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O-Zone: Clean it up

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Julio from Hesperia, CA:
What is your assessment of the team after the Chiefs loss? The Jags had a chance and besides the turnovers looked like a team that can beat anyone. Your thoughts?
John: I think you're right – and it's absolutely true the Jaguars looked more competitive Sunday than they had in several weeks. They for the most part played well against a well-coached, smart, contending team – and they came close to what would have been the biggest victory of the Gus Bradley Era. They indeed looked like a team that could beat a lot of teams. The offense looked productive, the defense played gutsy and sound – and yes, this overall looked much more like the team many expected entering the season. And if the Jaguars can consistently play like that, they can win a lot of games in the second half of the season. That's one way to see Sunday's loss. The other way to see it is the Jaguars once again found a way to lose a game. They did it by committing four turnovers – and all four turnovers were avoidable. They knew entering the game that turnovers would be a key; still, that was exactly how they lost. As a result, they're 2-6 – and to be honest, at 2-6 with the playoffs a very long shot no one wants to hear any more about having "a chance" and looking "like a team that can beat anyone." It's not good enough. Being better than what we saw the last two weeks isn't good enough. Only winning is good enough.
John from Clearwater, FL:
You have to give blame where it's due. This game wasn't on the coaching. I thought Gus Bradley and Nathaniel Hackett caked a perfect game. Coaches don't turn it over four times.
John: You're right. And if Bradley and Hackett keep caking that way … look out.
Jeremy from Wise, VA:
I'm sure glad Blake Bortles brought his personal quarterback coach in this week. It helped. (I couldn't find the sarcasm font!)
John: It's probably good you couldn't find the sarcasm font because I don't think it was necessary. I wouldn't say Bortles played great Sunday and he certainly missed throws. I'm not even saying Bortles took a step on Sunday toward proving he's indeed a franchise quarterback. But he was clearly better than he was last week. Was that all Adam Dedeaux, his personal quarterbacks coach? Was there some Nathaniel Hackett mixed in there? A little of both, probably. Bortles needs to keep improving – and he quite honestly needs to play better than he did Sunday. Still, he was better. Considering where he was the last two weeks, perhaps that's a start.
Tony from Ponte Vedra, FL:
Is Marqise Lee the best receiver on this team?
John: I can't say that yet, but I thought about it a while before I answered.
Cir-Ike Love from Jacksonville:
Now what??? The defense held it down, the running game was working, Bortles looked decent and we still found a way to beat ourselves. I don't get it. This was a golden opportunity and we kept giving them back the ball. We left at least 17 points on field. The Chiefs' offense was nothing to fear but we allowed them to have excellent field position and score off turnovers. This one hurts. Not saying the others were less painful, but this one, O … We had it in a tough environment. Smh. #WhatNow
John: This one was easy to explain. You don't win in the NFL turning the ball over four times when you force no turnovers. The Jaguars did that; unsurprisingly, the result was a loss. Had they lost the takeaway-margin 4-0 and won it would have been one of the oddest, most-remarkable victories in franchise history. So … now what? Now, you go play the Texans at EverBank Field Sunday and you hope you can build on the positives from Sunday. That may not save the season because saving the season is a long shot, but what's what you do because in the NFL that's all there is to do.
Brian from Gainesville, FL:
Big O, while this team must somehow learn ball security, we got shafted on that Chris Ivory touchdown. And don't explain the rule about indisputable video proof and how the ruling on the field complicated the review. That was a nonsense on-field call that can be ascribed only to the refs hometowning the Chiefs. Too bad the Jags never get the same treatment in Jacksonville.
John: I thought the Ivory play was a touchdown. I also don't think it's ridiculous for the officials to have missed the call on the field. And while you asked that I not explain the rule, the indisputable-proof part indeed is the key part of the rule. I never saw that on the replay, so while the call was frustrating it certainly was not hometowning. Oh, and another thing: don't fumble. If you hold the ball it eliminates a lot of the guesswork.
Gamble from Brasilia, Brasil:
We're tired of winning the draft, John.
John: I get it, Gamble.
KC from Jacksonville:
John, I have a realistic question for you. At what point do you believe that a large portion of the fan base turns against the team because of continued poor play and the lack of anything resembling empathy or concern for the fans from the team leadership? There will always be diehards and pessimists, but I feel like the team is in real danger of losing its moderate center, which is a problem. When the warm center of your fan base is starting to pull away from the team, that's an issue. The team can say they feel the fans frustration and that they want to win as bad as we do until hell freezes over, but at a certain point, it all becomes white noise if you don't start winning. It's a testament to the loyalty of this fan base that team support is as strong as it is at this point. But I am genuinely curious, at what point do you see that loyalty start to crumble under the mountain of broken promises and missed expectations that is this team's ONLY identity?
John: This is a legitimate question, and one I have gotten often in recent weeks – and fans without a doubt are frustrated. What's too bad about the question is the team's leadership has a phenomenal level of empathy and concern for the fans. Team leadership works daily to provide a first-class fan experience, and I know first-hand that the fans are at the forefront of the team's concerns – up to and including providing one heck of a free website with a strikingly witty, handsome, charming senior writer. I kid about the last part (though only a bit), but perception aside, the organization's commitment to its fans is off the charts. Now, it's true that hasn't translated to winning. That's beyond frustrating and gut-punchingly disappointing, but the reality in the NFL is all a team can truly promise is to do everything possible to win. The Jaguars in the last four seasons have done that. Perhaps they haven't done it in a manner with which all fans agree—and they certainly haven't done it successfully – but I assure you they have done it. They also will keep doing it; at some point, results will show. I believe the loyalty will stay strong because I honestly believe in the fan base's passion for this team, and I believe that when this team does win, the loyalty/passion/energy the team and fans will create together will stun people not familiar with this market. Perhaps I'm wrong. I've certainly been wrong before. I don't think I am now.
Andy from Roswell, GA:
So, what does success look like for the rest of the season? I'd be ecstatic with a 6-2 record and a remaining sweep of the AFC South. Highly unlikely this happens, but that type of run to end the season would seem to be the bright spot we've been looking for for a while. In your opinion, with a run like that, would that be enough for Gus Bradley to return next year?
John: A 6-2 record the rest of the season indeed would be cause for a lot of Jaguars-related, Jaguars-induced ecstasy. It's extre-e-e-e-e-e-mely difficult to visualize such a record considering the results of the first half of the season – even with how the Jaguars played Sunday. Would such a record be enough for Bradley to return? Considering that sort of record by definition would entail a huge turnaround and winning performances against good teams … yeah, it probably would. What are the chances of it happening? Slim … but we'll see.
Scott from Aurora, IL:
If I was the defense, I'd be done with the offense. The defense has done its job all season save for a single terrible outing. The offense keeps finding ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
John: I got the sense during parts of the Oakland and Tennessee games that the defense was feeling a lot of frustration. That seemed pretty normal considering how the offense had played. I didn't get that vibe at all during or after Sunday's game. The Jaguars produced a lot of yards and the offense Sunday had a much different feeling. That wasn't enough for a victory, but it did seem like enough to ease some of the frustration.
Steve from Jacksonville:
John, kudos to Coach Hackett for a better overall performance by the offense in a difficult situation. They played well enough to win that game but frankly when you turn the ball over four times, you don't deserve to win. Hopefully, they can clean that up quickly or it's going to be a long second half of the season.
John: True that.

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