Jack Del Rio was lost for an explanation. What are the reasons for what was the Jaguars' worst performance of the season on what was the most important day of the year?
That was the question the media posed to Del Rio following the Jaguars' 21-0 loss to the Houston Texans on Sunday, and Del Rio was without an answer.
"Not a good day for a bad game," Del Rio said.
You got that right, coach.
On a day when a win by the Jaguars and a loss by the Ravens would've put the Jaguars in a win-and-you're-in situation for the regular-season finale, the Jaguars produced just 126 yards of offense. And as the Steelers were accommodating the Jaguars by beating the Ravens, the Jaguars failed on down after down.
The Jaguars threw for a mere 31 net yards. They held the ball for an embarrassing 21 minutes and two seconds of the game. They converted only one of 10 third-down attempts and posted a 1.3 yards-per-pass-play average.
No one saw it coming. Del Rio didn't. His quarterback didn't. The media didn't.
Right from the beginning, however, it was a bad scene. Alltel Stadium was half-empty, a weekend of bad weather discouraging fans from attending, even though the skies cleared before kickoff.
Something in Jacksonville just wasn't right on this most important day of the season. With the Jaguars playing with the playoffs on the line, everything went cold. How do you explain it?
"Not one anybody saw coming," Del Rio said of the loss. "To not be able to generate anything offensively; you don't win many games without scoring. In fact, you don't win any," he volunteered.
The offense was awful, to say the least, but the defense and the special teams played poorly enough to have made this a total team effort. The Jaguars defense went into the game playing its best football of the season but went horribly soft against the Texans, allowing Domanick Davis 150 yards rushing. Davis got 113 of those yards in the first half, marking the most yards rushing by a Jaguars opponent in Del Rio's two seasons as Jaguars coach.
Special teams failed to fall on any of the Texans' many "muffs." Any one of those "muffs" could've, should've resulted in a Jaguars recovery that could've kick-started the home team. There were, however, no such recoveries.
How do you explain it?
"It is hard to understand. I don't care to speculate. I'll take a close look. We are heading places here with this organization. We have not scored a touchdown against that defense. They held us without a touchdown in both games. I'm shocked and disappointed," Del Rio said, referring to the Jaguars' two losses to the Texans this season.
In those two games, the Jaguars scored a total of six points. They had a chance to score three today but even kicker Josh Scobee was out of sorts. His 31-yard field goal attempt early in the third quarter would've cut the Texans' lead to 14-3, but Scobee followed with his worst kick of the season, which was consistent with the theme of the day.
"I don't believe a lack of energy is the reason for the loss today," Del Rio said when asked if his team was flat.
Was that it? Were they flat? And wasn't that how we explained the previous loss to the Texans? They were flat, right?
So why would a team be flat on the biggest day of the season and against a team that beat them earlier in the year? That couldn't be it. There had to be another reason.
Some pointed to Fred Taylor's absence. It had to be a definite downer to not have Taylor in the lineup. But the Jaguars averaged 4.8 yards per carry without Taylor, and Taylor doesn't play defense, which is where all of the Jaguars' problems began when the Texans went 65 yards in 10 plays on the opening possession of the game.
Maybe we're looking too hard. The Jaguars have been an up and down team all season. They played their best football of the year against the team with the best record in the league. They won in Indianapolis and in Green Bay, but they couldn't beat the Titans or the Texans at home.
"Coming off big road victories we have not played well against the Texans," Del Rio said.
There is no explanation, but there is also denying the facts. On a day when the stakes were higher than they have been in Jacksonville in five years, you can't use "being flat" as an excuse. There has to be something else that caused this collapse.