One play, the final play, defined their season.
There they were, a yard away from overtime and another chance to keep their playoff hopes alive, and on the most crucial play of the game, of their season, everything was wrong. The Jaguars got caught with the wrong personnel in the wrong formation for a play that probably shouldn't have been called. It is the unexplainable, just as much of the Jaguars' season.
They now find themselves without hope of making the playoffs for the first time since their inaugural season, because they've routinely found ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory this year. They did it again today, in a 28-21 loss to a 3-7 Seattle team that had flown across the country to play a Jaguars team coming off a bye week.
Oh, the Jaguars rallied. They can still do that. Mark Brunell moved his offense 73 yards in a minute and 50 seconds, and he was just a hand-off to Fred Taylor away from breathing life back into the Jaguars, when the seemingly easy was made difficult.
The play called in the huddle was a quarterback draw. Makes sense; probably could've run it with Taylor, too. So, the formation put wide receivers Keenan McCardell wide to the right, Jimmy Smith wide to the left and Alvis Whittled in the slot to the left. Oh, yeah, everybody was spread out just perfectly for Brunell to trick the wilted Seahawks defense into believing the play would be a pass.
Then, the play was changed to a pass, and Smith thought to himself, "Oh, no," and if the Seahawks defense had been consulted they would've probably said, "Thank you."
Brunell checked off at the line of scrimmage to a pass that would have Smith and Whitted cross paths, the execution of which would effectively pick cornerback Chris Canty and allow Whitted to come wide open in the back-left corner of Alltel Stadium's south end zone.
You know the place. It is the same back-left corner where Titans cornerback Samari Rolle intercepted a Brunell pass early last season, when the Jaguars were one completion away from victory, or an incompletion away from overtime. It has become the back-left corner from hell.
Then, it was a logical call. Most recently, it was not, solely because Whitted had never previously executed the sophisticated rub-off technique with Smith.
"He never ran that route. Never, not even in practice," Smith said in defending Whitted, who didn't recognize Brunell's at-the-line audible, and who was the most surprised man in the stadium when he saw the ball sailing over his head.
"I thought he was just checking to a dummy signal," said Whitted, who thought Brunell still intended to run a quarterback draw.
When the ball was snapped, Smith cut to the inside, Whitted cut a few steps to his left, then stopped and looked back, fully expecting to see Brunell spiking the ball in the end one. No, not this season.
"I still should've known what the play was. It was a terrible mistake on my part. I take blame for that," Whitted said.
However, everyone else, including coach Tom Coughlin, absolved Whitted of blame.
"I feel empty about the last play. We usually do it with Jimmy and Keenan, so I'll take the blame there," Coughlin said.
Yes, the Jaguars have run the play routinely, and it has met routinely with success. Smith slants in, McCardell darts out and Brunell lofts the ball to a wide-open McCardell. This time, however, the right personnel was in the wrong place. It was the wrong thing to do at the wrong time, which punctuates the most disappointing season, maybe the only disappointing season, in Jaguars history.
When asked if he had ever run that particular pass route in practice, Whitted hesitated, like a good soldier, then confessed, "No."
Brunell is too good a quarterback to have made that mistake, and the Jaguars had always previously been too good a football team to have gotten caught in that situation. Why has that all seemingly changed this season?
With Taylor behind Brunell and the Seahawks having allowed Taylor 4.9 yards per carry, why did something so simple have to become so complicated? With a full complement of weapons, that also included two wide receivers who had already combined for 273 receiving yards, why was the most crucial play of the game designed to provide Whitted with his first catch of the day?
It is the unexplainable, as most of this season has been.
"We're not very good," offensive tackle Tony Boselli said, offering the most sensible explanation for the Jaguars' woes. "We're not playing very good, and not-very-good teams don't," he added.
It would seem to be the only explanation.