The Jacksonville Jaguars didn't know their season had ended until they made their way out of the rain and into the long tunnel that leads to the visiting locker room.
That's when they learned that the Denver Broncos beat Indianapolis 33-14 to knock them out -- the third and last scenario that determined the Jaguars' fate on the season's final day.
Byron Leftwich looked out of sync in the muddy, rain-soaked field, but did enough to send the Jaguars into the offseason on a positive note with a 13-6 victory over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday for their first winning season in five years.
It was disappointing finish for a club that hoped to extend its season the year Jacksonville hosts its first Super Bowl next month.
``That kind of put a downer on the day,'' coach Jack Del Rio said of learning his team was eliminated. ``I didn't see anything on the board during the game.''
Leftwich threw for 149 yards a week after sustaining a mild concussion and Greg Jones scored on a 1-yard run for the game's only touchdown, which broke a third-quarter tie.
The Raiders had a chance to send the game into overtime in the final seconds, but Kerry Collins fumbled the snap on fourth-and-goal at the 2, picked it up and was tackled for a loss.
``Guys have to make plays. Guys have to really commit themselves as to what it is they really want to do,'' Oakland running back Tyrone Wheatley said. ``The last two years here, we've had some guys who think they can just line up on Sunday and play football. It doesn't work that way. You have to commit yourself and stop thinking that your job is a sacrifice.''
By beating the Raiders in the teams' first meeting since 1997, the Jags established a winning road record for the first time since the '99 season when they went 14-2, 7-1 away from home.
But Jacksonville (9-7) certainly will be haunted by last Sunday's 21-0 home loss to the Houston Texans.
``Our season has been disappointing,'' Leftwich said. ``We had our opportunity to be playing last week. We had the opportunity slip away. If I played better, we'd be playing next week at Indy.''
Collins capped his up-and-down season with a statistically disastrous finale: three interceptions, one lost fumble, no touchdowns and a 17.3 passer rating.
``I made some stupid throws and some stupid decisions, things that hurt us,'' Collins said.
Donovin Darius intercepted two passes by Collins, including one in the end zone with 4:07 left in the game.
Zack Crockett had a big day for Oakland (5-11), which finished with just one more victory than the team's flop a year ago that led to the firing of coach Bill Callahan.
Crockett, a career short-yardage man, carried 11 straight times in the fourth quarter and finished with 22 for a career-high 134 yards -- his most rushing attempts since the 2002 season finale against Kansas City.
After making an 11-yard completion and being knocked down by Oakland safety Marques Anderson -- who immediately flexed his muscles -- receiver Ernest Wilford spiked the ball inches in front of Anderson and was hit with a 12-yard taunting penalty.
Jacksonville punted four plays later.
But Wilford made up for it with a leaping, one-handed reception for a 46-yard gain that set up Jones' touchdown.
It was a dreary homecoming for Del Rio, who grew up in nearby Castro Valley rooting for the Raiders. This was his first time in the Oakland Coliseum as an NFL head coach.
Collins threw interceptions on consecutive passes in the second quarter, sending the drenched fans into a booing frenzy.
``The only people that don't respect us are opposing teams,'' Raiders safety Ray Buchanan said. ``The only way you get that is by going out there and fighting against them.''
The Jaguars couldn't capitalize on either turnover and didn't exhibit a sense of urgency expected from a team fighting for a playoff spot.
Collins also fumbled three times, including deep in Oakland territory in the third quarter that was recovered by John Henderson, giving the Jags the ball on the 21. Josh Scobee kicked a 22-yard field goal five plays later that made it 6-6. Scobee also had a 26-yard field goal.
Jacksonville again struggled without star running back Fred Taylor, who missed the last two games with a knee injury.
The Raiders played without both their starting cornerbacks, four-time Pro Bowler Charles Woodson (knee) and Phillip Buchanon (tailbone).
Linebacker Napoleon Harris started for the Raiders but hurt his left leg on Jacksonville's first drive. Raiders center Adam Treu injured his left leg late in the game.
Wednesday, January 05, 2005
Season ender was not too pretty.
Posted by SloMo at 4:34 PM