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O-Zone: Heartache

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Mark from Jacksonville:
Oops, just remembered … it's always coaching in the NFL.
John: The idea that coaching was a major issue for the Jaguars Sunday was a theme in the inbox after their 24-20 loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game – and I sense it will be a theme for the next few days. We may as well get the answer out of the way: if you believe that the coaching staff is to blame for the Jaguars not being in the Super Bowl, then I suppose you will believe what you will. This staff managed to get the Jaguars a 10-point lead with less than 10 minutes remaining in the AFC Championship Game – the same Jaguars team that was considered awful in August and the same one that many believed was so deficient offensively and at the quarterback position that it couldn't possibly win a playoff game, or beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, or win a division, etc. The Jaguars' carved out a 14-3 lead in the first half using little-used running back Corey Grant and keeping the Patriots' defense off-balance. In the second half, the Patriots were able to do what they had set out to do entering the game – get the Jaguars' running game stopped, and prevent quarterback Blake Bortles from beating them with his legs. I agree that the Jaguars perhaps could have thrown on first down in the fourth quarter on a couple of drives. I absolutely would have liked to have seen that, but to overly criticize a coaching staff that got the Jaguars here with an offensive line that wasn't dominant much of the season and a receiving corps without its No. 1 receiver all season? The Jaguars were within a few minutes of the Super Bowl on a team that has some serious decisions to make offensively in the offseason. If people aren't pleased with the coaching this season, they may never be pleased.
Sean from Jacksonville:
So ... What's the deal with Chris Ivory being a healthy scratch recently? Is it a sign of things to come?
John: Ivory was a healthy scratch in the postseason because the Jaguars believed Leonard Fournette, T.J. Yeldon and Corey Grant were better options to have active on game day. And yes – considering his cap hit, I'd say it's likely Ivory won't likely return next season.
Wilfredo from Corpus Christi, TX:
You can't beat the Patriots playing them for three quarters. We got conservative in the fourth quarter and paid for it. We should have won that game. We played an amazing game for three quarters. Blake Bortles played the game of his life. Then we let the foot off the gas. With all that said, I'm proud with the way this team has fought all season. The way our coaching staff has turned things around. The arrow is pointing up. Go Jags.
John: It's hard to argue against the thought that the Jaguars went too conservative in the fourth quarter. At the same time, this hasn't been a throw-on-every-down offense during the season and it was probably a reach to expect them to start doing it with a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter in Foxboro. I imagine the Jaguars' coaches will regret not being a bit more aggressive in that situation. I imagine they will regret more not getting more push in the run game in the second half, and not getting more interior pressure on Brady. Those felt like bigger issues to me than play-calling. Not getting a stop on third-and-18 and getting a fumble recovery for a possible touchdown blown dead weren't exactly small factors, either. #DTWD
Bryant from White Plains, NY:
Zone. I feel the need to say Duval Til We Die.
John: You weren't alone Sunday night. Many readers were feeling the same. It was a great season, one that will be remembered and one that re-ignited the bond between team, city and fans. #DTWD? Damned right.
Marc from Oceanway:
The refs gave the game to New England at the end of the first half.
John: I thought the interference call in A.J. Bouye was incorrect, but I thought the more egregious miss was calling the Myles Jack fumble recovery dead in the fourth quarter. Officials have to stop whistling plays dead. It changes everything too often, and it darned sure changed the game Sunday.
Joshua from Harrisburg, PA:
John: Well said.
TB from Boynton Beach, FL:
Am I the only one that saw that Myles Jack wasn't down? The refs blew one there. I know one play doesn't win or lose a game, but Jack scores there, that's pretty tough to overcome, even for TB12.
John: You're not the only one who saw it. It looked incorrect from my view, too – and you're correct that it would have been tough to overcome.
Dakota from Fleming Island, FL:
No question. I just wanted to say this was a great season. We came up a little bit short of a Super Bowl appearance and it hurts. It really does hurt but we had an amazing season and that can't be forgotten. This was no fluke. The Patriots just had one of their most difficult AFC Championships in many years. We should be proud of our team. This was an amazing season and I know I will always be #DTWD. Go Jags always
John: #DTWD
Andrew from Charleston, SC:
I know you'll say that officiating evens out in the end, but you've got to admit that it played a big part of this game. The two DPI calls, the inadvertent whistle, the lack of offensive holding calls on the Patriots ... these calls and no calls were severely damaging to the Jaguars. The Patriots won, but the Jaguars deserved the victory.
John: The Jaguars had 98 yards in penalties and the Patriots had 10. I think a lot of the calls against the Jaguars were deserved, and I need to look at the interference call against Bouye in the first half to get a better read on it. Jack called the discrepancy in the penalty yardage "interesting," and there were times in the second half it was very interesting. I guess my assessment is a team must be very well-coached to not have a penalty called against its offense or defense in a tightly contested postseason game. The Patriots are very well-coached, so perhaps that explains a lot.
Craig from Sacksonville:
Oh, well. Still a great season. Thanks guys. Let's get 'em next year!
John: #DWTD
Christian from La Habana, CA:
Did Nathaniel Hackett get two paperweights for this game? He sure loves to call runs up the middle against a loaded box.
John: I don't get the paperweight reference, though I don't doubt it's outrageously witty, clever or both. And sure: blame the coordinator. It's always coaching in the NFL.
Adam from Bryan, TX:
What happened to Yannick Ngakoue? He was completely invisible the whole game? Why didn't the coaching staff put Dante Fowler Jr. in more often after seeing the success he was having? I think he could have made more of an impact on the game.
John: Speed edge rushers often have a difficult time affecting Patriots quarterback Tom Brady because he's so good at moving up in the pocket. Fowler had some early success chasing him down, but you don't minimize the snaps of an edge rusher such as Ngakoue. You still need pressure from the edge even if it doesn't result in a sack. More hurtful for the Jaguars was the lack of interior pass rush. It got to Brady some, including an eight-yard sack that set up a third-and-18 that Brady converted with a critical 21-yard pass to wide receiver Danny Amendola, but anyone on the Jaguars' interior would tell you there wasn't enough movement in Brady's face. And there certainly wasn't enough in key situations.
Matt from Lafayette, IN:
I thought it was interesting that we didn't see Blake rushing at all, especially considering that that offensive line did not look as good as it had the past few weeks.
John: The Patriots for the most part took away the quarterback keeper on the read option by keeping defensive ends on the edge rather than crashing down to stop the Jaguars' running backs. I thought there might have been one or two plays on which Bortles could have run, but for the most part the Patriots schemed that well.
J from Orange Park, FL:
I only watch the Jaguars on game day. So, in years past I only watched the Super Bowl for the commercials. I don't think I can watch it this year knowing how close the Jaguars got to actually being in the game.
John: I doubt you'll be alone on that front. Losses like Sunday's linger for a long time. They're sickening. They hurt. They make winning sweeter, but that doesn't help in the short term.
Jeremy from Jacksonville:
My heart hurts. I'm not mad though I'm almost in tears writing this I am so proud of this team and I know they left it all out there. Good season, guys. DTWD
John: #DTWD

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