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O-Zone: Ouch

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Rob from Pittsburgh, PA:
Heartbreaking, but not a gut-wrenching loss. Was a great game. Losing sucks, but they played well. If we play like that every week we could make the playoffs! Was that what you expected?
John: The Jaguars' performance Sunday against Green Bay honestly was better than I expected. No, the pass rush was not very good – and the Jaguars absolutely must run better if they're going to have a winning season. But there were a lot of good things, particularly the play of the offense – and specifically, the play of quarterback Blake Bortles, wide receivers Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns and tight end Julius Thomas. But what was most encouraging for the Jaguars Sunday was the resiliency in the second half. They got dealt a serious body blow with Aaron Rodgers' touchdown pass to Davante Adams at the end of the first half. After playing well enough to have the lead, they entered halftime trailing. The game then seemed to teeter on the verge of the Packers pulling away – but the Jaguars didn't let them. The Jaguars' defense held in a big-time way twice near its own goal line in the second half and the offense put together two extended fourth-quarter drives under big-time pressure. There were long stretches of this game in which the Jaguars felt like they were an equal team to Green Bay – and some stretches where they actually looked better than the Packers. That certainly wouldn't have been the case in the past two or three seasons. The Jaguars didn't win this game, but they did a lot of winning things that I didn't expect them to be able to do against an experienced, savvy team. Those things could bode well for the future. We'll see.
Logan from Wichita, KS:
John: From what I can tell, this email arrived seconds after the game – or perhaps seconds after Hurns was stopped for a 1-yard loss on fourth-and-1 from the Packers 14. That's the only explanation I can come up with for CAPITAL LETTERS and exclamation points!!!, which research shows are used when people are VERY SERIOUS ABOUT THINGS!!!! I get the disappointment with losing. Losing is angering and frustrating. But fire Gus Bradley? Disgrace? After that loss? No, that loss was disappointing. But it wasn't discouraging and it most certainly was not remotely a disgrace.
Bill from Melbourne, FL:
John: What a game. No complaints today, we were in it until the end... DTWD!
John: What a game? No complaints? I don't know who you think you are, "Bill from Melbourne," but I do know you're in the wrong place.
Scott from Fernandina Beach, FL:
Hi John, totally disagree with final play call. You gotta call a play that – if caught – is a first down. Behind the line of scrimmage?
John: Yeah, I'm a believer in throwing beyond the sticks on key plays, too. Still, if a play works the guy who called it is a genius. If it doesn't, he's an idiot. I thought Jaguars offensive coordinator Greg Olson called a lot of good plays Sunday and I thought Bortles made a lot of good decisions. I thought it was actually one of Bortles' better games. The last play didn't work. The Jaguars lost a chance to win because of it.
Andrew from Tehachapi, CA:
Too many penalties, too many sacks allowed, and a terrible early turnover. That's how we lost.
John: I'd take out "too many sacks allowed" and substitute not enough pressure on Aaron Rodgers. I also might throw in that the Jaguars couldn't run the ball. In fact, if you had told me before the game that the Jaguars wouldn't pressure Rodgers much and that they would run for 1.8 yards per carry I would have told you the Jaguars would lose by 14-to-17 points. On that front it was sort of amazing the Jaguars had a chance to win at the end of the game. I don't know what that says, if anything, but I do know it's sort of amazing. I'm amazed, at least.
Don from Macclenny, FL:
If you can throw a challenge flag to get 12 men on the field called when it was not called during play shouldn't you be able to challenge whether or not a receiver was interfered with or held when they miss the call?
John: It seems logical that you should be able to do that – except you can't. Under NFL rules, holding and pass interference is a judgment call and therefore not eligible for review.
Chris from Jacksonville:
It's gotta be the curse of those stupid helmets. There's no better explanation for all this losing.
John: It's not the helmets. The Jaguars' losing in recent seasons was because they weren't good enough. Period. The loss Sunday was because they didn't make a few plays at the end of the game. I believe they'll be in a lot of games at the end this season and I believe they'll make a lot of plays to win those games. Maybe then the helmets will get the credit. Nah … probably not.
Ryan from Chapel Hill, NC:
I'm mad we lost. I'm mad that Aaron Rodgers is a Hall-of Famer seemingly built in a lab to exploit the Jaguars' weak spots. I hate the last play call. Can't be mad at anything else though.
John: Many fans get mad at Rodgers after their team plays him. He has this way of exposing the weak spots of many teams. As far as the last play call, Bortles had a run-pass option on the play. He opted to pass. I would have preferred something beyond the line of scrimmage, too. But the play was designed to take advantage of the Packers' tendency to blitz and if Hurns had popped through the blitz and scored it would have been the Greatest Call/Play in the History of Mankind. That would have been cool. Fans would have liked it.
Dave from Jacksonville:
So, you made fun of me for questioning the lack pass rush in the preseason - is it OK to express concern now? What is the problem? "Influx of pass rushers" - why no pass rush?!?
John: Dave, Dave, Dave … I highly doubt I made fun of you, and if I did, I'm sure I could have found a better reason than your concern over the pass rush. But no, the pass rush was not good enough on Sunday. A lot of that can be attributed to Rodgers being very difficult to sack – and very dangerous when he gets outside the pocket. For that reason, the Jaguars were trying to contain him rather than taking a pin-your-ears-back-and-rush-to-a-spot approach. That's part of the reason for the lack of pressure, but it doesn't explain everything. The Jaguars believe they can pressure the passer with the defensive linemen on this roster. They need to start being right about that.
Ron from Virginia Beach, VA:
Should we worry about the pass rush? It seemed nonexistent.
John: I'm just going to forward this to Dave.
Dane from Jacksonville:
Pro Bowl receivers often have pass inference calls go their way? Is this because those receivers are that good or because the NFL gives preferential treatment?
John: It's because they're that good and they're tough to defend. That means defensive backs often are forced to interfere with them to stop them. Allen Robinson is a big receiver and defensive backs often have to get physical to break up passes. It appeared on Sunday that the Green Bay defenders were physical before the ball arrived more than once. This is against the rules. Robinson didn't get those calls, but the issue actually had nothing to do with whether or not Robinson was in the Pro Bowl last season and everything to do with him just plain getting interfered with.
Bryan from Portland, OR:
Can we play someone other than Aaron Rodgers from now on? The guy is ridiculous.
John: Yeah, if he keeps working at it and gives it his personal best he's going to be good.
Ross from Mechanicsville, VA:
After calming down, the offense is better. The defense is better. Things are looking better...even after a tough loss.
John: Yes, yes and yes – and now that they've played the team that might be the best opponent on the schedule it's time to start turning "better, better, better" and "yes, yes, yes" into victories.
Derek from St. Augustine, FL:
Oh Zone ... that hurts.
John: It did hurt. My wife called a few hours after the game. After she explained to me yet again about the whole 24 Years of Regret thing, she said, "I really thought they were going to win." I don't think a lot of people were saying that before the game. A lot of people were saying in the fourth quarter. On the one hand it shows you how much better this team is – and how much better it's going to be. On the other hand, losing hurts.

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