NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Jaguars lost Sunday. Big. Again.
And make no mistake: This loss to their longtime nemesis/rival – whatever you call the Tennessee Titans – was a devastating one, the kind that gives seasons a feel of finality. That finality in this case isn't mathematical or official.
But the time for those words are approaching. Fast.
The Jaguars lost to the Tennessee Titans, 42-20, at Nissan Stadium on a typically gray, cold late November Nashville Sunday. They did many things wrong to lose, and we'll get to those things, but the biggest story was simply that they lost.
"Am I pissed? Yes. Am I embarrassed? Yes. I am that," Head Coach Doug Marrone said.
Because it was a third consecutive AFC South loss – and because it was yet another one-sided loss in a game of critical importance – it's unsurprising and fitting that that was the tone of Marrone's post-game press conference. He acknowledged that there will be questions about quarterback changes, about his job security, about his coaches' job security.
His message to players?
"I promised them I'm going to do a better job and I'm going to work my butt off to get this thing right," Marrone said.
Marrone has said this before, and frustrated fans undoubtedly want to hear more, but that's indeed how Marrone will approach this. It's his only way of approaching this. As he said last week after a loss in Indianapolis, he said he has no plans to move from quarterback Nick Foles to rookie quarterback Garnder Minshew. He said he has no plans to fire defensive coordinator Todd Wash.
Marrone's urgency reflected the frustration of the Jaguars' locker room, and frustration wasn't the only emotion. There was shock and disbelief, too, because this is a team that believed entering the game it was going to snap out of the two-game AFC South losing streak that had the season in peril.
No, this was a tough one for the Jaguars to absorb, and it undoubtedly was a tough one for Jaguars fans to absorb – just as the last few weeks have been tough to absorb.
The Jaguars now have lost three consecutive foundation-shaking AFC South games …
They have turned a very real chance at taking control of the AFC South into an equally difficult path out of last place in the division.
They continue to be unable to stop the run.
They also continue to be unable to beat or compete against the Titans in Nashville, where the Jaguars haven't won in what seems forever and was actually 2013.
Because of those things, and because the Jaguars again let what seemed at halftime like a winnable game turn into a second-half rout, they said things like wide receiver Chris Conley said in a dismal, quiet visitors locker room.
"I think there's just frustration across the board," Conley said. "I can tell you these guys work extremely hard during the week. I've seen the work the guys put in. We've been pushing each other. We just haven't come out here and translated it and that's extremely frustrating. …
"The thing that I've said is regardless of the score, guys kept fighting and they kept playing. I'm proud of that."
Defensive end Calais Campbell – always this team's conscious and voice – echoed the last part, saying "Block out the noise and keep fighting. That's all you can do."
Foles, of course, echoed the same things – as he has done since arriving in Jacksonville as a free agent last March, and as he has done even as the team has struggled since his return to the lineup the last two weeks after being out eight weeks with a broken clavicle.
"This is the tough part about the game," Foles said. "This is where character is built within the organization and the team. You either give up or you keep going forward. … Everyone's going to be negative and everyone's going to ask all these questions, because that's ya'lls job. …
"You have to go through trials to build character. That's what we're doing right now. It's not fun. It plainly sucks, but that's the situation we're in right now."
Foles went on and talked about the need to keep working, and about the eventual payoff when trials such as the Jaguars are enduring are past. His message is the right and necessary one. He's a veteran quarterback whose job is to steadily guide a team in good times and past.
The problem for the Jaguars, though, is obvious. The trials they're going through right now are real – and if they haven't ruined this season, they need an unlikely miracle to avoid ruination.
Yes, the Jaguars lost Sunday – just as they have too regularly lately. And because they did, the finality that loomed last week feels a little more final.