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O-Zone: Painful stuff

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Derek from Brookings, SD

No moral victories, but being the away team on a short week I thought this was a really good game. Young team, but they're being more competitive each week.

You know what? That was also my overriding takeaway from the Jaguars' 24-21 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday Night Football Thursday. I understand the emotion and frustration for players, coaches and fans – and make no mistake: there was real emotion and real frustration for this team following this one. Head Coach Urban Meyer twice in his postgame press conference called it "heartbreaking" and he also called it "devastating." Quarterback Trevor Lawrence also called it "heartbreaking." But I entered Thursday figuring the Jaguars would struggle because NFL road teams typically struggle on short weeks – and considering Lawrence was playing on the shortest week of his career, I figured there was a good chance he would really struggle individually. Instead, this team absolutely looked ready and prepared – and it turned in its best first half of the season. The second-half resilience for Lawrence and the offense also was encouraging; the touchdown drive after the Bengals tied it at 14-14 was impressive stuff. This isn't a great team; remember, it went 1-15 last season. And the lack of defensive playmakers was evident in the second half. But the Jaguars have improved each week and that's a good sign.

Chuck from OP South

While there were many encouraging signs, you cannot win in the NFL without a pass rush. The Jags do not have one and that's not something you can fix this year.

There's truth in what you say. The Jaguars were getting decent pressure in the first two games – and they had four sacks in Weeks 1 and 2. They also ranked third in the NFL in pressures at that point. But they have just one sack in the last two games – and despite a sack by Adam Gotsis, it didn't feel like they got enough meaningful pressure in the second half against the Bengals Thursday. That's how it felt on first watch. Perhaps it will look different when I see it a second time.

Adam from Mesa, AZ

John, can you help me understand the play call with fourth and goal at the half-yard line? Make it make sense.

You're referencing the Jaguars Lawrence on fourth-and-1 from the 1 late in the first half. Well, Lawrence had just scored on the previous possession on a similar play – and the Bengals' defense almost certainly entered that play thinking running back James Robinson would get the ball. Would I have run Robinson? Probably, because I'm an old man and I believe if you can't get one yard with the running back you don't deserve to win. But that's not always true – and it's not how the NFL works these days. The Jaguars thought they had the right play for the right situation. It didn't work so it was a bad call. If it had worked, it would have been a good call.

Bobby from Section 410

Hi, John. What do you think about Meyer's decision to pass on the field goal in the first half? Me personally, I am a firm believer of taking points when you can get them. Especially early in the game with a two-touchdown lead.

Being an old man, I definitely would have kicked the field goal. I like going up by three scores in that situation.

Rob from Jacksonville

Always, always take the points. Always.

Yeah, probably.

Natedogg from Da Burg

WOW! That was a loss, but it feels like a win. I am enjoying watching out team progress. Go Jags!

I can't say it felt like a victory because a loss is a loss. But the progression is real. It's not the same as winning, but considering where this team was last season – and even where it was after Week 1 – it's darned sure progression.

Red from O-Zone Comments Section

Bit by bit, they're improving John. It's a long road, but every game there's improvement. Jags just got to figure out how to defend a second half lead. What say you?

Yes. I don't know what the answer will be to holding a second half lead because that feel like a pass-rush issue. And it's fair to wonder where the pass rush will come from. But are they improving? It's hard not to say yes to that.

John from Jacksonville

O-Zone, this loss was so tough and so sad that it feels like a travesty.

Fair.

_Sebastian from Jax Beach           _

Weird to say but Hyde being out was needed to show that Robinson is THE BEST PLAYER ON THIS OFFENSE. He got more, but needs more touches. And that includes goal line situations before halftime. Right?

I didn't necessarily have that takeaway from Thursday. While there's little doubt that running back James Robinson is the best player on the team, it seemed one of the storylines of Thursday night's game was that the Bengals were able to hold him to 14 yards on six second-half carries after he ran for an impressive 64 yards on 12 first-half carries. I don't know that that says anything in particular about Carlos Hyde and Robinson as a one-two punch at running back, but the Jaguars certainly didn't run as effectively in the second half Thursday as they did in the first.

Kyle from Jacksonville

"So close." "Oooo it was so close." "We almost won." Why are we being sold the moral victory line?!?!?!? Close means jack and spit when we lose 19 in a dang row!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This is not a happy time. NO ONE CARES WE WERE "so close!" This organization gets paid MILLIONS of dollars. These players get paid MILLIONS of dollars. All to SUCK 19 games in a row. If I failed to do my job 19 times in a row I wouldn't have a job anymore! EVEN IF I TOLD MY BOSS "Awwww but I was so close this time." I'm sick of it!!! Win or shut up!!! Close means NOTHING!!!

OK.

Bryce from Jacksonville

Offense may get better, but this defense is complete and utter trash. Zero talent at any position unless you actually have Josh Allen blitz rather than cover. This worthless 0-19 team is years away from even one single win!!!!

This feels like more than frustration than fact, which is fair because Thursday's loss was nothing if not frustrating. The defense isn't great. It really struggled in the second half, and that's the second second-half in as many weeks that the unit has allowed game-defining drives. The run defense is improved. That was a big offseason goal, and it appears the Jaguars have gone a long way to attaining it. Now, as for the ability to get off the field on key plays … well, they haven't done that well enough. And obviously the Jaguars aren't years away from a single victory. From this view, they're close than they've felt in some time. A lot closer, actually.

Eric from Columbus, IN

Sooo we traded CJ because of Campbell's performances… did you see something tonight that I didn't? #torched

Jaguars rookie cornerback Tyson Campbell appeared to get beat twice in the third quarter – once by rookie wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase and once by wide receiver Trenton Irwin. They were momentum-changing, field-flipping plays – and it's happened too often. It was tricky to see on first watch if Campbell struggled playing the ball on the plays, something which has been an issue thus far this season. Whatever the reason, there's no doubt that Campbell is going to be a target for opposing teams. With CJ Henderson having been traded, teams will test him until he passes the test. And he's going to get tested – a lot – in the coming weeks.

Justin from Jacksonville

The Jaguars should be bringing constant public awareness to the life sucking demons posing as referees. Highlight videos would be nice. Until then, the Jaguars will never close games. And the Jaguars should decline all fake penalties too, it helps these demons justify continuing calling fake games. Those who do evil hate the light, and fear their deeds will be exposed. It's a shame what they're doing and every true football fan who has any integrity for the game should be upset.

This is a dramatic email. It is also a bit vague. I'm assuming it references the holding penalty on Jaguars cornerback Tre Herndon that turned a sack on a key third-and-1 late in the game into a first down, a play that led to the Bengals' game-winning field goal. I usually don't spend much time addressing officiating because my experience is all fans think officials are against their teams – and because such things typically even out over time. But upon first watch, I thought the call in Herndon was questionable. I'll get a chance to watch more closely. We'll see.

Geoffrey from Orlando, FL

It's progress. Frustrating, painful, emotionally draining progress.

Good eye.

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