JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) Jacksonville Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey has seen scores and highlights from around the league in recent weeks.
A blowout here, a lopsided loss there. In all, four games over the last three weeks decided by a combined 180 points.
The Jaguars (2-13) haven't been involved in any of them, and Mularkey believes it says something about how his players are handling the worst season in franchise history.
Jacksonville played arguably its best game all season in a 23-16 loss to playoff-bound New England on Sunday.
The Jaguars finished with 436 yards and 22 first downs, and had two decent chances to pull within a 2-point conversion of winning the game in the closing minutes.
``It kind of confirms what you've been saying all along that if you respond in this fashion, in a positive way, a win will come.'' Mularkey said Monday.
With nothing left to play for except pride, Mularkey's team has been mostly competitive over the last half of the season.
The Jaguars played Green Bay tough on the road in October, went to overtime at Houston in November, upset Tennessee and have been in tight games the last three weeks.
Sure, they lost by three touchdowns last week at Miami. But anyone who saw that one knows it would have been considerably closer had Jacksonville not failed to convert three fourth-down plays inside the Miami 15-yard line.
The Jaguars had even more trouble near the goal line against the Patriots.
Jacksonville had the ball inside the New England 25 seven times, but came away with a touchdown and three field goals. Josh Scobee missed a 43-yarder, and Chad Henne ended the final two drives with interceptions.
``Obviously you want to make more plays out there, but I thought the guys fought hard and showed what kind of team we really are,'' said Henne, who completed 29 of 51 passes for 348 yards, with a touchdown and three interceptions.
The Jaguars might seem close to turning things around, but the reality is they lack talent on both sides of the ball. Throw in several key injuries, and it's been a recipe for disaster.
Jacksonville has lost 11 of its last 12 games, including four in a row, heading into Sunday's season finale at Tennessee (5-10).
But somehow, someway, Mularkey has kept his team focused and playing hard.
``It certainly would be easier if you had some wins because your energy, anything that's positive is going to recharge you,'' Mularkey said. ``But fortunately I have an excellent staff that's had a lot of energy, especially at this time of the year. Even the teams that are heading to the playoffs are fatigued. Our guys, I have to give them credit. They have come to work. They have worked on game plans diligently to put our guys in position.''
Mularkey took a unique approach to Sunday's home finale.
When he spoke to the team Saturday night, he used the phrase ``lay the wood,'' and when players arrived the next morning for the game, Mularkey had wooden baseball bats in each locker with the words ``violent, physical, relentless'' etched into the barrel.
It nearly worked as the players sacked Tom Brady three times and pressured him much more often.
``We've been talking about physical, finish, relentless play all year long, and I just thought that might be good when they walk in and see this is what needs to be done,'' Mularkey said. ``I hope they know I am trying to constantly send messages to reconfirm what we talk about all week.''
Much of the talk lately in Jacksonville has been about the future of the franchise. Owner Shad Khan has to decide whether to keep general manager Gene Smith, the architect of the roster the last four years, and Mularkey. Mularkey's first season has been rough, with the offense and defense ranked 31st in the league.
Still, it would be feasible that Khan would consider the team's close-but-not-quite performances down the stretch when evaluating whether to clean house and start over.
``We have been fighting the whole year,'' defensive end Jeremy Mincey said. ``I hate to say I'm proud of the guys after a loss, but I am because we fought to the end. That was a good football team. They are a really good football team and they just did escape. If we come to play like that every week, the sky is the limit.
``I have a really good feeling this is the quiet before the storm. There is a lot to learn from, a lot to get better at and a lot of things to evaluate. I have a good feeling about this group of guys in this room.''