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O-Zone: Good, cruddy feeling

JACKSONVILLE – We usually look ahead on Wednesday. We'll allow a little look back today. There's time for that. That's not a fun fact, just a fact.

Let's get to it … Jeff from Jacksonville:
Philip Rivers, J.J. Watt, Jason Witten, Eric Berry, Matthew Stafford, Aaron Donald, Joe Thomas. Just some of the borderline Hall of Fame players who have been in this league for a long time who never have played in a conference championship game. I'd say the Jags did pretty good and got a ton of playoff experience this season.
John: True, true, true. What the Jaguars did during the 2017 season is hard. Really hard. They got closer to the Super Bowl than at any other time in franchise history in this sense: never before had they led the AFC Championship Game in the fourth quarter. They trailed the entire game when they lost to the New England Patriots in 1996 and never led in the fourth quarter when they lost to the Tennessee Titans in 1999. The fact that they reached higher than any previous Jaguars team this past season doesn't mean you shouldn't feel disappointed, heartbroken and even angry that they fell a few minutes short of the Super Bowl. It darned sure doesn't mean what happened Sunday didn't hurt. It does mean that the Jaguars had a hell of a season that won't soon be forgotten and one that should stand out as special for a long time – and a season that a lot of other teams and players wished they could have experienced.
Marshal from Palm Coast, FL:
O-Man, how beneficial do you think it would have been on that last drive to have someone the caliber of Allen Robinson out there for BB5 who can just go up and get it when we needed it most?
John: Very.
Julio from So Cal:
I will give you three reasons why the Jags lost the AFC Championship Game. Kneel with 55 seconds remaining in the first half, delay of game on third down, not blitzing on third-and-18. We talk about holding players accountable, how about coaches?
John: I would have liked to have seen perhaps a draw or a screen at the end of the first half Sunday, possibly to Corey Grant – just to see if his speed could have created something. I think you can make the argument that the Jaguars got a touch too conservative there – and yes, the delay of game shortly before that that negated a first down to tight end Marcedes Lewis was a killer …. the second half may have played out far differently had the Jaguars gotten a field goal there. I didn't have a problem with the Jaguars not blitzing on third-and-18 in the fourth quarter; this team has been a pressure-with-four, cover-with-seven defense much of the year. If blitzing was the automatic solution to all defensive problems, all teams would blitz every play and no team would ever lose. As far as holding coaches accountable, the Jaguars lost in the AFC Championship Game; the hurt everyone feels is real. I think coaches did too good a job this season to expect firings, so I suppose I'm asking what should happen to hold the coaches accountable? Flogging? Public shaming? Beaten about the face and neck? I'll check to see if these are options.
Alan from Aurora, IL:
Is the Pro Bowl roster finalized now? How many Jags will be participating?
John: Five Jaguars players are expected to participate in the Pro Bowl in Orlando this week: Cornerback Jalen Ramsey, cornerback A.J. Bouye, defensive tackle Malik Jackson, linebacker Telvin Smith and defensive end Yannick Ngakoue. Defensive end Calais Campbell opted out of the game Monday. Ramsey, Bouye and Jackson were originally voted into the game, with Smith and Ngakoue being named on Monday.
Jeremy from Rhode Island:
John, this one stings and will sting for a while not because the Jags lost a great battle to a great team but because the manner in which the officiating aided the Patriots win. When you take away the fairness of a sport, you don't have a sport. You have a con.
John: A few calls went against the Jaguars Sunday. I thought the interference against Bouye at the end of the first half was an incorrect call, and there's little question linebacker Myles Jack's fumble recovery should have resulted in a touchdown. I also think it slightly defies logic that the Patriots committed no penalties offensively or defensively. I won't call what happened Sunday a con, because it's not my belief that there was a categorical conspiracy to help one team or the other, but those calls were unfortunate.
Ryan from the Pit of Misery:
John, how is it that in consequential games, the Patriots always get the benefit of the doubt on 50/50 calls? How is it possible that this is the only game all year that Jags' defensive line doesn't force at least one offensive holding call? How does a secondary that only drew five pass-interference calls all season were flagged for two in Foxboro? Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola not flagged for blatantly head-butting Jaguars safety Tashaun Gipson right in front of a ref? How is Jack whistled down with nobody touching him? I'm sorry, but I just need to vent O-man. What recourse is there for the rest of the NFL World that feels year after year that the Patriots are in cahoots with the NFL and their referees? I know who I'll be rooting for in the Super Bowl - Philly Philly.
John: All of those are fair things to feel, and I will tell you the non-call on Amendola head-butting Gipson was a major topic in the Jaguars' locker room after the game. I can't disagree with the pass interference on Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey. The call against Bouye … well ...
Mike from Jacksonville:
The Jaguars' defense this season must hold the all-time record for defensive touchdowns egregiously nullified due to the quick whistle. Even more shameful is that there is a chance it directly altered who is playing in the Super Bowl this year.
John: The call that negated Jack's potential hurt. It changed momentum. One thing that should be remembered, though: The Jaguars got possession at their 33 after the play and did not get a first down. They had the ball and a chance to do something with it – and went three-and-out. As angry as people want to get with the Patriots winning all of the time and getting breaks, it should also be noted that they are good enough to take advantage of the breaks once they get them. That's a far more significant a part of their success as any good fortune. There was no rule that the Patriots had to score a touchdown after interference call on Bouye. There was no rule that the Jaguars couldn't get a first down after the Jack fumble recovery. There was no rule that the Jaguars couldn't have made a few plays at the end of the game when the Patriots had momentum. A lot of teams get breaks and don't turn them into victories. The Patriots are good enough to take advantage of them more often than not.
Pedal from Farnborough, Hampshire, UK:
Oh Mighty 'O,' I spent Monday in a stunned daze. Even my wife was sympathetic as I stared into space and, "We were SO close;" she usually hears white noise when I mention the Jags. For the last seven days, I had hope and belief we could go all the way. This year was going to be OUR year. I was in the Jaguars UK Pub watching the game with friends I had made since the Jags started playing in the International Series. For years, I thought I was the only Jags fan in the UK. We cheered every first down and celebrated every score like lunatics. Our hearts were broken with 2:48 left. As I stood there fighting back the tears, a few fans were saying, "What a great year it was for the Jags." We won the division. We hosted and won a playoff Game. We beat the Steelers – again. I'm not there yet, mighty 'O.' It might take a week or two before I look back and smile. You fall seven times, you stand up eight. DTWD!
John: You don't have to smile yet. People aren't smiling here. Players aren't smiling. Coaches aren't smiling. Sexton is smiling, but it's because his stylist told him it was OK to wear a kerchief on camera, so that's not all that pertinent to this discussion. Point being, you get over emotions and heartache at your own pace. Grieve if you must, but remember: this is sort of a good, cruddy feeling – and this cruddy feeling is so much better than the cruddy feelings of the past five or six seasons. There's legitimate hope that the good feelings will continue to outweigh the cruddy ones around these parts for a while.

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