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Open Locker Room: Close not enough

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HOUSTON – Gus Bradley saw a lot to like.

He liked the effort, the comeback and how the Jaguars overcame adversity, but as was often the case throughout this season, he didn't like the outcome: a 23-17 loss to the Houston Texans Sunday in front of 71,777 at NRG Stadium.

Bradley, in his second season as the Jaguars' head coach, praised all of the positives.

He also made it clear the positives weren't enough.

"We're encouraged by the mentality and effort, but not by the results," Bradley said after the Jaguars lost for the fifth time in six AFC South games to finish Bradley's second season 3-13.

"As we get closer, it's encouraging, but it's not where we want to be," Bradley adding that while the Jaguars for the most part had closer games this season than last season, "That's not what we're after. We're after following our process to ensure we get the results we want.

"It felt like there were some games we had opportunities to get those wins and we didn't capture it. I think that's what's disappointing."

The Jaguars, after victories in two of their last four games, were outplayed statistically Sunday, but twice took the lead with the help of momentum-turning plays by the defense.

A 55-yard interception return by cornerback Dwayne Gratz gave the Jaguars a second-quarter lead and helped them trail by just four, 14-10, at halftime despite being outgained, 217-102.

Quarterback Blake Bortles completed 14 of 33 passes for 117 yards and the Jaguars went 0 for 11 on third downs. Still, they led entering the fourth quarter after wide receiver Cecil Shorts III's 23-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Todman, a play that came one play after end Ryan Davis recovered a fumble that end Chris Clemons forced with his eighth sack of the season.

"A great call by (Jaguars Offensive Coordinator) Jedd (Fisch)," Bradley said of the touchdown.

Quarterback Case Keenum's eight-yard pass to wide receiver Andre Johnson gave the Texans a 21-17 lead early in the fourth quarter. The Jaguars failed to move past the 50 on the next two possessions and trailed 23-17 after Texans defensive end J.J. Watt sacked Bortles in the end zone.

The Jaguars then pieced together a potential game-winning drive on their final possession, with Bortles converting a 4th-and-10 from the Jaguars 38 with an 18-yard pass to Shorts and scrambling 34 yards to the Texans 10.

But after Bortles passed five yards to rookie wide receiver Allen Hurns, his fourth-down pass to Shorts pulled the receiver out of the end zone with 1:26 remaining. Keenum kneeled twice to secure the victory.

"Through all of those things, the adversity that we had, to still be in positon at the five-yard line with a minute left to possibly get a win in that game …" Bradley said. "I think on one hand it showed what our team is all about, but we didn't capture it with the consistency we're looking for.

"Every team can look back when you lose and say, 'We weren't consistent enough,' but in our case I think it's relevant.''

PLAYER OF THE GAME

Jordan Todman, running back, Jaguars

On a day when the Jaguars scrapped to stay close, there perhaps wasn't a true standout player.

But for the second time in as many weeks, Todman made a big play at a big time for a Jaguars offense that struggled much of the game.

Todman, a second-year veteran playing extensively with Toby Gerhart out with an ankle injury, rushed for 52 yards on seven carries – a 7.4-yard per carry average – and also caught five passes for 46 yards and a touchdown.

Not only did Todman have the 23-yard touchdown from Shorts, he also had a 34-yard turn on the Jaguars' first play of the second half to put Jacksonville in range for a 51-yard field goal by Josh Scobee that bounced off the left upright.

PLAYS OF THE GAME

Offense:Todman's touchdown reception from Shorts not only gave the Jaguars their final lead, it was one of their most memorable offensive plays of the season. On the play, Bortles threw a lateral to Shorts, who then threw back across the field to a wide-open Todman for an easy 23-yard, go-ahead touchdown.

Defense: A tie. Gratz's 55-yard return with a first-quarter interception gave the Jaguars a 10-7 first half lead, but Clemons' sack/fumble that Davis recovered had equal impact. Shorts' touchdown pass to Todman came on the ensuing play and gave the Jaguars their final lead of the season.

Special teams: Scobee's 53-yard field goal in the first quarter gave the Jaguars their first points of the game. He finished the year 20 of 26 on field goals.

QUOTE OF THE GAME

"I believe our future is very bright here. I believe we're going to be a damned good team very soon."

--- Jaguars wide receiver Cecil Shorts III

QUOTABLE

1.Bradley on Bortles: "What he brings to the table … I love that about him. This guy's exactly what we're looking for. We've got some work with him in the offseason that we'll get accomplished, but that spirit and that fearlessness and that competitiveness is exactly what we hoped."

2.Shorts: "We did a lot of learning about each other this year. We had a lot of ups and down with different people and different things happening to them. … The only disappointing thing on my part is we have to end today. I'd rather just keep playing."

3.Shorts: "I tell people I have the fourth-best arm on the team … it goes the three quarterbacks, then me. I don't know what order you put the quarterbacks in. It doesn't matter. But I'm the fourth."

4.Left tackle Luke Joeckel: "We still have that mindset to prepare for victory and be our best. That's what Gus preaches and that's what we're all about, but we know we have to take steps and not just baby steps -- we have to take huge steps."

5.Bortles: "It obviously hurts when you have four chances at the end zone at the end of the game and can't capitalize. … There were a lot of plays and a lot of missed opportunities we had throughout the game."

6.Bortles: "It comes down to making plays and we didn't make enough of them."

NOTABLE

1.Bradley praised the effort of players such as Gerhart and defensive end Andre Branch, each of whom played through injuries Sunday. Gerhart played with a rib injury and left Sunday's game after sustaining an ankle injury. Branch played after missing seven of the last eight games with a groin injury. "We had some adversity happen, and we battled through it," Bradley said. "Here it was, the last game of the season – I thought their effort was tremendous and they battled throughout. We had some guys who maybe didn't have to play, but they fought to play this game. Everybody was trying to find a way to get up and play this game. I don't know if that happens everywhere, but we appreciate it." …

2.Gratz's 55-yard first-quarter interception return for a touchdown was the first interception of the season for the second-year cornerback and his first career touchdown.

3.The Jaguars' three defensive touchdowns this season tied a franchise record for the most in a season in team history (1999, 2007). The Jaguars scored defensive touchdowns off fumble recoveries by linebacker J.T. Thomas and cornerback Aaron Colvin against the New York Giants November 30. …

4.When Shorts caught a nine-yard pass from Bortles in the second quarter he joined Keenan McCardell and Jimmy Smith as only players in franchise history with 50 or more receptions in three consecutive seasons. …

5.Clemons' sack/forced fumble in the third quarter not only led to the Jaguars' go-ahead touchdown, it was the Jaguars' franchise-record 19th forced fumble of the season. It also was their league-leading 12th sack-forced fumble of the season. …

Images from the Jaguars Week 17 matchup with the Houston Texans.

INJURY UPDATE

Jaguars defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks left the game in the second quarter with a knee injury and did not return. He will undergo an MRI Monday.

Guard Brandon Linder (knee), wide receiver Allen Hurns (ankle) and Gerhart all left the game in the second quarter with injuries. Linder and Hurns returned to finish the game and Gerhart did not return.

Davis sustained a stinger in the first half and returned, while wide receiver Marqise Lee sustained a knee injury in the end zone on the game's final drive. Lee limped from the field, but was able to put pressure on the leg as he walked and he returned to the game.

WHAT'S NEXT

The Jaguars' season ended Sunday. They finished 3-13.

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