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Promise fades to disappointment


Jack Del Rio had his two-point play all picked out. Overtime? No way. Del Rio was going to play to the dramatic, just as he did in the first quarter when he had his offense go for it on fourth and one at its 31-yard line.

It was a night that held such promise, such warmth to take into the offseason. It gave us a smiling Richard Collier and an offense that moved up and down the field, seemingly at will. This one was going to complete a sweep of the Colts; refuse to allow them to clinch a playoff berth on Jacksonville soil. Then, in a flash, with the Jaguars nipping at the Colts' goal line, it was over.

Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney poured in on an unsuspecting David Garrard, sacking the Jaguars quarterback and canceling Del Rio's two-point plans. What a shame. NFL Network would've loved the drama; everything riding on one play. Such a shame.

So, for a 10th time this season we are left to ask: What's wrong with the Jaguars?

On this night the problems were mostly on defense. Peyton Manning toyed with the Jaguars secondary, completing 29 of 34 for 364 yards, three touchdowns and a 140.7 passer rating.

It left Garrard in the unenviable position of having to match Manning drive for drive, and for three quarters Garrard and the Jaguars offense were able to keep pace. When the third quarter ended, the Jags led, 24-14.

That's when trouble began, at crunch time. After the defense allowed yet another score that cut the Jaguars' lead to three points, the onus was again on Garrard and the offense to score.

What did they do? They went three and out for the first time that night.

Then the Colts drove for the game-tying field goal and the onus was again on Garrard and company, this time to re-take the lead.

What was the result? An interception by Kiewan Ratliff that was returned 35 yards for a touchdown.

Now the Jaguars offense, which had amassed more than 325 yards in the first three quarters, went four and out.

This time the defense forced a punt and when the Jaguars took over at their 10-yard line with 2:34 to play, they knew they were in their final gasp, and Garrard efficiently moved his team to the Colts seven-yard line before Freeney ended the game by sacking Garrard and what was left of the clock.

"It didn't bog down, they just made some plays on us," Garrard said when asked what happened in the fourth quarter. "The guy (Ratliff) over the top of Dennis (Northcutt), probably from watching film, thought we were going to run some slants."

The pass was intended for Reggie Williams, who was running a slant. Ratliff came off Northcutt and stepped in front of Williams. Hey, the Jaguars run slants, right? Who doesn't know that?

Jacksonville Municipal Stadium was dripping with emotion on Thursday night, from Collier's appearance at the coin toss to linebacker Mike Peterson's teary-eyed farewell. Peterson, no doubt, played his final game for the Jaguars in front of the home folks.

"I want to thank the city for giving me so much support. When I come to the stadium and see 54 (jerseys), it's like I'm living the dream," Peterson said, struggling to keep his eyes dry.

It was a night that was symbolic of the season. It began with such promise but ended in more disappointment.

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