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This season has defied logic


Their season of frustration is complete. It couldn't get any worse than this.

This time it was just one play, the last play of the game, that ruined it all. The Jaguars were one play away from being able to talk about the playoffs race, again. They were one more Tim Couch incompletion away from one of those crunch-time December wins that makes a team feel good; that makes it feel as though it belongs with all of the other teams in the league chasing the postseason.

Instead, Couch's pass somehow found receiver Quincy Morgan's outstretched hands, and the television camera obliged the Browns by not dipping low enough to show the point of the football striking the ground. Instead of being able to talk about making a late-season run at a winning record and a playoff berth, Tom Coughlin was left to defend his decision to order a field goal with 56 seconds to play, and his ensuing decision to have kicker Danny Boyd attempt a bounding, line-drive kickoff.

Losing will do that. Losing will leave you to defend decisions that were proper. Winners are patted on the back. Losers are under attack. One play will do that.

"The play was clearly to take the points," Coughlin said of his decision to have Boyd boot a 22-yard field on fourth-and-goal from the Browns four-yard line with 56 seconds left.

"What if they had kicked a field goal and had tied the game? The field goal was still the call," Coughlin said in debating reporters who believed the Jaguars should've run another play on fourth down, leaving the Browns backed up with no times out remaining.

Then there was the matter of Boyd's kickoff, which was deflected by a Browns player along the front line. That took the sting off Boyd's kick and allowed the Browns to begin their final possession at their 47-yard line.

"We tried to go with the proper strategic kick, but not enough work with this young man," Coughlin said, referring to the mere five days Boyd had been with the Jaguars.

In this season of great disappointment, the finger has always pointed at Coughlin. He's the coach. The fortunes of his team are always his responsibility. But this one was beyond the realm of reasonability.

"Where is he going to go with the ball? He's got to throw the ball into the end zone. For whatever reason, we're not back there," Coughlin said.

His explanation was symbolic of so many plays that've been the difference between victory and defeat this season. They are plays that have defied logic.

There was Damon Gibson's fumble of a punt that caused a season-opening loss to the Colts. And there was the throw-back-pass punt return by the Texans. And Fred Taylor's fumble at the goal line in Dallas. And now Couch's "Hail Mary" pass completion to Morgan.

They are four plays that have altered the course of history this season. What if they hadn't occurred? What could this team have been?

More importantly, why did they occur? Why has this team repeatedly and dramatically found ways to lose? Granted, this is not one of the league's power teams, but these are professional athletes and if they hadn't committed such grievous mistakes at such inopportune times, they would be going to Cincinnati this week with the playoffs on the line.

"How can you get into that situation and not make the play?" Coughlin asked of Sunday's game-loser. "That's the last play of the game."

The immediate reaction is to assign blame. If the Jaguars had done this or if the Jaguars had done that, well, then the outcome would've been a lot different. But all they had to do was make one more play, at crunch time.

Where was the help for cornerback Fernando Bryant? Certainly, the strategy was not to leave Bryant in man-to-man coverage against a receiver four inches taller and 40 pounds heavier.

It was the last play of the game. The ball had to go into the end zone. How could the whole world, or at least one more Jaguars defender, not have been in the vicinity of Morgan and Couch's pass?

The questions defy logical response. Apparently, that's how we are to define the 2002 Jaguars. They have defied logic.

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