INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Here's what Sunday wasn't: It wasn't a must-win game.
The Jaguars' season is not over. As much as a 16-13 overtime to the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday afternoon hurt – and goodness knows, it hurt a lot – it's not a fatal blow. But here's what it was:
A missed opportunity. Goodness knows, it was certainly that.
Actually, it's probably more accurate to say, "missed opportunities," with emphasis on the plural. Goodness knows, there were plenty of those Sunday, and they're why the Jaguars were talking about a loss late Sunday afternoon.
Yes, this day could have been different.
It could have been about a big division victory. Maybe it should have been about that.
It could have been about the Jaguars being in first place in the AFC South. Maybe it should have been about that, too.
It could have and should have been about resiliency and offensive improvement, and it could have and should have been about a gutsy defensive effort. It could have been about the Jaguars taking advantage of the absence of Andrew Luck.
It could have been about a young team taking a critical step toward growing up.
Why isn't it about those things? Missed opportunities.
Way too many missed opportunities.
"We just didn't finish – we didn't finish," Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said.
Bradley was asked if he was concerned the team didn't know how to win a game such as this.
"I'm not concerned about it," Bradley said. "This team in that locker room, they know what it takes. We've just got to keep consistently putting together the good plays to make it an easy possibility."
One by one afterward, players offered different variations on the same theme.
"If you can win a game on the road, plus a division game – it's a huge game," Otto linebacker Dan Skuta said. "It was there for the taking, multiple times. You've gotta make plays."
Quarterback Blake Bortles agreed.
"It's tough," Bortles said. "There were a lot of missed opportunities. We did a good job in the first half putting up points and kind of stalled out in the second – whether it was a lack of making plays or shooting ourselves in the foot.
"The defense played really good, kept us in it. We just have to score touchdowns."
That was part of it. The Jaguars' offense had perhaps its best half of the season, and Bortles had perhaps the best half of his career. The Jaguars led 13-10 at halftime, and while the lead could have and perhaps should have been bigger, the Jaguars felt in control.
The second half and overtime? Eight possessions, no points.
Two missed field goals by Jason Myers – a 53-yarder with :01 remaining in regulation and a 48-yarder with 8:13 remaining in overtime – will be how this one's remembered. And without question those kicks must be made. But the loss was about more than Myers.
Bortles completed 28 of 50 passes for 298 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. Allen Hurns caught 116 yards worth of passes. T.J. Yeldon's 105 yards rushing marked his first 100-yard game. The Jaguars won the turnover battle. Everything was in the Jaguars' favor on this one, and yet …
And yet time and maddening time again in the second half, drives started with hope and ended with frustration.
"We have to be able to put two halves together," Bortles said. "We continued to do some good things in the running game, then there's a play here or there in the passing game we just miss.
"We've got to be able to close them out. We have to be able to score in the red zone. We have to able to have a big play for a touchdown."
Bortles cooled in the second half, but it wasn't as if the Jaguars' offense disappeared. They had 11 first downs after the half with just one three and out. Six of the Jaguars' final eight possessions reached Colts territory. Six of eight …
And yet: no second-half points.
And yet, there at the end of the game – after the second of two oh-so-close misses by Myers – there was ageless Adam Vinatieri converting a 27-yard field goal. And there were the Jaguars walking off not in first place in the AFC South. And there they were afterward talking about missed opportunities.
"If we just make a couple of more plays down the stretch, I'm not talking to you about this right now," tight end Marcedes Lewis said. "We just have to find a way to keep fighting and make those plays down the stretch."
"I mean, goll-eee … we had opportunities to go down there and take this game," Lewis said. "I believe football is a game for men to take what they want. We just didn't take it today."
Yes, this was a missed opportunity. A big one. The chance to go a game up on the Colts? To win a division game on the road?
That opportunity was missed because a lot of opportunities were missed. When that stops happening, this young team will be growing up.