Published December 23, 2012
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – When the Jacksonville Jaguars arrived Sunday, they found baseball bats from coach Mike Mularkey in every locker with three words etched in the barrel.
"Violent, physical, relentless."
It was Mularkey's latest attempt to keep his team motivated down the stretch of the worst season in franchise history.
It seemed to work even though the Jaguars lost for the 11th time in their last 12 games and set a franchise record for losses. Jacksonville gave high-powered New England fits all afternoon in a 23-16 loss Sunday, and had two decent chances to tie the game in the closing minutes.
The Jaguars (2-13) failed to capitalize on both of them, the story of the game for Mularkey's team.
Jacksonville had the ball inside New England's 25-yard line seven times, but came away with a touchdown and three field goals.
"We just came up short," Mularkey said. "We are going to go a long way with people like that, with that kind of character."
It's common for Mularkey to praise him team's effort after losses, but the coach seemed to go overboard Sunday in a league where moral victories are meaningless.
"I am very, very, very, very, very proud of this football team," he said. "Glad to be part of it, proud to be part of it. Fifteenth game — they were playing for a bye; we were playing for respect. Our guys, every one of them, showed up to win that game."
Trailing by a touchdown, the Jags faced third-and-goal at the 1 when tight end Zach Potter jumped before the snap. So the short-yardage situation became a passing play, and Chad Henne was sacked, leaving Jacksonville with a fourth-and-goal play at the 10.
Chandler Jones hit Henne as he tried to throw, and Patrick Chung intercepted the floater over the middle.
"It's a bad feeling, obviously," Potter said. "It puts our team in a bad situation there. It's not the one play that cost us the game."
Potter said he had trouble hearing the snap count because thousands of Patriots fans scoped up tickets and helped give Jacksonville its biggest home crowd since 2004.
"It was really loud, which you don't usually expect at home," Potter said.
Mularkey, though, blamed the officials for failing to recognize and penalize New England for yelling out cadence during a hard shift.
"That was disappointing because that was brought up to the officials before the game," Mularkey said. "That was addressed. We practiced it. We practiced it the whole week with those guys shifting with the cadence. ... Obviously they didn't call it and we jumped. Very frustrating."
Regardless, the Jaguars got the ball back after the Patriots (11-4) failed to run out the clock.
Henne connected with Toney Clemons on fourth down with 22 seconds remaining and then Jordan Shipley for an 18-yard gain that put them at the New England 12. But Chung intercepted Henne's final pass, essentially a jump ball to the middle of the end zone.
"A win is a win, but we know we've got to play better no matter what," Patriots safety Devin McCourty said. "It's better to come out here when you're not at your best and get a win. I think this team really understands it's all about us. We've got to play our best each week. It's disappointing knowing that we didn't play as good as we could."
Tom Brady completed 24 of 41 passes for 267 yards, his worst outing in six games against Jacksonville. Welker caught 10 passes for 88 yards, passing Jerry Rice and Andre Johnson for the most 10-catch games (18) in NFL history. Stevan Ridley ran 18 times for 84 yards.
Brady entered the game having thrown for 1,207 yards, with 13 touchdowns and no interceptions, in five wins against the Jaguars. His string of success ended with his first pass, though.
Ridley tipped the ball down the sideline, and safety Chris Prosinski picked it off for his first interception of the season. Jacksonville moved the ball, but settled for a field goal and a 10-0 lead.
Henne completed 29 of 51 passes for 348 yards, with a touchdown and three interceptions. His 3-yard TD pass to Justin Blackmon to open the game was Jacksonville's first touchdown on its opening possession since Oct. 9, 2011, against Cincinnati.
"We had them on their heels for a while," Jaguars defensive end Jeremy Mincey said. "They just capitalized, got a few interceptions and a few first downs on us. We held their scoring average down, which is good, and held them to a lot of field goals, which was excellent. It still wasn't enough."
NOTES: Brady has thrown a TD pass in 47 consecutive games, tying Johnny Unitas for second on the NFL's all-time list. He trails Drew Brees by seven. ... Jaguars WR Cecil Shorts III and G Uche Nwaneri left the game with concussions.
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