This was so *not* what the Jaguars needed.
It wasn’t what they expected Sunday, either. Not even close – the players, the coaches, or the fans. Not after the last two weeks. Not after a few glimmers of hope had appeared in what had largely been a gray, difficult season.
Hope – that’s what the Jaguars provided the last two weeks. A glimmer of productive offense here, a solid stretch of defense there. At times the last two weeks there had been good things, real things that you thought you could build on, and entering the first home game at EverBank Field in more than a month, talk was of playing better at home, continuing to progress, turning the tide.
That didn’t happen, and it didn’t come close, and after a 31-14 loss to the Detroit Lions at EverBank Field Sunday afternoon, players and coaches were left once again to do what they have done after too many home games this season.
They were left to look within. They were left to look for answers. They were left to explain.
And on Sunday, explanations came hard.
“It’s frustrating,” Jaguars running back
“Right now, collectively as a team, we’re not doing enough.”
Mike Mularkey, 1-7 through his first half season as the Jaguars’ head coach, summed up the day with his first comment in his post-game press conference.
“Well, disappointing - obviously the outcome - we were outplayed in all phases,” he said.
As will be the case when a team has lost four home games by a combined 126-34, Mularkey was asked several times about effort. He said he absolutely didn’t see a lack of it.
“That will never be tolerated on our football team,” Mularkey said. “I can assure you that will not happen.”
He also was asked if he was embarrassed by the result.
“I’m not embarrassed,” he said. “I’m disappointed.”
In the locker room, the theme was the same – disappointment, and a disbelief that a season that began with good feeling and high hopes had turned into five consecutive losses since a 22-17 victory at Indianapolis in Week 3.
Making it tougher for players was they entered the Lions game believing this would different. They had lost at Oakland in overtime, then played Green Bay tough deep into the fourth quarter a week ago. There was a feeling this week that the team was close, and that this week was time they would play well in front of the home fans.
“This one surprised me, because we were well-prepared,” Jaguars defensive end
Instead of building on the last two weeks, the Jaguars failed to produce a first quarter first-down. Instead, they were down 21-0 at halftime, were outgained by the Lions 285-57 in the first half.
“When you lose at anything, you’re embarrassed,” Mincey said. “This game is predicated on winning. That’s what we try and do – win. Any loss, especially at home, was embarrassing. We could have done a lot better. We could have had a lot more energy. We could have done a lot of things better.”
In the second half Sunday, things did get better in spots. There was a good drive in the second half that ended with an interception off the hands of Rashad Jennings. There were two fourth-quarter touchdown drives. Gabbert finished with good numbers, but really, this isn’t the time for emphasizing a good drive or two. There’s time for that later in the week, and players, frankly, are as tired of being asked about pockets of good signs as fans are tired of hearing about them.
The question after Sunday, then, is the same one that has come after each home game this season: Where do you go from here?
The Jaguars have three days to prepare for that game, and already Sunday night, Mularkey was talking about the challenge of doing that in the wake of another difficult loss.
“We’re going to play like we’re 8-0,” he said. “We’re going to practice like we’re 8-0. We’re going to prep like we’re 8-0. That’s how we have to approach things when we come into this building. That’s the approach we’re going to have. There are no other options.”
No, there aren’t, but he’s right. That’s what’s left to do. The Jaguars must refocus, return to work, and do so with an eye on improving. Not Wednesday, but Monday.
And while refocusing in this situation is tough, it’s where the Jaguars are, and it’s the latest difficult task in a season in which the Jaguars frustratingly still find themselves trying to turn the tide.