CLEVELAND, Ohio – Before we begin, two words:
That's what was important about the Jaguars' 19-7 victory over the Cleveland Browns Sunday – that, and the fact that the Jaguars won a fourth consecutive game and did so on the road in difficult conditions.
Yes, Sunday's game was sloppy. Yes, the game was close for a long time.
Yes, the Jaguars needed a defensive touchdown late in the game to finally clinch a victory over a winless team. But the Jaguars are in first place in the AFC South heading into Thanksgiving.
What … you thought getting to the postseason was easy?
It's not. You make the postseason in the NFL by winning games however you win them. You don't necessarily make it by flexing your muscles and playing fantastic in all three phases every week. The Jaguars very definitely didn't play well in all three phases Sunday.
But you know what? They won. Two words. First place.
Let's get to it …
Dylan from Duval:
This defense sure is fun to watch! #DTWD
John: It's difficult while covering a game to actually "enjoy" any particular facet of a particular game. I typically have my head down in the computer between plays – and while the end product may not reflect it, my increasingly feeble mind is doing what it can to create readable, informative entertaining post-game content. Still, the Jaguars' defense absolutely is good enough that it's impossible not to appreciate it – and when I watch the game back during the week, the unity is darned enjoyable to watch. Not only are the Jaguars really good at creating sacks, interceptions and fumbles – which are fun to watch – they seem to really enjoy what they're doing. I thought Sunday perhaps they danced and celebrated a bit less between plays, but I attributed that to cold weather. But whatever … you're right, these guys are fun. And they're cool. Fans like them. And there's a lot to like.
Brian from Gainesville, FL:
Big O, when will the NFL finally do something to stop the officials from blowing the play dead after a turnover instead of letting it play out and then reviewing it? Nothing bad can happen from letting the play unfold. You can erase a touchdown if necessary. You can't award one when you're wrong. Seriously, John, why won't the league stop this? Am I missing something here?
John: Not really. You're talking about a play in the final two minutes on which Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. picked up a fumble and was running toward the end zone when the play was whistled dead. Officials thought Browns DeShone Kizer was down by contact on a sack by ends Yannick Ngakoue and Calais Campbell. Replays showed he was not down – and while he was very nearly down, the fact remained that he was not. The fact also remained that there was no reason for the play to have been ruled down. I don't buy into the theories of many readers that the officials were "against" the Jaguars Sunday. But that call was missed and the miss mattered because the Browns got the ball back with time to score. Fowler's touchdown would have clinched the victory; instead, the Jaguars needed one more stand. That's an egregious miss. Understandable? Yes, but also egregious.
Brian from Atlanta, GA:
Two weeks, two indefensible replay calls. Can you honestly tell me that the NFL isn't actively working against this team?
John: Of course I can say that. Why would they work against the Jaguars? Toward what end?
Tommy from Jacksonville:
We can thank Bortles for this loss. Great job Blake!!!!
Sid from Sidsonville:
And the horrible play-calling continues …
John: I got a lot of these emails complaining about play-calling Sunday. It struck me that maybe – just maybe – a lot of Jaguars Offensive Coordinator Nathaniel Hackett's Sunday play-calling might have been influenced by circumstance: being down two wide receivers, being down two offensive linemen, being in a situation where turnovers or sacks could prove unbelievably costly, being in sloppy conditions. I don't know … it seemed a game when conservative play-calling and assuming you could run and play defense well enough to win might make sense. But what do I know?
Tim from Winston-Salem, NC:
The last two minutes of the first half????
John: Were rough.
Dan from Fort Dodge, IA:
Maybe our players should focus more on playing instead of talking smack. This game should not be this close at the half.
John: This email was sent around halftime, but no matter: Complaint about the Jaguars' pregame talk –particularly the talk of safety Tashaun Gipson – was common in the in-box throughout the game and afterward. Know this: pre-game talk had nothing to with what happened Sunday. What happened Sunday was actually pretty predictable. Tricky weather. A beat-up Jaguars offense. A Browns team that hadn't quit. It had the makings all week of a tight game, and it was. Tight games happen in the NFL. The Jaguars won. Enjoy it.
Mary from Jacksonville:
Mrs. Marrone, go get some more bologna and cheese!!! Yay, Jags!!
John: Yay, Jags.