A little more than 14 days ago, the Jacksonville Jaguars were putting the finishing touches on a home finale rout of the Houston Texans. One more win (or one Tennessee Titans loss) and we’d be AFC South champions for the first time, well, ever.
Blake Bortles was playing some of the best football in the league.
Russell Wilson came to town and lost.
They were locked into the playoffs with two weeks to go.
Everything was trending upwards. Everything. Everything.
And then the last two weeks came.
The cross-country Upside Down game against the San Francisco 49ers was easily dismissed — after all, we’d locked up the division in the first quarter and we weren’t moving any higher or lower than the No. 3 seed. And it was Christmas Eve. And Jimmy Garoppolo is a good quarterback. And he has a quick release.
And... and... and.
But today’s game isn’t so easily shoved aside. Blake threw a close-your-eyes-and-pray interception as he fell backwards that looked like it belonged in 2015. The run game struggled (again). The young receivers made mistake after mistake, whether it was muffing punts, fumbling at midfield, or turning the ball over on special teams.
The worst part of it is — and let me be perfectly clear about this — the Titans are not a very good football team.
Mike Mularkey is a poor coach with an outdated (and incorrect) scheme to maximize the strengths of his offense. Marcus Mariota clearly misunderstood several play-calls and half of his yards came on a first quarter screen. The run game underperformed without DeMarco Murray, managing just 1.8 yards per carry with running backs.
But the Jaguars were worse. Blake Bortles was worse.
The interceptions. The ducks. The overthrows. The stepping into sacks.
The run game wasn’t good, sure. But you’ve gotta do better, Blake. You’ve gotta do better than 15-for-34. You’ve gotta do better than 4.6 yards per attempt. You’ve gotta do better than three points on offense. You’ve gotta do better than throwaways when there are yards to be had if you tuck and run.
If you’re mediocre, the Jaguars win by two scores and the Titans are watching us from their couches next week. Instead they’re in the playoffs alongside us. We made it... but so did they.
I have a bad feeling about this.