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View from the O-Zone: All too familiar


JACKSONVILLE – This felt all-too familiar – and all-too expected.

That thread ran through much of the Jaguars' first home game in three weeks, and that wasn't a good thing for a team that entered Sunday hoping to change a lot of recent storylines.

None of that made for a giddy post-game scene around EverBank Field, but that's how it is now that the Jaguars have lost four consecutive games.

There were again no smiles. Neither was there much anger.

Mostly, what followed a 24-21 loss to the Houston Texans on an otherwise perfect mid-November Sunday was what you'd expect – the words of a team that dislikes what this season has become for the simple reason that expectations were so much different than what has become reality.

"This is a game that each unit can take responsibility for," Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said. "As a team, we take responsibility for it because everyone had a part in it."

The reality is the Jaguars are 2-7 when they expected more – and when that's the case, post-game quotes and analysis offer little satisfaction.

Quarterback Blake Bortles, as he has had to do so often this season, faced the media after a difficult game. He is by definition a stand-up guy, and he is to be credited for his class and leadership through a season that is growing increasingly difficult. He spoke Sunday for as long as the media had questions.

What he said has been said before:

The Jaguars must keep working through this difficult stretch.

They must find a way. Somehow.

"There's nothing else you can do but keep your head down and keep working," Bortles said. "It's all you can do: believe in yourself and believe in the guys in the locker room, because there's not a whole lot of other people who do. It continues to be a character test.

"I know people are agitated and frustrated with everything – as are we. This isn't fun for anybody."

No, the scene wasn't fun after the Jaguars slipped to 1-2 in the AFC South with a fifth consecutive loss to the Texans. As Bortles indicated, frustration ruled the day. This has been a long season already and it got longer Sunday.

The Jaguars slipped four games behind the Texans in the AFC South. While division hopes and playoff dreams weren't part of the pre-game buildup, Sunday's loss realistically puts an end to any of those things.

It would have taken a miracle before.

Now? Well, they just usually don't make miracles this big.

This wasn't the mid-November story anyone around this team expected, but this is where the Jaguars are. They have played themselves there with a four-game losing streak, and they played themselves there again Sunday in frustratingly familiar ways.

They lost the turnover battle 2-0 and now have a minus-14 margin in nine games. That's a season-defining statistic.

They failed to force a turnover for a fifth consecutive game. That's a season-definer, too.

Special teams also hurt for a fourth consecutive game. Unlike the past three games, there was no special team's turnover, but Tyler Ervin's 57-yard punt return up a third-quarter touchdown that gave the Texans a 21-10 lead. The Jaguars spent the rest of the game playing uphill.

What hurt, too – again – was Bortles. Yes, he completed 32 of 49 passes for 265 yards and two touchdowns, but he threw an interception that cornerback Kareem Jackson returned for a first-quarter touchdown and twice missed open receivers for possible touchdowns.

Accuracy has been an issue all season for Bortles. It was an issue again at key times Sunday.

"It's a work in progress," Bortles said of the missed opportunities. "I continue to try to give those guys better balls and a chance to go and make a play. And when we have those opportunities, we have to go out and make plays."

The Jaguars haven't taken advantage of enough opportunities this season, and they failed in that area again Sunday. That meant a locker room looking for the right words.

"It's tough," wide receiver Marqise Lee said. "We really do focus on one week at a time, and this was a big one. We fell short. All we can do from this point on is continue to go."

The Jaguars will do that because they have done it all season – and they never have not done it in four seasons under Bradley. He has lauded this team's heart and character often and he did so again on Sunday – and he once again on Sunday said he remained confident that this is capable of a second-half run.

On that front, he is right. They are capable.

Can they do it? Can this team somehow find a way to win? That's the goal. Not miracles. Not playoffs. No, the Jaguars' goal now is to find a way to stop doing the things they have made too familiar.

If they don't, what has become a long season is going to get even longer.

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