JACKSONVILLE – Let's just go ahead and call it what it is: Victory Weekend. Oh, yes.
Let's get to it …
Jesse from Orlando, FL:
John, this team is relevant after Thanksgiving. I can't remember the last time that happened. After the game, Rich Eisen was putting down the Jags as usual and Michael Irvin told him to stop and defended the Jags. Could the national view of the Jags finally be changing?
John: Ah, what better way to start Victory Weekend than with a national-respect question? And make no mistake: the national-respect thing is a very real thing for many O-Zone readers – and many Jaguars followers – so it's unsurprising that it seeps back into our collective consciousness as the team approaches respectability. Look, I've long been on record that national perception of this team means very little to me, because I know how much time most analysts spend truly considering the entire league. The answer is not much, and it usually takes a bunch of winning and some stars – i.e., a quarterback – to earn "national respect." At the same time, I understand that after years of this team being ridiculed and overlooked, fans crave that positive recognition. Bottom line? It will come with winning. It won't come at the pace fans want, and there undoubtedly always will be people who take jabs at Jacksonville. But the more the team wins the more "respect" nationally the Jags will get. It still won't mean much, but if it makes people feel better … hey, great.
Kyle from Noblesville, IN:
I turned on Mike and Mike this morning and there is Greenie swooning over Blake Bortles. You were right. If we start winning, the Jags will get the National Media love. It's nice being in the conversation again.
John: That's how it works. By the way, that second sentence you wrote? Anytime you want to email in and expand on that point … go with that instinct.
Roger from the Aug:
O! The pieces are starting to come together.
John: They have been coming together all season, and there are good, young core players on this roster. Maybe a lot of them. Winning makes it easier to see, and it also makes it a lot more fun.
Tom from Jacksonville:
The touchdown to Julius Thomas is the type of goal-line play calling we need more of. The four runs by Gerhart against the Bills and three by Denard Thursday night is a frustrating pattern.
John: Good calls are ones that work. Bad calls are ones that don't.
Rob from Section 122:
First off, I don't like the spicy brown mustard unis. But for everyone complaining about being lucky; you don't just win by luck. You have to play well enough to get in position for luck. Luck wouldn't have helped in the New England game. You can get lucky on a call or a play. Not for a whole game. So please people, just stop.
John: The NFL is a league in which many, many games are decided by a touchdown or less, which means luck and fortune often do play a role. Making plays in key situations usually plays a bigger role, and big plays – Rashad Greene's punt return, Andre Branch's sack, Julius Thomas' touchdown reception – undoubtedly were important, big plays on Thursday. Make a few more of those and you'll be shocked how lucky you get.
James from Destin, FL:
John, I never cared for the look of the helmets when they changed them. However, on the gold uniforms they looked great.
John: Yeah, they did, didn't they?
Jason from Dallas, TX:
Three plays up the gut is not this team? You would think after the stuffed consecutive runs versus the Bills in virtually the same situation, we'd realize it by now. Apparently, it took three more versus the Titans. Let's hope we start being more creative moving forward.
John: The Jaguars are plenty "creative" offensively. You can't completely ignore the run on inside-the-10 situations and the Jaguars believed they had a match-up advantage when they ran Denard Robinson on those plays in the third quarter. Gus Bradley also said on Friday they ran Robinson on first-and-7 from the Titans 7 because they wanted to run a play quickly to prevent Tennessee challenging Allen Robinson's sideline reception on the previous play. There's also a school of thought that you run in those situations at the end of a long drive because of fatigue by the defense. Overall, I didn't have a problem with the first two runs. Would I have thrown on third down? Yeah, maybe a fade – but if that hadn't worked, that would have gotten criticized, too. As I read somewhere once, "Good calls are ones that work; bad calls are ones that don't." Wise words, those.
Mike from Elberton, GA:
It appears Bortles makes the offensive line look worse due to holding the ball, running into sacks, etc. But he isn't doing that because he is clueless. He is trying to prolong plays and look for the deep pass. We can't have one of the better deep passing games in the NFL and a quarterback that can make awesome plays by extending them and buying time without some of the negatives that come with that style. Andrew Luck and Ben Roethlisberger take a ton of sacks too, but I think they've had some OK success in the league, no? I think what Bortles does in the pocket is acceptable risk. Now, some of those picks … meh, that he can work on.
John: What we are seeing – and what you're noticing – is Bortles' maturation process. Without question he is still developing his feel for the pocket, and I didn't think there was any question he held the ball into some sacks on Thursday. That's not to say the offensive line was perfect, but in the NFL you're not going to operate from a clean pocket on every pass play. Bortles as he matures should get a better instinct for when to step up, when to run and when to dirt the ball. It's a process, but he's being productive through the process, so that's a good sign.
Tym from the Southside:
Hey O-Zone, that Pro Bowl comment about Roy Miller struck a chord. He was an absolute terror against the Titans, blowing up the middle, leading to multiple sacks and tackles for loss. Maybe I haven't been paying enough attention to the big guy lately. Has he been doing that all season?
Frank from Jacksonville:
Our offense showed up when needed. Our defense showed up when needed. Our kicker showed up when needed. Special teams showed up when needed. Our uniforms.... not so much, but hey, I'll take an ugly win over a pretty loss any day!
John: The defense and special teams actually showed up pretty much the whole game. I'm not sure what more you would ask from either unit. The offense? Look, that's an underrated Tennessee defense, and the Jaguars actually moved pretty well other than the red zone. The red-zone issues have been a thing all year, and I expect them to fade only with time; success in the red zone is something that often comes with the maturity of a quarterback and an offense. As for the uniforms? I gotta be honest. They looked pretty cool. Not as cool as the defense and special teams, but cool nonetheless. I liked them.
Greg from Section 122 and Jacksonville:
Yawn, huh? Way to show that journalistic integrity, O-man. Nicely played. Perhaps when you can come back with some intelligent discourse refuting my position … it will actually take some effort. Bottom line: Boselli, Lags, and Prisco all stated on their show the Jags should easily defeat the Titans. They didn't, and that has to be an area for concern. Any real thoughts or just another yawn?
John: It's often the case that short, one-word answers are more difficult than lengthy answers because of the amount of thought that goes into them. You have no idea how I considered and reconsidered the answer: should I use "yawn," "zzzz," or perhaps a good, "Huh – were you saying?" Yes, yawn in retrospect was the best choice there, but I didn't reach that casually. As for your point that the Jaguars should have won easily – I wonder what this team has done this season to make anyone expect an "easy" victory. They have played nine games, and eight have been tight. This team is very unlikely to easily defeat any team this season. That's where they are in the development. "Easy" victories are relatively rare in the NFL, and the reality is that the Jaguars won a close game. I expect them to have a bunch more close games this season. If they win a bunch, they're in good shape. If they don't, they're not. But I don't see it as a negative or a huge cause for concern that the Jaguars didn't "easily" win. In fact, I didn't expect anything other than a close game and don't expect anything other than close games in the next six weeks.