The Jaguars' 2010 season has been reduced to this: Win in Houston to at least finish with a winning record at 9-7.
A Jaguars win in Houston and a Colts loss to the Titans would claim the AFC South title for the Jaguars, but that was far from the Jaguars' minds following a 20-17, overtime loss to the Washington Redskins at EverBank Field on Sunday. What's important to the Jaguars now is avoiding a second consecutive late-season collapse and the stigma of December defeats.
"To drop three (in a row) would make the season not be as good as it has been. The leaders have to gather the troops and let them know that when we go to Houston, there's only one way to come out of that game," veteran cornerback Rashean Mathis said.
Just a week earlier, the Jaguars were playing for the division title. They could've clinched their first-ever crown with a win in Indianapolis. Now, they are on the edge of elimination and so much that looked so good is now clouded by doubt.
"Can't throw a pick; can't do it," coach Jack Del Rio said of the interception David Garrard threw on just the third play of the overtime period. It was a pass intended for Marcedes Lewis but Garrard got pressure in his face and likely didn't see that defensive back Kevin Barnes was in position to step in front of Lewis and make the interception. Three plays later, Graham Gano kicked a 31-yard field goal that made the Redskins' dismal season a little more bearable.
"It's not David's fault," Lewis said. "I ran my route and I looked back and Dave was getting hit in his face. It's tough to complete a ball when you're getting hit in the face."
Garrard was sacked four times by the Redskins and struggled at times against Defensive Coordinator Jim Haslett's disguising of coverages.
"They were definitely disguising a lot of coverages. Once the ball was snapped, you could see what they were going to do, but they did a good job," Garrard said.
"I thought some of the stuff they did could give us some trouble and it did," Del Rio said.
Most of all, the Jaguars had trouble running the ball. With star running back Maurice Jones-Drew inactive due to a knee injury, second-year man Rashad Jennings got his first-ever start and managed just 32 yards on 15 rushing attempts. Garrard ended up leading the Jaguars in rushing with 39 yards on six carries, one of those having been a 20-yard run on a quarterback draw play that sent the game into overtime.
Garrard threw for 299 yards and capped a 79-yard drive with a 19-yard touchdown pass to Mike Thomas, but Garrard's first pass of the game was intercepted by Carlos Rogers and it led to a touchdown that staked the Redskins to a 10-0 lead just nine minutes into the game.
On what was the coldest home game in Jaguars history, played into the teeth of a howling wind, points were at a premium for both teams. Del Rio was especially disappointed by the play of his offense against a Redskins defense that was without several starters and was ranked last in the league in yards allowed.
"Disappointing end," Del Rio said of what was the final home regular season game of the season. "I thought we played some exciting games at home this year. The last couple of weeks, we haven't been able to run the ball. We've been a stagnant offense.
"Plenty of opportunities; not very sharp. I thought we had a lot of opportunities offensively. I'm disappointed with that result. We put too much of a load on David," he added.
It should also be noted that kicker Josh Scobee missed a 44-yard field goal attempt late in the first quarter.
The loss brought to light other late-season defeats that have cost the Jaguars playoff berths in recent years: a home loss to the Texans on Dec. 26, 2004; three consecutive losses to finish the 2006 season; four straight losses to end the 2009 season.
"We had a lot of things moving forward into the future. Everybody got over the hangover of the last game. We fell short," Garrard said.