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Jaguars crushed our expectations this season

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A sad ending, but an incredible journey.

AFC Championship - Jacksonville Jaguars v New England Patriots Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

That loss hurts. My spirit is crushed. My stomach hurts and I just feel awful.

I’m sure a lot of you are feeling the same way. But when this feeling wears off (however long that may be) and we’re able to actually look at what the Jacksonville Jaguars accomplished this year, we should be nothing but happy.

If you were to tell me in August that this team would go 10-6 in the regular season, win the AFC South for the first time in franchise history, win a Wild Card playoff game, win a Divisional playoff game and come within a single score of defeating Tom Brady and the defending World Champions, I would have called you crazy and laughed in your face.

If my memory serves me correctly, I believe I predicated the Jaguars to finish 7-9 this season, with a ceiling of eight wins. No playoff appearance. I don’t recall a single member of the Big Cat Country team projecting a winning record, let alone a playoff appearance. And damn, was I ever glad to be wrong.

While holding a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter at Gillette Stadium and eventually losing is hard to swallow, maybe even disappointing, how can we really be upset at Jacksonville Jaguars football this season?

The Jaguars were 3-13 in 2016. The team had a seven win improvement — tied with the Los Angeles Rams for the most in the league. This was Jacksonville’s first winning season in 10 years and this will be the first time in seven years that the Jaguars are not picking top-five in the NFL Draft.

The Jaguars hosted a playoff game for the first time since 1999, allowing yours truly and several other out-of-town fans, as well as the locals, the opportunity to witness a playoff game in the Bold City.

The Jaguars went to the freakin’ AFC Championship for this first time in this millennium. And were less than a quarter of football away from advancing to the franchise’s first ever Super Bowl.

Blake Bortles actually played exceptionally well throughout the duration of the playoffs. He didn’t commit a single turnover in three games. In fact, the team as a whole didn’t have any giveaways in the playoffs.

Veteran players like Calais Campbell, A.J. Bouye and Barry Church were brought in during the offseason. Key in-season additions like Marcell Dareus and Josh Lambo made a big difference. Rookies like Leonard Fournette and Cam Robinson stepped up in a huge way. Younger players such as Jalen Ramsey and Dante Fowler Jr. really came into their own.

But most of all, there is a new attitude in Jacksonville. This is a new era and expectations have changed.

I know this hurts right now. But how can we be anything but proud of this team? This group will be competitive again next year.

This is only the beginning.