The Jaguars got good so fast, they looked as if they were going to dodge the usual growing pains, avoid the typical speed bumps.
No newcomer to success dodges them all, though. Even so, who thought the pains would strike in San Francisco — Jimmy Garoppolo or no Jimmy Garoppolo? Who saw the bump coming in the next-to-last game of a miraculous season, after the wins they’d just rattled off?
The Jaguars hit the wall hard, and hit it right after they had been handed the AFC South title after the Titans’ loss. They hit it a week after they had cold-cocked division rival Houston by 38 points, ending Tom Savage’s season in the process (in a round-about, concussion-protocol-violating way).
And, of course, it was two weeks after they have won a bare-knuckle brawl over the Seahawks that, at the time, had seemed to expose the other team as bullies who couldn’t take it when they got punched back.
The Jaguars are the ones who got punched back Sunday in Santa Clara. Punched hard — 44-33 hard. By a 10-loss 49ers team. Punched early (falling behind 16-0), punched late (a slam-the-door 30-yard touchdown run through a defense that had already failed multiple times).
Punched by a team that kept its cool while the Jaguars — a team that had drawn the aforementioned Seahawks into an ugly meltdown in Jacksonville — dissolved into several mini-meltdowns themselves. Players jawed on the sidelines in the first half and committed foolish personal fouls late, including a headbutt on that final series in which the 49ers sealed it.
Suddenly, “exposed” no longer just applied to its previous victims. The gloating and chest-beating now comes off as premature and unwise.
In the big picture, the way they got handled may not mean anything, or change anything. The Jaguars were going to be something of a blank slate going…