JACKSONVILLE – So disappointing.
So, so, so, so, so, so very disappointing – and frustrating.
How many times can we say the same thing after a Jaguars loss this season? How often can we feel it? At least one more, apparently – and the theme held true Sunday.
The Jaguars lost to the Denver Broncos, 20-10, in front of 63,075 at the 'Bank on a perfect December Sunday. The Jaguars gave the fans hope for a most of four quarters. Once again, it wasn't enough.
It was close – as usually has been the case in recent weeks. The defense was good – remarkably good, in fact. Consider:
The Jaguars held the Broncos to 206 total yards and 10 first downs. The defense allowed one touchdown drive and field goals drives of 29 and six yards. It held the Broncos to one of 13 on third downs.
And still, the Jaguars lost. Goodness gracious. Unreal. Aaarrrgh!
Head Coach Gus Bradley once again spent his post-game press conference trying to give answers. He talked of a defense that stifled the Broncos' offense, but mostly he talked about turnovers. The Jaguars' offense committed three of them, the defense didn't force any – and that was the difference.
"They made more plays than us and turnovers were a big key," Bradley said.
Yes, turnovers were the story again. The Jaguars are now a league-worst 18 turnovers this season, and that statistic defines the season.
Quarterback Blake Bortles has committed 19 of the team's 25 turnovers, and three of his 15 interceptions have been returned for touchdowns. All three of his Pick Sixes this season have come in the last four games, including a 51-yarder Sunday by cornerback Bradley Roby that gave the Broncos a 17-3 third-quarter lead.
Afterward, Bortles called the season "the biggest nightmare possible."
"But what are you going to do about it?" he said. "You can't sit there in a corner and pout. You can't blame people. You can't feel sorry for yourself because I think all that's going to do is affect the way I play. You can't press. I think I was doing some of that early in the season and that didn't go well.
"You've got to stay true to what we do and what we believe in and go through the process. For me, it's obviously still trying to take care of the ball. All you can do is put your head down and continue to play as hard as you can and prepare each week."
Indeed, the story has changed little lately from one week to the next. Frustration remains a theme; disappointment, too. Add in healthy doses of confusion, exasperation and disbelief and you have a recipe that defines this strange 2016 season.
Two victories, ten losses. Unreal.
Why did the Jaguars lose Sunday? It wasn't just the turnover ratio and it wasn't just Bortles.
They also had a couple of avoidable 15-yard penalties, one of which came when tight end Alex Ellis hit Broncos punt returner Kalif Raymond out of bounds after a 19-yard return late in the first half. That helped set up a Broncos field goal with :01 remaining in the first half. And linebacker Telvin Smith's first-half roughing-the-passer penalty kept the Broncos' lone touchdown drive alive.
Punt coverage remained an issue, too, with Raymond adding a 22-yard return to his 19-yarder.
And while the defense was stifling, more than one Jaguars defender considered the lack of an impact play or takeaway a glaring omission from an otherwise big-time day.
"No turnovers again," middle linebacker Paul Posluszny said. "We didn't have an impact play to help dictate the outcome of the game. That's what we're missing and that's what we need to do."
More than anything, though, Sunday will be remembered for what the offense did and didn't do. Every turnover killed – from the Pick Six to an early interception off the hands of wide receiver Allen Robinson and into the hands of cornerback Chris Harris and finally to Bortles' fourth-quarter fumble that led to Denver's game-clinching field goal.
Even so, there were opportunities to win. The Jaguars took possession four times in the fourth quarter trailing 17-10. They produced three first downs and never got closer than the Broncos 38.
So, what now? A full quarter of the season is still to be played. Bortles talked about it being "cool" that the Jaguars have four more chances, and Bradley talked of a firm belief that the team will grow from its current struggles.
"They'll work their tails off and they'll come back and they're going to learn from this and I truly believe these things that this team is going through will only benefit," he said.
Who knows? Maybe those four weeks indeed will be cool. And maybe the Jaguars indeed will benefit from these trying times. Whatever the final four weeks hold, that doesn't change Sunday's theme or the theme for the first three months of this season.
So, so, so frustrating? So disappointing? Yeah, pretty much.
Goodness gracious. Unreal. Aaarrrgh!