View from the O-Zone: Big, but not unexpected

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JACKSONVILLE – They rocked. They sweated. They celebrated.

And notably, they did so professionally.

The important thing the Jaguars did Sunday was win, beating the mighty New England Patriots, 31-20, in a game the 68,527 sweltering fans who stuffed TIAA Bank Field on the hottest day in franchise history won't soon forget.

But while what happened on the field was as cool for the Jaguars and their fans as the 97-degree afternoon was hot, what was perhaps most notable talking to Jaguars players and coaches early Sunday evening was that a victory over the NFL's reigning dynasty didn't feel remotely unexpected.

"It's the home opener," Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone said after the Jaguars took a double-digit first-quarter lead and retained it thereafter. "It's a win. We felt comfortable going into the game. I can't explain it any other way."

Here's the thing about that quote:

There was no falseness. It wasn't just Marrone saying something to have something say, nor was he trying to downplay how the Jaguars really felt.

Was there excitement in the Jaguars' locker room? Were there smiles? Of course.

But this locker room didn't have the feel of being full of players who had surprised themselves. Rather, there was a distinct feeling of having done exactly what they expected and having shown the NFL world yet again that they're right to expect greatness of themselves.

This was absolutely a big victory.

But it just as absolutely was an expected one.

"I wouldn't necessarily say revenge or none of that," Jaguars linebacker Telvin Smith said. "We had to go out and beat them. We knew we could. We had to go out and do it."

Not that the Jaguars were oblivious to circumstance. Yes, the players remembered that the Patriots had beaten them in the AFC Championship Game eight months before. They remembered that Myles Jack Wasn't Down. And they know that the Patriots are the Patriots and all that that implies.

"We had a little edge," Smith admitted with a smile.

But while the Jaguars were obviously, understandably and deservedly happy Sunday, they weren't too happy. Nor were they satisfied.

"Honestly, it's just Win No. 2," defensive end Calais Campbell said. "It's Win No. 2 against an AFC opponent. That's crucial to where we want to go. This homefield advantage is something we really want to create. We want people to fear coming down to play is with the homefield advantage."

So, no statement?

"Every game's a statement game to me," Campbell said with a smile.

Whatever the intent, the Jaguars didn't just make one statement. They made many of them loudly. One of them is that this is indeed a team that's very tough to beat at the 'Bank, having now won seven consecutive there. Another is that it absolutely can beat the best teams in the NFL.

They also made a statement that they can not only get ahead of the Patriots – as they had done in the AFC Championship Game – but that they can close the door on the dynastic franchise from New England.

Here's another statement they made: This is a good offense. Period.

This whole notion that the Jaguars' offense is some kind Achilles Heel? That it's not dynamic? That it doesn't have a quarterback who can make plays downfield in big situations?

That narrative – long pushed by many local and nationally – seemed rather silly Sunday.

Quarterback Blake Bortles not only turned in perhaps the best game of his career, he never seemed as if he wasn't going to turn in the best game of his career. Yes, he threw a fourth-quarter interception that he would like to have back, but make no mistake:

Bortles was big-time Sunday, and it wasn't just his impressive numbers: 29 of 45, 377 yards, four touchdowns, a 111.1 quarterback efficiency rating.

He played with confidence. He played with poise. He never stopped throwing in big situations, and he never stopped making plays with his legs.

Bortles shrugged afterward when it was pointed out that at no time in the immediate aftermath of the game did he seem giddy or even all that affected by what he had done.

"What, do you expect me to change?" he said with a smile.

The answer was hardly surprising. We probably shouldn't expect Bortles to change any time soon, and we shouldn't see him get overwhelmed by success or failure.

And you know what? We probably shouldn't expect to see this team change anytime soon, either.

It's a team and a quarterback that has shown far more often than not since the midway point of last season that it is capable of winning big games, against elite teams. It's a team that showed last season it belongs in the conversation as one of the league's best, and it darned sure showed that Sunday.

Maybe this was a statement game, or maybe it wasn't. Maybe somewhere deep-down players were as excited as the sweltering fans that stuffed the 'Bank.

But whatever their feelings, they showed them professionally. And that makes sense, because while this was a big victory, it wasn't unexpected.

Why should we expect a very good team to behave as if it was?

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