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All-too familiar

Posted Dec 2, 2012

Jacksonville Jaguars leave Ralph Wilson Stadium feeling all-too familiar after 34-18 loss to Buffalo Bills

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – This one was about momentum.

Specifically, it was about keeping it, and as strange as it may sound for a team whose playoff hopes have long since dwindled, the Jaguars had a very real chance to do that at Ralph Wilson Stadium Sunday afternoon.

It didn’t happen.

Instead, the Jaguars lost to the Buffalo Bills, 34-18, allowing more than 200 yards rushing, rushing for a lot less than that and letting yet another game get away amid missed opportunities, penalties and dropped passes.

“We didn’t play as well as I’d hoped,” Jaguars Head Coach Mike Mularkey said. “After talking about it, we still did a lot of the things that have gotten us beat.”

And when it was over, when the Bills had finished rushing 46 times for 242 yards on a gray, rainy day made colder by a good feeling being suddenly yanked away, the Jaguars were left not with their first two-game winning streak in nearly two years, but with a feeling that has become all-too familiar.

That feeling? Frustration.

The Jaguars had beaten Tennessee last week to snap a seven-game losing streak, and if you added that to a loss in Houston in which the Jaguars took the AFC’s best team to overtime, you had a team that had a chance to feel good about itself as it enters the final month.

And you know what?

They would have deserved that – the feeling-good part. They wouldn’t have felt great, obviously. When you’re 2-10 and believed you’d be much, much better, you don’t feel great about two victories in late November and early December.

But within the context of this season? Within the context of what this team is trying to build?

Well, within that context, for the first time in a long time, the Jaguars felt good entering Buffalo. They were starting to pass well. They were starting to feel good about their receivers. They were starting to feel good about quarterback Chad Henne.

There were moments Sunday. They came early in the second quarter, when the Jaguars took a 10-7 lead. And they came in the fourth quarter, with the slight flickering of a rally.

But on Sunday, it was mostly flickering – and not nearly enough of it.

Marcedes Lewis, the veteran tight end who on Sunday continued his recent stretch of playing well and working his way into the offense, was asked if it was frustrating to have lost the momentum that seemed to be building.

“It’s more frustrating because we lost,” Lewis said. “This is the NFL. Things are going to be back and forth. It’s frustrating to lose. No one likes losing, but at the same time, we did things today we can’t have. We can’t beat ourselves.

“Not to take anything away from them. They played better than we did, but we did things to hurt ourselves. When you do that in the NFL, you’re not going to have much success.”

That’s what bothered a lot of the Jaguars. And it’s what bothered Mularkey, that the things that hurt the Jaguars Sunday in a game they believed they had a real chance to win were the same things that consistently hurt them all year.

Struggling on third down. A long return allowed on special teams in a crucial situation. Not enough pass rush. Too many sacks. Too many dropped passes.

The score will show a one-sided victory, but what was also reality was that the Jaguars led this game 10-7 late in the second quarter. And after Henne scored on a 1-yard run, this game felt very much like an extension of the previous two. It wasn’t shaping up as a great performance, but absolutely at that point it looked like the Jaguars had regained their confidence offensively. It looked winnable.

Then, Marcus Beasley returned the ensuing kickoff to the Jaguars 41 . . .

Then, Jaguars running back Richard Murphy hit Beasley out of bounds . . .

Then, Ryan Fitzpatrick passed 11 yards to Scott Chandler.

Then, defensive end Mario Williams sacked Henne, who fumbled, and  almost before you realized it, it was 34-10.

That, Mularkey said, is a situation that has happened too often. Too often this season the Jaguars have had a lead, had momentum, had a chance, then had that momentum disappear.

 “It definitely doesn’t help,” middle linebacker Posluszny said when asked if the loss ended any positive momentum felt the previous two weeks. “We feel like we’re playing better. Bad record aside, we felt like we had been improving.

“This would have been a great opportunity for us to beat an AFC opponent on the road. We came up very short. We did not play as well as we’re capable. That’s the disappointing part.”

As a result, for the 10th time in 12 games, the post-game conversation was about what the Jaguars didn’t do, what didn’t go right. As a result, another week was about frustration, and trying to explain why a team that believes it’s close played like one still finding its way.

As a result, the Jaguars left Ralph Wilson Stadium without the momentum that had felt so good, and instead, with a feeling that remains all too familiar.

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