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O-Zone: Making a list

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Josh from Pensacola, FL:
The defense is definitely good enough to float us. I think at one point Sunday the Jaguars' defense had given the offense six straight punts that resulted in zero Jags points. That hurts. Get at least a touchdown and this game was over. But we still found a way to win. One of the most impressive Jags victories ever, given the circumstances.
John: Your last sentence may ring as true as anything in any email I've received since Sunday. No, the offense didn't do enough for a lot of the second half Sunday. And yes … there were too many penalties and Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles can't throw two late interceptions and it sure would have been nice if the Jaguars' receivers/tight ends had caught some catchable long passes. Still, to focus only on those things is to miss what this team – and this defense – is doing. And what it did Sunday. The Jaguars are 6-3 and they're winning games the way dominant defenses win. They not only beat a team Sunday that entered the game playing well, they beat a quarterback in Philip Rivers that had been a long-time nemesis. They came from behind to do it, and also made mammoth defensive plays in the fourth quarter and overtime to do it. Don't stress too, too much about what this game wasn't. Sunday was a tough, hard-nosed mature victory – and it's one that almost certainly will loom large as the season continues.
Tim from Fernandina Beach, FL:
John: Help me understand this taunting thing. If Marqise Lee had a penalty against him for targeting and jumped up mad and angry that's OK. The refs pick up the flag and now it's taunting. Where is the line between emotion, anger and taunting?
John: It's a fine line, and there is an element of judgement on the part of the official. But in this case, it was hard to argue with the ruling.
Sam from Jacksonville:
I wish it wasn't true, but Blake is easily one of the five worst starting quarterbacks in the league. The two interceptions were inexcusable and reminders of why he must go in the offseason. Let's also not forget the pick-six that was dropped in the first half. Stop giving this team so much credit. They are deeply flawed and still extremely weak at the most important position in sports. Someone had to lose that ugly game. I'm certain that if you respond to this it'll be in some condescending unfunny way. That's OK. Then I'll know I'm onto something.
John: A, don't tell me what to do. Secondly, while the Jaguars certainly have flaws, that's true of pretty much every NFL team. The nature of the NFL is it's not a league about perfection; you fight to make the postseason, hope to be healthy when you get there, then hope you get favorable enough matchups to have a chance to move forward. As for giving this team "credit," I will give it some for this: I'm not sure any NFL team this season has a defense as good as this one – and if such a defense it exists, then it's a pretty darned good one. One final thought: You'll note that I chose not to be condescending in this email; but if I had, it damned sure would have been funny.
Joseph from Dexter:
Not many quarterbacks are going to throw 51 passes into that pass rush and not start to break down at the end. Bortles' performance, for the most part, was actually pretty darn good. Sorry for the unpopular opinion, but I think he's been getting much better week over week. He's been patient and accurate, he's setting his feet after evading the rush (again, except those last few throws) and putting the ball on target.
John: All true.
Jim from Middleburg, FL:
Mr. O – oh, what a relief it is. I think it is becoming almost insanely fashionable to deny this offensive line the credit they deserve. Not just the starters, either. The reserves should not be called backups. They hence forth and forever should be honored as the...ready? The "Tyler Shatley 69th Assault Brigade."
John: I can't begin to get my head around the nickname, but hey: go for it. As for the line, while I can't get too effusive in the praise for the group Sunday, there is room for at least some credit. The Jaguars for the most part struggled to run against the Chargers, and Bortles spent a good chunk of the game under duress. At the same time, you're talking about a beat-up offensive line playing against two of the NFL's best pass rushers – Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram; the rest of the Chargers' line ain't bad, either. A great game by the offensive line? Probably not. Good enough to win in difficult circumstances? Yes – and that's what mattered the most Sunday.
Ron from Orlando, FL:
No, John: Bortles' first three quarters Sunday were not "pretty good." The 11 or so completions for 70 yards at the half reflect the screen, screen, slant and every other short pass that relied on the receiver to break a tackle in order to gain just a few yards. The inability and overall inaccuracy of the mid-range and deep balls has been consistently bad for his entire career. Even the slants had Allen Hurns doing gymnastics to catch them. This team has a chance, but it's winning right now in spite of Bortles, not because of Bortles!
John: I've been as critical of Bortles as anyone over the past few seasons, but to say he wasn't good at times Sunday is to give the impression you weren't watching the game. He not only completed 28 of 51 passes against significant pressure, he had at least three long passes that would/could/should have been completions. He also had the best drive of his career in the third quarter and his mobility created multiple opportunities that wouldn't have been there otherwise. The Jaguars' defense certainly is the key to this team – and Bortles' two fourth-quarter interceptions can't be ignored – but it's also not accurate to say he contributed nothing to Sunday's victory. #Exclamationpoint
Nate from York, PA:
While I know many people will be jumping on Bortles for almost costing the game, he did a remarkable job of keeping us in the game, extending plays and putting the offense on his shoulders against an unrelenting pass rush. His heart and toughness cannot be overlooked Sunday. So I'll be the one to say it: one fer Blake Bortles!
John: Yeah, but try telling that to Ron.
Alan from Ellington, CT:
This is the second time this year the Jags have had over a minute left on the clock with three timeouts and just let the clock run down. Why not take some shots to at least try for a field goal?
John: I've gotten a lot of emails criticizing offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and head Coach Doug Marrone for the approach at the end of the first half. Most were along the lines of, "Why not take a few shots?" The reason was pretty simple. The Chargers have a fierce pass rush and the Jaguars had a beat-up offensive line that was struggling to protect the quarterback. There's bold and aggressive, and then there's erring on the side of caution. The Jaguars on Sunday decided to do the latter.
Ruben from Jacksonville:
Is there anything they can do to spotlight how it feels as though we have to play against the refs, too? The no-call for pass interference against the Rams – which was pretty glaringly obvious – led to the Rams blowing the game open. On Sunday, they called Lee for taunting. OK, but to not call it on the Tre Boston interception – then to call it on A.J. Bouye for doing the same exact thing. It feels like we don't get the same treatment by the refs at home in particular as the teams we're playing.
John: I feel your pain, Ruben – and yours is far from the only email I've received about the officiating Sunday. And I agree that Boston could have – and probably should – have been called for taunting after his second interception. As for Bouye, he wasn't called for taunting; the taunting penalty on the overtime interception was against Jaguars cornerback Aaron Colvin. I'll say this, though: officiating is an area where I will rarely get fully on board with fans. I don't spend much time analyzing it, discussing it or talking about it because I'm not particularly passionate about it. I typically take the approach that officiating over the course of a season balances out, and I'm quite certain that fans of the Los Angeles Chargers spent a fair share amount of time Sunday night and Monday bemoaning a bunch of calls that didn't go their way. I suppose this attitude toward officiating is an area in which I fall short in the eyes of many readers. As I tell my wife when she invariably notes one of my shortcomings: "Add it to the list, dear. Add it to the list."

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