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O-Zone: Football in December

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Daniel from Jersey City, NJ:
O-man, you've got to give it to Blake Bortles. If he keeps playing like that, we can dominate.
John: I've written a couple of times since Sunday's game that I thought it was Bortles' best performance in the NFL. As I put together this Monday O-Zone, I still believe that to be true. Yes, the Colts' secondary was banged up entering the game. And yes, Bortles has had good games against the Colts before. But Bortles looked different than Sunday than I had seen him in the past. He looked poised in the pocket, made good decisions and threw accurately – and did all of this consistently. In short, he looked confident – and at ease. The word around the Jaguars in recent weeks has been that Bortles' command of the offense is very high, and that seemed to be on display Sunday. I tend to believe he has been trending toward what we saw Sunday the past few weeks. Why were the results so much better Sunday? One obvious difference was the Jaguars' wide receivers made good plays on the ball. Wide receiver Marqise Lee made two difficult catches early to help give the Jaguars the early lead; wide receiver Keelan Cole made a very good catch for a touchdown in the second quarter. Those balls often were getting dropped in recent weeks. Sunday's game doesn't make Bortles elite, but it's another case of him showing overall improvement from the past. He has had three, four and maybe five of the best games of his career this season. He is becoming increasingly comfortable in coordinator Nate Hackett's system. He is helping the Jaguars a lot more this season than he is hurting them – and Sunday was one more example of that.
Jeemy from Newport, RI:
This defense makes so many great plays, but they need to do one more thing to be truly elite. They must finish every single play strong. They still struggle with finishing plays at times. It has shown up throughout the season. If this defense finishes every play strong the Jaguars will be a force in the playoffs.
John: It almost sounds like you want … FULL CONSISTENCY!!
Joel from London, England:
Can we win a playoff match?
John: The Jaguars absolutely can win a playoff game this season – provided, of course, they get to the postseason. They're 8-4 after Sunday's victory and they are very much in control of their own postseason destiny. Why can they win in the postseason? Because if this defense gets a lead it is capable of holding it and pulling away from any team it faces. That guarantees nothing – either in the regular season or in the postseason. But it absolutely, positively gives them a chance.
Tom from Section 141 and the Mean Streets of Nocatee, FL:
There's joy in Cowford!
John: There sure was Sunday.
Doug from Section 412:
What a great win Sunday, particularly for Bortles. He's had some excellent games this season (and overall I think he's looked a LOT better this season than he did last year), but I cannot recall ever seeing him have as accurate a passing day as he did Sunday. If he plays like he did today consistently – or even say two games out of every three – all of this "the-Jags-are-a-quarterback-away-from-being-a-great-team" talk goes away. So, O ... what was the difference Sunday? Is it all about the drops? Is it about having a clean pocket? Do overcast days just make him happy? How does he make this kind of day the norm?
John: The lack of drops helped. A beat-up Colts secondary helped, too. It also helped that the Jaguars were ahead, which kept them out of the late-game pressurized situations that bit Bortles against the Los Angeles Chargers and Arizona Cardinals this season. But the reality is even with those late-game mistakes in those two games, Bortles has been doing a lot of things well in recent weeks. His command of the offense is improving significantly and he has been more accurate than his statistics indicate. Players made plays around him Sunday. That was the biggest difference between Sunday's game and a few others in recent weeks. Remember: the Jaguars have won five of their last six games, and Bortles made plays with his legs that nearly brought them back in the one loss (at Arizona). It's not as if he's been stacking horrendous games to this point of the season.
Miguel from Section 144 and Duuuuuuvaallll!:
Hey Zooooney! I was a Blake supporter for years, but after the terrible turnover decisions last year I wrote him off. I thought he may not ever "get it." This year the doubts have lingered, but after the last two great gutsy games by Bortles he has made me wonder again. Is it a good thing or a bad thing that we wonder if Blake can be a franchise quarterback? Franchise quarterbacks don't grow on trees but shouldn't it be more readily evident when they are "The Man"? Can Blake really grow into our franchise quarterback?
John: I don't know yet. I do know it's a more legitimate question than I imagined it would be in September. I also know that it's never a "bad thing" when your quarterback plays well.
Scott from Jacksonville:
Please help me out on the roughing-the-passer call against the Jaguars in the second half where Jacoby Brissett would not go down and it took several players to finally bring him down. I didn't see a head slam, blow to the head, etc. I just saw a tough quarterback (Brissett) that's hard to bring down and it took a few of our players to do it. Don't understand the roughing the passer call at all.
John: I saw it the same way you did. I thought it was the wrong call because Brissett was breaking tackles and the play was not yet dead. Defensive end Yannick Ngakoue made a football play within the reasonable context of the play. The ruling cost Ngakoue a sack, and that was unfair.
Other Mike from Atlanta, GA:
Why does Bortles always looks so itchy at the press conference after games?
John: Maybe he has an itch.
J. Hooks from Orange Park, FL:
Poz... that is all. Your thoughts?
John: My thoughts are that any Jaguars fan should have been thrilled for Posluszny on Sunday – and my thoughts are that Jaguars players were darned sure thrilled for him. And you know what? Good for Poz. He was playing a full game for the first time this season; weak-side linebacker Telvin Smith's absence meant Poslusnzy was not only playing in base situations as he has all season, he played in the nickel situations where Smith and Myles Jack have played this season. The result? Posluszny had a team-high 14 tackles, two for loss, and a quarterback hurry. He also had 1.5 sacks. I spoke to Posluszny afterward and he said being in the flow of the game more than he has in the first 11 games this season helped. He said he didn't realize when he first moved to the base-only role how difficult it would be to get a rhythm while coming on and off the field so much. He was into the flow of the game Sunday and it showed. A final thought along these lines is this is another example of why you don't trade good players. When Posluszny was moved into his base-only role in the offseason, many observers wondered if the Jaguars should release him or trade him. The reason that was a bad idea is the same reason trading running back T.J. Yeldon was a bad idea when he was inactive early in the season. Players get hurt in the NFL. Reserves play. If your reserves are good, they have a tendency to play well as often as not. That's a good thing. It helps you win.
Mike from Atlanta, GA:
Bortles' touchdown pass to Cole and the back shoulder to Lee along the sidelines were very good throws.
John: I'll let him know you liked them.
Jay from Salem, OR:
As a HUGE FAN of the Jags, but a fairly pessimistic critic of Blake … one fer Bortles!
John: There have been a lot of days in Bortles' career on which he didn't deserve a "one fer." He deserved one in a big way Sunday. So, yeah …. One fer Bortles.
Jeremy from Jacksonville:
I never felt like we were going to lose this game. It was ours from the start and the team didn't let up. I've seen good game management for probably 98 percent-plus of games and Doug Marrone is no doubt a coach of the year candidate in my eyes; this staff has done an absolutely admirable job adjusting to life in the NFL (injuries, suspension, lack of production). I'm enjoying the wins, but caution fans to be humble as we should take not a game – let alone wins at home and beyond – for granted. Enjoy the moment. but be humble as the players must be, and hope for greatness. #jagsforlife #duval #moodachay #dtwd #krimmaaa
John: #FootballinDecember

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