Patriots vs. Jaguars: Jacksonville Shows Heart, Comes Up Short

Nate Dunlevy@NateDunlevyGuest ColumnistDecember 23, 2012

The two Michigan men put on a good show.
The two Michigan men put on a good show.Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

For once the story in Jacksonville is that the spread was covered instead of the seats.

The Jacksonville Jaguars valiantly fought for 60 minutes against the defending AFC champion New England Patriots but ultimately fell just short of scoring the upset of the year.

A last ditch drive by Chad Henne ended with an interception in the end zone securing a 23-16 win for the visiting Patriots.

Despite sharing the worst record in football with the Kansas City Chiefs, the Jaguars announced from the opening kick that they intended to make the Patriots work for their 11th victory.

Henne got the Jaguars rolling with a big play to Justin Blackmon on the first snap from scrimmage and continued to march the heavy-underdogs down for a first-drive touchdown, again to Blackmon.

If the Patriots thought they were getting a sunny-fun weekend business trip in Florida, the Jaguars defense disabused them of the notion quickly.

Chris Prosinski picked off a batted ball thrown by Tom Brady to set up a Josh Scobee field goal staking the Jags to a stunning 10-0 lead.

Brady battled his way through a hand injury and eventually got his offense going. Despite two interceptions, the Patriots ripped off 20 consecutive points after trailing 13-3 early in the second quarter.

Wes Welker torched the Jaguars for 10 catches including what seemed like a game-icing score early in the fourth quarter.

Just when it seemed like all was lost for Jacksonville, they rallied for a field goal behind the steady passing of Henne. He converted two separate third downs on the drive that cut the lead to 23-16.

The Jaguars' defense again stood tall, forcing a key three-and-out to give Henne a chance to tie the game.

He managed to hit six straight throws to move the ball to the New England 5-yard line, but a sack and an interception left Jacksonville without points.

The Patriots again failed to put the game away as Tyson Alualu came up with a clutch sack inside of two minutes left to give the Jaguars a final thrust for overtime or the win.

Henne managed another key conversion, this time on fourth down, to advance the ball all the way to the Patriots' 12 with eight seconds left.

The Jags had two chances to win it, but Henne was eventually picked off by Patrick Chung in the end zone.

Considering that no one expected the Jaguars to be competitive, the loss at least gave the home crowd an exciting end to what has been a miserable slate of home beatings in 2012.

Jacksonville finishes the year having lost seven of eight home games, most by multiple touchdowns.

Whether or not the fight displayed by the home team is enough to save Mike Mularkey's job, it's hard to say, but there's no question his team showed more character than the Tennessee Titans displayed in a 55-7 loss to the Packers.

The Titans and Jaguars square off in Nashville in Week 17 to bring a close to a disastrous season for both franchises.

The Jaguars still have a chance to get the No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft, but at this point it's clear they are still fighting, still playing to win.