READY TO GO
The Jaguars were going to play to win.
While it never reached that point, Jaguars Head Coach Mike Mularkey said no question had the Jaguars scored a touchdown on the final drive against the Patriots Sunday they were going to go for a game-winning two-point conversion.
The Jaguars at the time trailed by the final margin of a 23-16 loss to the New England Patriots, but they reached the Patriots' 12 with eight seconds remaining when quarterback Chad Henne threw 18 yards to slot receiver Jordan Shipley.
Henne threw incomplete on the ensuing play, and his floating pass into the end zone on the game's final play was intercepted by Patriots safety Patrick Chung.
But had either of those plays resulted in a touchdown, Mularkey said he already had made the decision to go for a two-point conversion. He said he had informed the team as much before the drive.
"We wanted to win the game," he said. "We didn't want to win in overtime. We wanted to win the game."
PLAY OF THE GAME
This one came from the Jaguars' defense in the first quarter, and actually could have been one of two plays. The Jaguars intercepted Tom Brady twice in the period, gaining momentum and enabling Jacksonville to take a 10-0 lead. The first came when linebacker Russell Allen defended a long pass from Brady to running back Steven Ridley. After Ridley batted the ball in the air, second-year safety Chris Prosinski caught the ball for the interception to give the Jaguars possession at their 47. That gets the nod for play of the game because it was the Jaguars' first interception of Brady in six meetings with the Patriots, and because it led to a field goal, but an interception by cornerback Derek Cox later in the period may have been just as impressive. On the play, Cox covered Brandon Lloyd on a double move, and played the ball perfectly to end a Patriots threat at the Jaguars 26.
The Jaguars turned in one of their best quarters of the season, producing 202 yards of offense and holding the NFL's No. 1-ranked offense to 88 yards. Quarterback Chad Henne capped the Jaguars' first drive with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Justin Blackmon, and the teams exchanged field goals for a 10-3 Jaguars lead.
The Patriots rallied with a strong second half, and Brady tied it at 13-13 with a 14-yard pass to Danny Woodhead on New England's final drive of the half. The Jaguars finished the half with a 259-212 edge in total yards, but the Patriots had momentum entering halftime.
The Patriots continued to control momentum, but the Jaguars kept it close, with the Patriots leading 16-13 entering the fourth period. The Jaguars managed just two first downs, and despite allowing the Patriots 132 yards, stayed in the game by forcing two New England punts.
The Patriots took a 23-13 lead 45 seconds into the fourth period when Brady threw two yards to Wes Welker, but the Jaguars never allowed New England to gain full control of the game. The Jaguars responded to the touchdown with a 56-yard drive for a field goal, and the defense gave the offense two more opportunities to tie. Patriots safety Patrick Chung intercepted Henne on each of the Jaguars' final drives to end Jacksonville's comeback attempts.
"We got some push up inside (on Brady). We got some pressure. For the majority of the time, our pressure was good. I thought our scheme was very good, what (defensive coordinator) Mel (Tucker) and that staff did. Everything we did in practice, we did on the field today."
QB CHAD HENNE SAYS
"Whether they were surprised (on the first series) or not we just executed our game plan and took it down. They're going to adjust and do some different things and they were forcing us to sometimes pass the ball more than run the ball. We did a great job running the ball in that first series, mixing it up so they're going to stop one phase and you've just got to attack another phase."
DE JASON BABIN SAYS
"It's hard to say how close the team is but I think this game and other games we've had proven we are close. In the NFL there is a difference between being close and we got it. That can change your whole season. It can change your whole franchise. I think everyone knows we are not that far away."
STAT OF THE GAME
The Jaguars' third-quarter struggles offensively continued Sunday. After picking up just one first down in the period the last two games, they picked up two in the quarter Sunday, with one coming on a pass interference penalty against the Patriots. The Jaguars finished the period with 26 yards on offense and had 83 yards of offense in the second and third quarters combined. Sunday's third quarter came after the Jaguars produced 202 yards in the first quarter to set a franchise record for yards in a first quarter.
For the Jaguars, the game may have turned on a penalty in the fourth quarter. They had turned in one of their most impressive drives of the last month, moving from their 34 to the Patriots 1 with 4:45 remaining. Trailing 23-16, they had a chance to tie, but facing 2nd-and-goal on the 1, tight end Zach Potter jumped before the snap, moving the ball to the 6. Mularkey said afterward he had spoken to the officials before the game, pointing out that the Patriots were going to shift and shout cadence with the idea of forcing an illegal motion. That's not allowed under NFL rules. "Obviously, they didn't call it and we jumped," Mularkey said. "I will not bring those things up with the officials anymore. We are going to get a time check and who the captains are and move on." Henne was sacked on the play following the penalty and threw an interception to Chung on fourth down. "It's only illegal if they throw a flag," Mularkey said. "It's illegal in the book if they blurt out a cadence." Mularkey said the officials told him they didn't hear the Patriots shouting the cadence.
Jaguars linebacker Greg Jones left in the first half with a leg injury and did not return. Guard Uche Nwaneri left in the first half with a head injury and did not return. Wide receiver Cecil Shorts also sustained a blow to the head on the game's final series and did not return. Mularkey also said while linebacker Paul Posluszny left the game late, he was ready to return.
Mularkey said he has grown frustrated by officials not calling penalties on hits on Jaguars quarterbacks that should have been penalized. "I was more frustrated by the number of times our quarterback has been hit, one in a sling, without having some calls," Mularkey said when asked if he was frustrated by a late-game hit on Shorts. "That is what is more frustrating to me."
The Jaguars visit the Tennessee Titans in the regular-season finale Sunday.
Another week, another disappointing result – but this one had a different post-game feel. The Jaguars knew Sunday's game wouldn't save the season because at 2-13, no one game does that. But they also showed game-long fight and resiliency they hadn't shown much in the last month. That that wasn't rewarded made the post-game locker room a disappointed place, but there was a better feeling Sunday than in recent weeks. The team fought, and played well against a good team, and there was a feeling that it was a better performance than they had turned in in some time.