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O-Zone: At a loss

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Jami from Claxton, GA

Well, life goes back to normal. The Jaguars miss another opportunity and find a way to disappoint the fans again.

This is a fair assessment; then again, any assessment is fair considering how the Jaguars played in the last month and a half of the 2023 NFL season – and specifically, how they played in a 28-20 loss to the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday. The Jaguars on the final Sunday of the regular season had a chance to clinch a second consecutive AFC South title. They needed "only" to beat a 5-11 team they dominated in November. While no game in the NFL is guaranteed, this was absolutely a game contending teams should win. And the Jaguars should have won Sunday. They shouldn't have lost five of their last six games. Sunday was as bad a loss as this franchise has endured in a long, long time. The finish to the season was unacceptable. Did the Jaguars miss an opportunity? Did they disappoint their fans? Was this a collapse? Yes, yes, and yes. There's no other way to interpret the last six weeks. It's a damned shame. It really is.

Fred from Bangalore

We didn't deserve to be in the playoffs anyway. The opposite of last year's momentum. Limping in with zero confidence would have been a disaster.

You deserve what your record says you deserve. Had the Jaguars won Sunday, they would have deserved to be in the postseason. They didn't. So they don't.

Ryan from Kansas City, MO

How? Why? What? What the hell did I just watch? This didn't actually happen, right?

I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. Not sure. Yes, unfortunately.

Jeremy from Gilbert, AZ

"Finishing the process of the catch" or "surviving the ground" is the weakest and dumbest crap in the NFL. Every kid in America that has played football know those "rules" are trash. The NFL needs to fix it!

The NFL's catch rule long has been a source of confusion. The problem is that there's no way to ultimately define a catch. While the eye test makes it look easy, actually writing it is hard. I thought Jaguars wide receiver Zay Jones' "catch" in the first quarter Sunday was a catch. Officials ruled differently. That's not uncommon. I doubt we'll see this rule addressed this offseason. It hasn't felt like much of a "thing" this season.

Hasso from Celina, TX

I hate this team.

All's fair.

Gerry from Jacksonville

Time for [General Manager Trent] Baalke to revamp the roster. Need better players. The coach also needs to evaluate his and his staff's performance. Too many head scratcher type of decisions.

All NFL teams evaluate everything every offseason. This is the purpose of the first few weeks/month of the offseason. I suspect this will be done with urgency around the Jaguars in the coming weeks.

David from Eau Claire, WI

Looking like the worst team in the division again. Have the Jaguars regressed that far now? It seems like they have been out of sync most of the season.

I want to write that the Jaguars aren't the worst team in the AFC South. They didn't play like the worst team in the AFC South most of the season. They went 4-2 in the division this season, and that tells me they're not the worst team in the AFC South. When you lose five of your last six games and the last loss is to the last-place team in the division … well, I suppose it doesn't matter if they're technically the "worst" team in the South or not. They're not going to the postseason. That's what matters.

Scott from Jax

You've got to be getting so many questions about the horrible play calling on that last goal-line opportunity. Three downs, all passes with an All-Pro running back on the team. Especially after always talking about they need to establish the run. Doesn't make any sense. What does, though, is the pain we feel. Doesnt matter now...

The play-calling on the fourth-quarter drive to which you refer made sense from this view. Quite a bit of sense, actually. The Jaguars' season was on the line. They faced third- and fourth-and-goal at the Titans 1-yard line, trailing 28-20 midway through the fourth quarter. The Jaguars called a rollout that resulted in an incomplete pass on third down and Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence tried unsuccessfully to dive and stick the ball over the goal line on fourth down. Why does this approach make sense? Jaguars running back Travis Etienne indeed is really good. But this team hasn't run effectively in short-yardage all season. That weakness in large part has defined the season. I frankly would have been surprised if the Jaguars had turned and tried to hand the ball to Etienne – or any other running back – there. I would have been equally surprised had the plays worked had they been called.

Dave from Jacksonville

Please, please, please tell me that the Jags will NOT extend Trevor with some crazy contract this offseason. He certainly has not proven to be a truly elite franchise quarterback. The second interception was a terrible overthrow, plus he missed a wide-open Calvin Ridley to potentially tie the game at the end of the fourth quarter. If you want to act like Superman, then you have to take the criticism when you play like Clark Kent.

Lawrence threw two interceptions Sunday. I didn't see this as the sole reason for the loss, and I didn't think the interceptions defined the game as much as the Jaguars' horrible-at-times performance against Titans running back Derrick Henry. But there's no doubt that Lawrence's turnovers emerged as a defining storyline as the season continued. They were an issue all season. The issue from this view grew worse as Lawrence dealt with injury after injury as the season continued. It's a smidge early in the immediate aftermath of the season to know exactly what the late-season turnover issues mean in the long-term. And what they mean in terms of signing Lawrence to a long-term extension. I still can't see a scenario where he's not the quarterback of the future. At the same time, it's hard to be a franchise/elite quarterback and turn the ball over as Lawrence did this season. We'll have plenty of offseason storylines. At least we know that much.

Tony from Johns Creek, GA

O, the defense had one job and that was to stop Henry. Tackling was its usual bad self.

A lot surprised me about the Jaguars late in the season. The team's dropoff against the run in a few games was perhaps foremost among them. This team began the season as a very good tackling team. Their stoutness against the run was a strength. That was anything but a strength Sunday.

John from Fleming Island, FL

What a terrible collapse! What are your thoughts on going on fourth down during the middle of the third quarter? I felt panic by head coach. A field goal could have built momentum. Doug is way too aggressive in many situations throughout the year, and I believe his decisions during the season may be responsible for 2-3 losses. Thoughts?

You're referencing the Jaguars going for a first down on fourth-and-7 at the Titans 32 trailing 28-13 in the third quarter. Lawrence threw to wide receiver Zay Jones for a four-yard gain. I get the criticism. I would have kicked a field goal. Old-school, conventional wisdom says kick the field goal. But this is not old-school NFL. Coaches go for it in that situation now. They go for it in a lot of "unconventional" situations now. Jaguars Head Coach Doug Pederson does, too. It's what he does and he's not going to change.

Zach from Loveland

We were 8-3. The way this crashed and burned is inexcusable. We were so unprepared to play football today. It was embarrassing. There is way too much money on this team for that sort of letdown against a 5-11 team on a win-and-in situation. To boot, a win means home field advantage against a team we really could beat too. I have no faith in the core of this team anymore outside of Josh Allen. If they don't sign him...

When teams finish as the Jaguars did in 2022, there is euphoria. When teams finish as they did in 2023, there are questions to go with disappointment and anger. Those questions and anger are more than fair. Losing five of the last six games to lose a division and miss the postseason indeed is inexcusable. I don't know that the Jaguars were unprepared on Sunday, necessarily, but I was surprised by their inability to stop the run in the first half – and early in the second half. Too much was at stake for a performance such as that. I wrote in O-Zone Late Night Sunday that I wasn't sure how to explain it. I hoped I would have better answers in this regular O-Zone. I just can't quite get my head around it. Sigh. Tomorrow's another day.