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Marrone: "Loose in a good way"


JACKSONVILLE – This week is big, and that's good.

As Doug Marrone sees it, December NFL games are supposed to be just that – so just because Sunday may be the most-hyped game of the Jaguars' 2017 season doesn't mean Marrone will change.

Yes, Sunday's game against Seattle is big.

But it's not big enough for the Jaguars' head coach to alter his approach.

"It would be out of the norm if I mentioned [to players], 'Hey, now we're playing a big game,''' Marrone said Monday, a day after the Jaguars' 30-10 victory over the Indianapolis Colts at EverBank Field. "We've approached every game like it's the most important game because it's the next game."

The Jaguars, winners of five of their last six games, remain in a first-place tie in the AFC South with the Tennessee Titans at 8-4. They also remain No. 1 in the NFL in scoring defense (14.8 points per game), yards allowed per game (282.5), passing yards allowed per game (167.1) and sacks (45).

The Seahawks, long one of the NFL's top defensive teams, also will enter Sunday 8-4 – a game behind the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC West.

"This is what it's really all about," Marrone said. "This is what you really want. You're playing for something in December and each game gets bigger and bigger, but if you don't win in December nothing good is going to happen."

The last time the Jaguars were tied or alone in first place in December was 2010. They finished 3-13 last season, and most of their young roster never has experienced games as important as the one they will play Sunday.

Still, Marrone said he didn't anticipate pressure being a problem Sunday.

"Our guys … they're loose in a good way," Marrone said. "I don't see the outside stuff really getting to them. I don't see that in this team, the tightness or anything like that. They enjoy playing and go out there and play.

"If that does occur, it's not going to occur from within – it would be from people on the outside."

Marrone, who has emphasized winning each quarter of the season, said that will remain a message this week. The Jaguars went 2-2 in the first quarter of the season, then went 3-1 in the second and third quarters.

"We're playing at home in front of our fans, which has been great, and we have an opportunity to win a football game – and all we have to do is focus on winning this quarter," Marrone said. "I've talked to them like that constantly throughout the season, about 'Let's focus on today. What are we going to today to help ourselves?'  

"I don't think the way I speak to the team changes, because if you do change, I think that can cause problems for you."

Also on Monday:

*Weakside linebacker Telvin Smith remains in the NFL's concussion protocol, Marrone said. Smith sustained the injury in a November 26 loss to Arizona. He missed the victory over the Colts, becoming the first Jaguars defensive starter to miss a game this season. …

*Marrone praised rookie wide receiver Dede Westbrook, whose 15 receptions for 153 yards in three games include a season-best six receptions for 78 yards Sunday. Westbrook missed the first nine games of the season after September core-muscle surgery. "He's making strides and doing a good job," Marrone said. "We're excited, because obviously we've had injuries at that position. He has come back from injury, which is a credit to him because he didn't have a lot practice time. He's responding well." …

*Marrone discussed the Jaguars' ability this season to play well the week following a loss. They have won their four games following losses this season by an average of 23.75 points. "You've got to kind of shake it off quickly," Marrone said. "If you let it linger for a long period of time then you never really start working ahead to the upcoming game. Our players have been able to do a good job of realizing what has gone wrong in the game, coming in here, being accountable and making corrections – and then, 'Let's get ourselves started and let's get back on the winning track." …

*Marrone addressed the Jaguars' running game, saying "I see a lot of room for improvement." The Jaguars, who lead the NFL in rushing, have been held under 100 yards in each of the last two games. Rookie running back Leonard Fournette averaged 2.7 yards per carry Sunday after averaging 2.1 yards per carry against Arizona last Sunday. "We got off to a good start [running this season], and people made a very conscious effort to stop us in the run game," Marrone said. "When you're a running football team you should always be able to run the football when everybody knows you're running it. We're not at that level yet and we're working hard for it." …

*Marrone said the Jaguars' success passing Sunday could help the running game. Quarterback Blake Bortles completed 26 of 35 passes for 309 yards and two touchdowns with wide receivers Dede Westbook, Marqise Lee and Keelan Cole combining for 16 receptions for 213 yards and two touchdowns. "At the end of the day, from a defensive standpoint, you have to be worried about both from a balanced aspect of it," Marrone said. …

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