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O-Zone: Let's go crazy

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Scott from Atlantic Beach, FL:
O, what a statement game that was. No way the Jags aren't going to the Super Bowl! Did you expect such a dominant performance against the Browns?
John: Say there … is that sarcasm I detect in your e-mail? Or disappointment, per chance? You'll pardon me if I take a moment to marvel at a sarcastic or disappointed reaction to the Jaguars' four-game winning streak and to their first-place status in the AFC South. There … I've marveled. As for my expectations about Sunday's game, if you read or if you listened to any of our pregame coverage last week, you per chance heard me say I expected the game to play out pretty much as it did. I said on a radio show early in the week I expected the Jaguars to win about 21-7 or so – and I also said I expected it to be the sort of game after which a lot of people might call and write various media sources complaining the Jaguars didn't play better even though they won. So, in that respect … yeah, I guess I did sort of expect that sort of "dominant" performance Sunday. Look, this is professional football – and if you're going to follow a contending team, you should get used to the idea that not all victories come in convincing, one-sided fashion. And you don't make the playoffs by making statements; you make the playoffs by winning enough to get there – and once you're there, you try to win some more. Sunday was a game played in sloppy conditions. The Browns hadn't quit on the season and they were a better defense than many thought. That meant this game was going to be tough. This game wasn't about making a statement. It was about getting a fourth consecutive victory and staying in first place. The Jaguars did that, dominant or not.
Neil from Gloucester, UK:
Great win. Despite injuries kept going, we won. That's all that matters. 7-3!
John: Fair point.
Keith from Ceaser, MI:
Can you please explain to me how Blake Bortles is a franchise quarterback, funny boy?
John: I looked back through some old O-Zones to try to find where I said Bortles was a franchise quarterback. I couldn't find it. Then I remembered: I never said that.
Big on Blake from Philly:
Looking ahead, I know, but playoffs are a lock at this point. How does this defense plan to compete against the Patriots when our weak spots are screens and short passes out of the backfield – and that's all that the Patriots do? In addition, the best way to disrupt the Patriots' game plan is to get pressure, which our front couldn't do on a beat-up Browns offensive line. If we had to bring a fifth man in, our defensive scheme would be easily dissected with those short plays. Excuse me for looking too far ahead, but now that playoffs aren't a goal and winning in the playoffs is a goal, what does this team need to do for success in January and February?
John: Get there.
Mac from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
Bad officiating multiple games in a row. At what point are fans supposed to think this isn't a coincidence?
John: I agree there were some rough calls that went against the Jaguars Sunday. One was a play by wide receiver Dede Westbrook that appeared to be a catch that officials ruled after review was not a catch. Another was the fumble return by Dante Fowler Jr. late in the game on which officials ruled that Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer had been sacked before fumbling when replay revealed that he was not down and that the play indeed was a fumble. Because officials whistled the play dead, Fowler had a touchdown taken away. That was a significant play because the touchdown would have clinched the victory; instead, Jacksonville had to make a final, game-clinching stop. I didn't think the officiating cost the Jaguars nearly as much against Los Angeles a week ago as many fans believed, but it was hard to argue it didn't hurt Sunday. A lot. Still, the idea of a conspiracy against the Jaguars is nonsense. It just doesn't work that way.
Logan from Wichita, KS:
A win is a win is a win is a win is a win is a win is a win. That means seven wins. Seven is more than three – and it's more than three plus three. Which means we have more wins this year than the past two combined. Which is a win. A WIN IS A WIN IS A WIN!!!! WIN!!!!!
John: Somewhere within your impressive emphasis on the word "win" and your crafty use of exclamation points!! and CAPITAL LETTERS your point is a good one. The Jaguars won Sunday. While it's understandable for fans to emphasize what the Jaguars are not, the simple fact remains that they are good—and that the defense at times is phenomenal. Teams normally can't win with the passing game struggling as it did at times Sunday and teams normally can't win with the offense struggling to score as this offense has done in a lot of the last four games. But this Jaguars defense isn't normal. It's really good and perhaps great. It has been good enough to win seven games and it looks good enough to get this team to the postseason. Is it good enough to win there? It seems it is. We'll see.
Ron from Orlando, FL:
John, I have an idea. How about they run it up the middle on first and second down, and throw it on third and long? Maybe that'll be effective next time.
John: My sixth sense and hard-edged reporting skills tell me this email might be criticizing the play-calling of Jaguars offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. I understand offensive coordinators are always going to be blamed when teams struggle offensively because I more than anyone realize that it's always, always coaching in the NFL. But remember: Hackett is working with an offensive line down two starters and a depleted receiving corps. Pressure was a factor on a lot of plays Sunday. I didn't have time afterward to ask if that pressure and the weather – and the fact that the Jaguars' defense was dominating – might have caused a conservative bent to the play-calling strategy, but what the hey: I'll go out on a limb and say maybe that played into it.
Craig from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
It wasn't "pretty" but it was still a double-digit win. Sweeping the North division is pretty impressive as well.
John: Yes, it is.
Thad from Albuquerque, NM:
There is no possible way we win without our best linemen and our best running back. We are going to lose and the media will trash us and laugh at us and on Monday all of us Jags fans will be walking around with a paper bag on our heads because our players talked a ton of smack to a 0-9 team and then lost. Why us?!?!?!?
John: This was sent Sunday morning. Many of the same concepts that were silly when it was sent seemed particularly silly shortly thereafter.
Brian from Gainesville, FL:
Big O, I know it's still too early to talk like this, but go with me here just for the sake of whimsy: is this Jaguars team starting to be reminiscent at all of that 2001 Super Bowl winning Baltimore Ravens team with its elite, smothering defense and its fair at best quarterback, Trent Dilfer?
John: It's not whimsy at all. That's how the Jaguars are built. It can be done. That's not saying the Jaguars will do it, but it is saying it can be done. Why not?
Tony from the Land of Confusion:
Is it too early to start putting this defense in the same conversation as the 2000 Ravens and the 1985 Bears?
John: Yes. Maybe.
Jordan from West Palm Beach, FL:
Mr. O. I understand wanting to only rush the quarterback with four guys so you can cover with seven. However, I feel if we were to play a team such as the Patriots it would be like the '07 playoff game. The entire season we blitzed the quarterback and we changed it up that game and Tom Brady had all day. I feel if you hit the quarterback early with a blitz or two, you throw off his whole game. Thoughts?
John: First, this isn't 2007. It's 2017 and the Jaguars' defense is built largely around the back seven's ability to lock-down cover and make quarterbacks hold the ball for a half-second or second more. As far as blitzing early … sure, it's cool when you blitz early and hit the opposing quarterback. The thing about the blitz is it's risky. You take defenders out of coverage; if it wasn't, teams would blitz all the time. Hit the quarterback early? Cool. Allow a big play against a depleted a secondary? Not as cool.
Will from Jacksonville:
Do you feel Doug Marrone should be in the running for Coach of the Year if he gives the Jags an eight-to-10-game improvement?
John: Of course.
Bob from Palm Coast, FL:
Should I be drinking the kook aid? Our defense is great but despite what the positive press will be about our run game and Blake Bortles, the offense has only scored one touchdown in each of the last four games.
John: Don't drink the kook aid. That would be crazy.

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