one's tough, man," defensive tackle Roy Miller said in a locker room in which a theme quickly became how a detail here or there can lead to missed opportunities and eventually to losses. "You play hard for so many snaps, then you mess up one time and you feel like it's your fault we lost the game. That's just what we're going through.
"We've had some frustrating games. We thought we had a chance and it just didn't happen."
Rookie quarterback Blake Bortles was asked if this was the season's most frustrating loss.
"I think it's the same," Bortles said. "A loss is a loss. You feel the same about if you won or if you lost by 40. It sucks."
What do people want at 0-6? What do fans what? A reason. A place to assess blame. There was none of that in the postgame locker room Sunday, and though the word "frustration" was kept to a minimum, it was certainly heard.
"It's frustrating, because it's good to be positive and grow and learn from something, but at the end of the day, you don't get the rewards for moral victories," Jaguars cornerback Will Blackmon said. "You can be happy with the fact that you fought and you competed, but it's not enough."
Blackmon said it's not correct to talk about the Jaguars' being "closer." That word has become tiresome to some fans, but Blackmon said it doesn't apply anymore.
"We're there," he said. "It's just a matter of everybody individually just doing their thing. You're there when you know what's wrong. I feel like you're not there if you're still saying, 'OK, maybe we adjust this or adjust that.' We know."
Blackmon said part of it was on him.
"It starts with me …" he said. "…make a tackle."
Blackmon was referencing a missed first-half tackle, one of several in that half that accounted for several explosive plays. Other players in the post-game followed suit. Running back Jordan Todman called a long second-half pass from Bortles that slipped through his hands "a play I have to make." Wide receiver Cecil Shorts III bemoaned a late fumble at the Titans 10 that could have changed momentum.
"You can't have fumbles," Shorts said. "When opportunities come, you have to make plays."
Offsides penalties, penalties that turned third downs into first, opportunities for turnovers missed, dropped passes …
"You earn success," Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said. "It's not given to you. For us, we have to learn how to earn it. We're doing some things, but not enough."
Too many mistakes at too many critical times … all were part of the Jaguars' story Sunday, as they have been all season.
"I feel like we're there," Blackmon said. "It's a matter of going the extra mile to make sure we take care of our stuff individually."
He's not alone. There was no despair late Sunday at LP Field. The Jaguars didn't sound discouraged, and Sunday wasn't about quit. The Jaguars were efficient early, driving 80 yards on the game's first series, and though the offense sputtered after that, fight remained. The Jaguars were at the Titans 10 with five minutes remaining, scored a touchdown with :37 remaining and following a recovered onside kick, attempted a field goal that would have given them a victory as uplifting as it would have been improbable.
A team that has quit doesn't get those kinds of opportunities, but if they're not a beaten team after six winless games, they are a team tired of talking about near-misses.
"You want to taste it," Shorts said. "You want to reap your benefits. You work so hard, and you want to reap what you sow. So, yeah, I'm tired of talking about it, but that's reality right now."
Close? No, that not a happy topic right now.
"It never matters if it's close, in my opinion," guard Zane Beadles said. "It's, 'You won or you lost; you played your best or you didn't …' We're trying to play our best every single week. While we are getting better, we haven't put our best performance on the field and we haven't done what we're capable of to this point."
And that's why however you describe Sunday – winnable, needed, whatever – this one hurt. More than a little. A whole lot more.