Jaguars vs Vikings: Heartbreak for Jacksonville in the Metrodome

Nate DunlevyGuest ColumnistSeptember 9, 2012

This should have been a game-winning celebration.
This should have been a game-winning celebration.Andy King/Getty Images

As the pass settled into Cecil Shorts' arms, it felt like the Jaguars' dreams were all coming true.

Mike Mularkey had made the right call. The defense had made the big stop. Blaine Gabbert hit the big throw.

In overtime, as the ball settled into the net, it felt like the air had been pulled clean out of the lungs of the Jacksonville players.

A return, a couple of quick throws and a Scobee-esque bomb from 55 yards, and the Jaguars were back to square one.

As Gabbert's fourth-down pass bounced off the turf in overtime, reality set in.

The Vikings won 26-23 and all the good, all the hope and all the praise was washed away in the wake of an unsettling loss to open the year.

There's no question the Jaguars needed to do more than just compete with the Vikings. They needed to win.

All the ways the Jaguars have improved were on full display. Gabbert was sturdy all game long and provided a signature moment to mark his arrival among the ranks of the competent in the NFL. Maurice Jones-Drew showed now ill effects from his holdout, posting good yardage in heavy action.

It all should have added up to a win but inexplicably, the Jaguars fell three points short.

Sometimes the NFL just isn't fair.

Who could have guessed that the defense would have been the unit to let the team down? In the end, the Jaguars were just too banged up to come up with the crucial plays they needed to bring home the win. They forced just two sacks and one fumble on the day.

In a battle of questionable running backs with unquestionable pedigrees, it was Adrian Peterson who showed up Jones-Drew with a pair of touchdowns. The Vikings, inspired by their teammates' incredible return from ACL surgery, rode momentum and Christian Ponder's hot hand to hang 26 on the Jaguars. In 2011, the Vikings scored 26 points just five times and the Jaguars allowed that many just four times.

The numbers don't add up any more than the images from the Metrodome. It should have been a win, but it wasn't.

There will be no time for wound-licking in Jacksonville, however. With the presumptive division-favorite Houston Texans coming to town next week, the Jags need to regroup in a hurry or risk starting the season 0-2.