JACKSONVILLE – And the beat goes on.
For the Jaguars, this lo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-ong 2016 season goes on, too – and it marches to the same beat week after week.
A 25-16 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in front of 62,701 at EverBank Field on a picturesque December Sunday marked the Jaguars' eighth consecutive loss – and yes, that tied the franchise record for losses in a single season. And yes, it tied the mark set at the beginning of the 2013 season.
That was then perceived as a low point in franchise history, so yeah …
Eight losses in eight weeks ….
All with a lot of the same themes running through the same frustrating fabric …
Yes, this is a down time.
"It's tough, man," Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said. "It is; I'm not going to lie about that … It challenges your inner strength a lot and I think that your … I don't know. It's tough. It's tough. I feel for all those guys in the locker room that come out."
Bradley's post-game scenes have felt the same for a while now – a coach staying positive during a repetitive, season-crushing losing streak. The Jaguars on Sunday once again were close in the fourth quarter, and once again the game was winnable.
Yet, the losses continued to mount, and that's what matters. Speaking of the same scene week after week, quarterback Blake Bortles' post-game press conferences have taken on a similar seen-it-before feel – and Sunday's was the same story.
No, Bortles' struggles with interceptions didn't continue Sunday, but because a loss is a loss is a loss there was nothing cheery about Bortles in the wake of another.
"It's tough; I don't know," Bortles said. "I wish I knew how to fix it and what the solution was. I think the one thing you can't do is start to point fingers. I believe that there's nobody that would do that in our locker room and that's why it's such a special group of guys.
"It's hard because what we're doing is not working, and it's hard to believe in, kind of, I guess, our routine because there are no positive results. There's nothing you can do besides continuing to work. If you start pointing fingers and blaming people and coming up with excuses, it's just going to tear the team apart. That does nobody any good."
No, it doesn't – and there's no sense of finger-pointing around this team. That hasn't defined this season, and there's no reason to believe it will begin defining it now.
What has defined the season is losing, particularly at EverBank Field. The last time the Jaguars won here was last December in that memorable 51-16 victory over Indianapolis, so yeah …
That means a full calendar year will pass between the Jaguars winning a meaningful game in Jacksonville.
Sunday's game was like so many during this eight-game streak. The Jaguars played well at times, and for a while had a real chance to win. They held the Vikings without a touchdown for three quarters, and twice held the Vikings without a point after Minnesota reached the Jaguars 1-yard line.
That's gutsy, game-winning stuff. What wasn't game-winning stuff was the defense allowing two fourth-quarter touchdowns. What also wasn't game-winning stuff was a special teams unit that has struggled for two months turning in possibly its worst game of the season: a long kickoff return allowed, a punt blocked, a field goal blocked, a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty. What also wasn't game-winning was 14 penalties for 114 yards, a resurgence of the penalty issues that plagued the team early in the season.
What mostly wasn't game-winning stuff was an offense that once again went stagnant in the fourth quarter. The Jaguars twice on Sunday had possession in the fourth quarter trailing 18-16.
They failed to produce a first down either time.
That has been a trend too often in recent weeks, and it's the sort of trend that leaves players frustrated, bewildered.
"If you had told me to bet my salary, I'd have bet my salary at the beginning of the year that I never thought we would be this," wide receiver Marqise Lee said.
Lee isn't alone. Linebacker Telvin Smith uttered similar thoughts last week, and similar thoughts were uttered Sunday. With good reason: This season wasn't supposed to be this. This was supposed to be a December of Contention; instead it's a December to forget in the wake of a season that's just, plain hard to understand and believe.
As it is, Bradley on Sunday again was asked what there is left to tell a team long since out of contention. As always is the case with Bradley, his spirit did not wane.
"There's always things to talk to them about," he said. "This game teaches you so much and I do believe this will bring us to greater places. But it is challenging."
And so: on to Houston. Three games remain – and the guess here remains that the Jaguars figure a way to win one. Until then, the beat goes on and on and on.