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O-Zone: All aboard

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … David from Maplewood, NJ:
John … classic Bortles … all garbage-time production! Seriously!
John: I wrote Sunday that Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles deserved a lot of credit for this victory. His four-touchdown performance probably isn't one he'll repeat on a weekly basis, but the no-interception part of Bortles' Sunday? That was the sort of poised, mistake-free performance the team hoped it could get from him entering the season. Remember: Sunday's game means that in five games under Head Coach Doug Marrone, the Jaguars with Bortles at quarterback have won three games by double digits and held a large lead in another (the season-ending loss to the Colts last season). That leaves last week's loss to Tennessee as the outlier. Marrone believed strongly after that game that penalties and turnovers (not all of which were "on" Bortles) were the major factor in that loss. Is Bortles a Pro Bowl quarterback waiting to happen? We're a long way from that. But it's also fair to say we're seeing why the Jaguars thought it was possible to win with Bortles playing at the level he has played in five games under Marrone.
Cody from Jacksonville:
HOW 'BOUT THEM JAGUARS!?
John: Winning is cool. Fans like it.
Foster from St. Mary's, GA:
Fire all players not respecting our flag. You have lost me as a fan. This is about our country, our flag and all those who have given their lives to allow us to be free. It is not black, white or police. That's another issue. Shad Khan needs to show everyone he is the boss. He is a great example of our system and freedom. Show the fans what really matters. Winning and losing isn't that important. Respecting our freedom is. He is the boss.
John: I included this email this morning because it would be negligent here in the O-Zone to not acknowledge an issue that overwhelmed much about everything around the NFL Sunday. And the fact that the Jaguars as a team – players, coaches, Khan, staff, etc. – locked arms during Sunday's National Anthem (with more than 10 players choosing to kneel) indeed drew the ire of many fans. It also brought messages of support from many fans. That makes sense because this is a divisive, emotional issue; when issues are divisive and emotional, they cause emotional reactions. I'm not going to spend a lot of time discussing my personal feelings on the issue because my personal feelings aren't particularly germane to the conversation. I will say for the record I generally support the right of people to say and do as they please so long as their actions don't harm others, so it just doesn't make me irate when people protest during the National Anthem. I would not do it, but I don't pretend to know the personal experiences of all who do remotely well enough to pass judgement on their actions. I have to assume someone – players, coaches, etc. – willing to make a public gesture certain to draw criticism has thought through that decision well enough to understand the inevitable fallout. As far as fans' reactions to this issue, it goes without saying many disliked players kneeling and some declared themselves no longer fans of the team. That's their right, and I get why people were upset. And as for Khan … well, he was arm in arm with players Sunday and issued an eloquent, well-considered statement meant to reflect the team's stance on the issue. I anticipate the team will follow pretty close to the thoughts expressed in that statement moving forward – and I seriously doubt Khan or the Jaguars will fire anyone for their actions before the game Sunday.
Joel from Boston, MA:
I thought we were supposed to play close games. Not that I'm complaining.
John: Marrone indeed often has said this team must win close games this season – and that likely will be the case as often as not. But the season's first three weeks have shown a good sign for this team – that it's a team capable of swarming, aggressive defense that turns turnovers into points, and that therefore is capable of slamming the door on comebacks and extending leads defensively. If a defense is going to carry a team – and it remains likely that this defense will have to carry the team at times – that's the style it must play. It was fair before the season to wonder if the Jaguars had the type of personnel to be that sort of defense. It's becoming less fair to think that way.
Michael from Jacksonville:
To all the people that hate the fact that we went for the fake punt, we knew they were going to go all out. They had nothing to lose; they are great at blocking punts. What if they would have gotten there and hurt our punter?
John: Marrone explained his philosophy on calling that play despite the Jaguars holding a 37-0 lead late in the third quarter. The Jaguars had a fake punt in the game plan. The situation called for it and so did the Ravens' formation on the play. Marrone said if you're going to have a play in the game plan for a situation, you need to call it when the situation arises. Besides, I get the idea it wouldn't bother Marrone much if a team ran a fake punt with comfortable lead on the Jaguars; I get the idea Marrone would figure his team needed to stop the damned play.
Dakota from Fleming Island, FL:
I'm not going to analyze or make any more predictions for a while. This team has looked like a playoff team twice and looked like a three-to-four-win team once. I will just take the wins and hope that we can play this way consistently moving forward.
John: The Jaguars probably won't play consistently as they did Sunday moving forward. I say that not because I thought Sunday was a fluke. Neither did I think the 29-7 victory over Houston Week 1 was a fluke. But this is the NFL; 37-point, near-perfection victories are rare. You don't win in such one-sided fashion every week. As I wrote after the 37-16 loss to Tennessee last week, the Jaguars are both the team that lost to the Titans and the one that beat the Texans. They can lose if they play bad, and they can win if they play well. They are a team that can blow out a team if they play well – and if the defensive line dominates, and if the team turns opportunities into points, and if Bortles plays efficiently and smart. They are also a team that can lose in lopsided fashion if they commit turnovers, or put themselves in negative situations offensively, or fail to pressure the opposing quarterback. Mostly, what they are is a 2-1 team that is in first place in its division. I doubt the Jaguars will go 15-1 and I imagine they will take some more one-sided losses – perhaps even as one-sided as Tennessee. But perhaps the lesson of the first three games is that all is not lost for this team after a bad loss, just as there's no reason to size Super Bowl victories after one victory. Perhaps fans will have perspective. Perhaps they will be even-keeled. Perhaps … perhaps … naaaaaaaaaah.
Tboy from St. Augustine, FL:
Honorable Mr. O: Your response to Ryan from Fremont was essentially the most insightfully astute, interpretatively correct, amazingly, accurate, correctly articulated analysis of the ills and chills of Mr. BB's maladies. One big "ATTABOY" for you. It should remind all of us that "Fans gonna fan" and that's OK...just not always correct.
John: I'm pretty good, right?
Lance from Lebanon, TN:
Well, I guess I'm back on the bandwagon! Not really … been a fan from day one! Still have my original ball cap bought the day after Jax was announced as the second expansion team awarded that go-round. Question, can we maybe see some consistency now that these players know they can compete and win?
John: Consistency typically only exists in the NFL in the dreams of coaches and fantasies of fans. The NFL is ultra-competitive league. Teams have ups and downs. The best teams usually lose big once or twice season – and scrape by in enough games to make their fans angry and nervous as often as they are elated. Win enough games however you can and get in the playoffs, then hope you're healthy and win from there. The best thing I heard from the Jaguars in the aftermath Sunday was that players sincerely didn't panic or believe the team was backsliding after the Week 2 loss to Tennessee. That belief appeared to be a huge reason for Sunday's victory. Teams must strive for consistency. When they inevitably fall short, they must be mature enough as a team to respond and play well the following week. That the Jaguars did that is a very good sign.
Jerell from Columbia, SC:
15-1??
John: God love him.

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