INDIANAPOLIS – Not again. Isn’t that how it felt?
Isn’t that what you said at least once Sunday during yet another frustrating Jaguars loss – this one to the Indianapolis Colts, 29-26, in front of 57,473 at Lucas Oil Stadium?
Yeah, on some level that was how it felt: Oh no. Uh-oh.
Despite what almost was a memorable comeback, the Jaguars on Sunday lost a fifth consecutive game. Because of that, Doug Marrone talked in the aftermath about pride and professionalism.
“You talk about being a pro, you talk about having pride and you talk about staying together, because if you don’t it only gets worse,” the Jaguars’ head coach said after a late rally fell short when wide receiver Rashad Greene Sr. lost a fumble at the Colts 25 with 1:35 remaining.
“We all have a job to do. It’s my job to keep everybody together and make sure we’re all going on the right path to that. It’s their job, too – as professionals – to do it.”
That’s what’s left – pride and professionalism. While the playoffs aren’t technically done, the Jaguars are 3-6 and in last place in the AFC South. It would take a miracle to salvage the season now – or at least a lot of victories.
No, Sunday’s aftermath was about trying to find a way to say what players and coaches don’t like saying – that the final seven games likely are about things you never imagined them being about when this season began amid talk of a Super Bowl run.
“You just have to rely on the character of the guys in the locker room,” Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles said following his best game in more than a month, a game in which he threw for 320 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
“I know guys who have been here prior to last year have beenthrough similar seasons. By no means is that where we want to go or where I think we’re headed, but we’ve got to stay together and get it fixed. It’s on us. We’ve got to fix it as a group and fix it as a team and win football games.”
And you know what? The Jaguars on Sunday for a while looked like they might get something fixed, that might snap the losing streak that began 42 days ago – with a 31-12 victory over the New York Jets. And a lot did go right for this team Sunday.
The offense looked good at times. Bortles played his best game in a month. Running back Leonard Fournette returned and his return did precisely what the Jaguars hoped it would do. He rushed for just 53 yards, but he had 109 yards total offense and two touchdowns.
The Jaguars had 415 total yards. They scored two first-half touchdowns after scoring no first-half touchdowns in October.
The offense was without an identity for a month. On Sunday, it had it back.
So, what happened? Essentially this:
A Jaguars defense that entered the season talking of all-time greatness was anything but in the first half. The Jaguars allowed 306 first-half yards and four first-half touchdowns. Colts tight end Eric Ebron caught two touchdown passes and ran for another. Reserve tight end Mo Alie-Cox caught another touchdown and the Jaguars – despite 16 quality first-half points – trailed by 13 points at halftime.
The defense recovered in the second half, holding the Colts scoreless. And it was the Jaguars’ offense that made the game’s critical, final error when wide receiver Rashad Greene Sr. fumbled at the Colts 25 after a 10-yard gain with 1:35 remaining.
That Greene fumble wasn’t the defense’s fault, but four first-half touchdowns?
“Dumbfounding,” Pro Bowl defensive tackle Malik Jackson called the performance.
And that’s what it was, which in a very real sense describes the first nine games of this disappointing season, Dumbfounding. Frustrating. Maddening.
Not that this team quit Sunday. And not that it will quit moving forward. That’s not what it showed Sunday as it rallied, and that wasn’t the tone of the post-game locker room. Yes, players and coaches talked of playing for pride, but they didn’t do so in defeated tones.
Defensive end Calais Campbell in fact talked afterward of maintaining a “belief that our goals are attainable.”
“I know it’s hard, but it’s possible,” he said.
So, yes: that’s where the Jaguars were Sunday afternoon in Indianapolis, and it’s where they are now as they moved forward and prepare for the final seven games: 3-6 and staring at a very, very long and unlikely road back to something close to what they originally envisioned for his season.
No one expected this, or wanted this, but that’s the fact. And the fact is the Jaguars played well enough Sunday to get close, but once again they fell maddeningly, frustratingly short.
And that’s how Sunday felt: Oh no. Uh-oh. Not again.