DETROIT, Michigan – The story repeated itself. Yet again.
Sure, Sunday's Jaguars loss featured important differences from the four before it – multiple takeaways and multiple lead changes chief among them. And the emotion and guts shown by linebacker Telvin Smith will burn in the memory.
But in the end, the Jaguars lost. Again.
They lost 26-19 to the Detroit Lions at Ford Field Sunday because of crucial mistakes at crucial times, and because of a Pick Six, and because of special teams. Again.
"They made more plays than we did – and made more big plays," Head Coach Gus Bradley said following a third consecutive Jaguars loss in which they outgained a playoff-contending opponent.
"We just didn't make enough plays to come up with a win."
Those were Bradley's immediate thoughts at the post-game podium. Quarterback Blake Bortles replaced him there and was equally subdued.
"Two and eight – it's tough," Bortles said. "It's difficult. It's challenging. It's not where anybody wanted to be, but I think it's a special group of guys in there that when things aren't going well they're able to put their heads down and go to work."
Indeed, this team seems to be that.
And indeed, this team has changed the season's narrative during the last three weeks – if only negligibly. It's still a losing narrative, because five consecutive losses that take you out of contention and secure a ninth consecutive non-winning season by definition create a losing narrative.
But in recent weeks, this team has shifted from listless and lost in losses to Oakland and Tennessee to a team that has found ways to lose three consecutive winnable games against contending teams.
A 19-14 loss at Kansas City …
A 24-21 loss to Houston …
Sunday's loss at Detroit …
All three of those teams have real playoff hopes. The same is true of the Baltimore Ravens, and perhaps Green Bay. The Jaguars had chances to win in the fourth quarter against all of those teams this season.
They lost all five.
Missed chances and blown, winnable games define most bad NFL seasons. They surely define this season, and they defined what happened at Ford Field Sunday.
The Jaguars hadn't led in four games, but they led three times Sunday. They hadn't forced a turnover in five games, but they got two takeaways Sunday. They had had trouble rushing the passer, but they pressured Lions quarterback Matt Stafford consistently and sacked him three times.
They did a lot of things you figured they had to do to win, including holding the Lions to 14 yards rushing on 21 carries …
And they lost. Again.
It happened because although quarterback Blake Bortles threw two touchdown passes and turned in a gutsy performance playing through an injured shoulder, he also had an interception returned for a touchdown for a second consecutive game.
It happened because penalties killed the Jaguars late. An offsides penalty on defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks with 2:34 remaining? On 4th-and-2? A killer.
It happened because the special teams allowed a punt return for a touchdown, the third consecutive week the special teams allowed a game-changing punt return. Another killer.
It happened because while the defense held the Lions to an impressive 144 yards through three quarters, it followed that by allowing 133 yards in the fourth quarter. That included the Lions' lone offensive touchdown and a clock-killing drive that consumed nearly eight minutes and ended with a field goal by Matt Prater with 22 seconds remaining.
"Unacceptable," middle linebacker Paul Posluszny called it, and his message was clear – that while the defense was good a lot on Sunday it wasn't good enough when it mattered.
That last sentence, of course, defines the Jaguars' season.
This team has been good at times, but not good enough. Bortles has had good moments, but he has 16 turnovers in 10 games – and you can't win in the NFL throwing Pick Sixes. The defense has been good at times, but it hasn't gotten off the field at key times enough.
Yes, there have been chances.
And too often, the Jaguars haven't been good enough.
That was the case again Sunday. Because of that, this once again was not a good day for this Jaguars team. Sunday wasn't going to be a season-saver whatever the outcome, but goodness, did the Jaguars need something different.
They needed a day without turnovers, and they oh-so needed Sunday's storyline to be how they won a game for an emotional Smith. And Smith deserved that, playing as he did in the wake of an emotional week. Smith's emotional pregame speech a day after his brother's funeral inspired a memorable effort from his teammates, and their disappointment afterward was palpable.
The result could have been different. In a sense, it probably should have been different.
But that has been true of a lot of Jaguars games this season.
The Jaguars didn't win Sunday for many of the reasons they haven't won enough this season. And so the story repeated itself. Yet again.