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O-Zone: Looking ahead

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Nikki from East Hampton, CT

O, am incredibly proud of this team. What is going to sting the most is the what ifs. What if Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence and wide receiver Christian Kirk connected on the 60-yard bomb? What if linebacker Foye Oluokun – or even better, cornerback Tyson Campbell – picked Chiefs backup quarterback Chad Henne on the tipped ball and ran it back? What if Jaguars wide receiver Jamal Agnew didn't fumble on the Chiefs 5 while seemingly untouched? What if Agnew broke the last kick return for a touchdown and didn't get tripped up by Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker? Ugh, we had so many opportunities. I know we could have won the game, but do you think we should have won the game?

I can't quite say that I do. The Jaguars indeed had chances to win in what became a 27-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in a 2022 AFC Divisional Playoff game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Saturday. And had the moments you cited gone their way, they might well have won. But it mostly seemed Saturday as if the Chiefs were in control and were the better team. They managed to keep the lead the entire game, and they made crucial plays – particularly during the all-important second quarter when Chiefs All-Pro quarterback Patrick Mahomes was out and the Jaguars seemingly had a chance to take control of the game. The Jaguars during that stretch not only failed to score after reaching the Chiefs 25 trailing 10-7, they followed that by allowing the Henne to drive the Chiefs 98 yards for a critical touchdown. Yes, the Jaguars missed a chance to intercept Henne on the drive, but they had multiple other opportunities to stop the drive and failed. The Jaguars also had two chances in the third quarter to drive to tie it 17-17 and managed three first downs on two series. When Kansas City needed a play, the Chiefs made it. As for Agnew's fumble and his would-be kickoff return for a touchdown, the Jaguars could have pulled to within three points with a touchdown there with a little over five minutes remaining. Had they stopped Kansas City on the ensuing drive, they would have had a very real chance to win. But they had just allowed the Chiefs to drive for a touchdown without forcing a third down. None of this is to say the Jaguars couldn't have won had things gone right. But to say they should have won? No, the Chiefs made the plays when it mattered. That what championship teams do in big moments. They deserved to win.

Mike from Omaha, NE

"I agree with Trevor… We'll be back!"

Getting to the Divisional Playoff round never is guaranteed. The Jaguars, after all, have been there just six times in franchise history – 1996, 1998, 1999, 2007, 2017 and 2022. But the tone in the Jaguars' locker room Saturday had an encouraging feel. This team knows it's good, knows it's improving and believes in what it put it together this season. But the biggest reason the Jaguars have a good chance of returning to this round of the playoffs not once but often is quarterback Trevor Lawrence. If he's elite – and it appears he's on his way there – getting here should be possible as often as not.

John from Jacksonville

Hi, KOAGF. A bunch of us were watching and commenting on Mahomes' injury in the second half. It seemed perfectly fine before/during most plays but then he had an exaggerated limp after each play. Seems he wanted all the attention.

OK.

Don from Marshall, NC

I am going to quit drinking and come back a better fan next year! What a season!

Well, let's not be ridiculous about this.

Bobby From Section 410 and Summerville, SC

Hi, John, do you think the Jags will be able to keep most of this team together for next season? If we can, and if Calvin Ridley is reinstated, I believe we will win it all next year.

Yes, the Jaguars will be able to keep most of this team together – though the reality of the NFL is there will be change. A priority will be to retain tight end Evan Engram, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent. He wants to stay and my sense is the Jaguars will make that happen. There are other key free agents this offseason such as pass rusher Arden Key, right tackle Jawaan Taylor, wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. and wide receiver Jamal Agnew. There are also a couple of key salary-cap considerations. Not all will return, but teams lose players. That's the nature of the modern NFL. The core will remain. And so will Lawrence. He will continue to develop and improve, and that's the main reason for optimism moving forward.

Jake from Cary, NC

Did Josh Allen play? I know he did a lot of talking before the game, but I barely saw him during the game.

Yes, Jaguars outside linebacker Josh Allen played Saturday. He registered three tackles, no sacks and no hurries. He wasn't alone in struggling to get pressure Saturday. The Chiefs make it tough to rush the passer because Mahomes does a nice job getting the ball out quickly and eluding pressure. As for Allen doing "a lot of talking," he spoke to the media this week. He said the Jaguars were going to win and that that was their mindset. It was harmless quote that a news outlet played up. Whatever.

Jeff from Orange, CA

Chiefs were just better, Jaguars played great all things considered but talent wins.

Good eye.

Brett from St Augustine, FL

It's an odd feeling for the season to end and wanting more. I can get used to this, John.

I got multiple emails in this vein Saturday night. It struck me that while many fans were understandably upset that the Jaguars lost and wouldn't be playing in the AFC Championship Game next week, many were simply sad on a more emotional level that they wouldn't be able to watch this Jaguars team play anymore. There was a sadness that this wonderful ride was over. Fans wanted the feeling and the anticipation and the chance to relive these unbelievable moments again to continue. And I get it. This is a likeable group that gave this fan base – and this city – a ton of lifetime memories. There were no expectations with this team. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, the 2022 Jaguars surprised us and lifted a long-beleaguered fan base/franchise from NFL mediocrity to contending status with hope for a bright future. I've been around a lot of good teams in 28 years covering the NFL. I've been around very few that approached being this likable and this entertaining to watch. Cool stuff. Memorable stuff. Sorry to see it end.

Randy from Way Up North

O, you were right. This team isn't the joke of the league anymore. I'm actually looking forward to next year. Do you think they will keep Josh or will he want too much? .

Allen has a season remaining on his contract and will be with the Jaguars in 2023. I don't know if the Jaguars will sign him to a long-term extension this offseason and I don't know his future after that. He's a tricky issue. He's good and really important to the defense, but he hasn't consistently put up the statistics of an elite player. Stay tuned.

Dylan from Boulder, CO

The Jags were competitive with NFL's best team in the playoffs. I absolutely love this team. What an amazing season.

Dylan remains "all in…"

Mark from Richmond, VA

I'm sad, proud, excited, and exhausted. Great season and thanks to you O, the team, the coaches and all the staff. Onward.

… as does a proud, exhausted, thankful Mark …

Four-putt from Jax

We were hoping for six wins. Check. We were hoping to end our NFC losing streak. Check. We were hoping to end our losing streak against the Texans. Check. We were hoping to end our debacle against the Titans. Check. We were hoping our quarterback would progress. Check. We were hoping to see our name on the "In the Hunt" list in December. Check. Hoping to win the AFC South? To win six in a row? To come back from double digits five times? To melt down against the Chargers and win? To take Kansas City to the limit? Never in my wildest dreams. What a terrific, unforgettable season. It was always the Jags! That is all...

… and a very detailed, energetic four-putt …

David from Jacksonville

John, Sharing a few thoughts as I prepare to leave Arrowhead. Arrowhead is a cool stadium. Chiefs fans were all courteous and fun before and during the game! JAGS - THANK YOU FOR A GREAT SEASON! I'm extremely excited for the future.

… and so is an extremely excited David.

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