Jaguars 45 – Steelers 42
The Jacksonville Jaguars went into Heinz Field, made the Steelers chase the game from minutes into the first quarter and punched their ticket to the AFC Title Game with a 45-42 upset win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Many felt there was no way a Blake Bortles led team could come into Pittsburgh and knock off the heavy favorite Steelers.
When you have a defense as talented as the Jaguars have and you are more prepared and better coached as the Jaguars were, an upset is always in play.
How big of a hole did the Steelers put themselves in?
The Jaguars jumped out to a 21-0 lead, 26:31 into the game and pushed their lead to 28-7 on a Telvin Smith 50-yard fumble return for a touchdown in the second quarter.
When you have Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown who can make special plays, you’re never out of a game and that came to fruition as the Steelers got back within seven on three occasions, 28-21, 35-28, and 42-35, but despite Roethlisberger torching the Jaguars for 5 touchdowns and 469 yards and throwing TD passes to Antonio Brown and Le’Veon that were as good as you’ll see, Jacksonville came up with game changing plays on D that tilted this game in what was the perfect storm in the first half.
Mistakes from Roethlisberger were costly in the first half.
Among the critical moments:
A Ben Roethlisberger interception in the first quarter that setup a Leonard Fournette 18 yard TD run for the Jags to go up 14-0. Then a strip sack on Roethlisberger that was returned 50 yards for a TD put the Jags up 28-7 in the second quarter.
And twice the Steelers turned the ball over on downs off 4th and 1’s where the playcalling saw the Steelers try to outsmart themselves.
Trailing 14-0 with a 4th and 1 at the Jax 21, the Steelers called a deep toss right to Le’Veon Bell who was stopped for a 4 yard loss. The Jaguars then went 11 plays, 75 yards for a score to make it 21-0.
Another critical turning point in the third quarter with the Steelers trailing 28-21. 4th and 1 at the Jaguars 39 Roethlisberger looked to have checked out of a run and throws incomplete to Juju Smith-Schuster…….Turnover on downs and the Jaguars turn around and go 5 plays, 61 yards with Leonard Fournette scoring his 3rd touchdown of the day from three yards out. 35-21 game with Pittsburgh into another situation of being two scores down.
The Steelers offense was brilliant at times today in mounting a comeback but at the end of the day, Jacksonville scored 14 points off Steelers turnovers, while also scoring 14 points on very next drives when Pittsburgh turned the ball over on downs.
Whether the opposing quarterback is Blake Bortles or Tom Brady, that’s a recipe for disaster in any playoff game when the opponent wins critical moments of a football game.
Mike Tomlin who had a terrible day as the Steelers were out-executed, out-coached and out-prepared, said it best afterwards:
“They [Jacksonville’ won the moments.”
With Ben Roethlisberger already implying he plans to come back, Todd Haley will not be back next season and that was already known before today’s game.
But, this loss has to put defensive coordinator Keith Butler under the microscope with how out-classed the Steelers defense was against this Jaguars offense that scored 10 points against the Bills a week ago and then went on to score 38 points as a unit on the road against the Steelers.
Just about everything went wrong and there were no answers.
Early on the Steelers front-seven was just getting bulldozed by the Jaguars O-line/Leonard Fournette and if Fournette didn’t injure his ankle, Jacksonville might have put 60 on the Steelers.
However, this was more than the Steelers just missing Ryan Shazier.
The mental lapses in this situation and how Pittsburgh’s ‘D’ was getting out-schemed was something that can’t get overlooked. That wasn’t Tom Brady or a great offense on the other side.
For a defense that lives and dies with sacks/splash plays, Pittsburgh couldn’t find a way to get to Bortles. Jacksonville was very effective with mis-direction calls and moving Bortles around on play-action but nothing they did should have surprised Butler.
As the game progressed, Bortles seemed to have more and more time and shredded the Steelers in the middle of the field on a crushing 4th quarter drive to go up 42-28 and pretty much sink the Steelers dream season, though, the questionable on-side kick decision from the Steelers would be the nail in the coffin to give the Jaguars a short field and eventual 10 point lead with 1:45 left.
Falling down 21-0 like the Steelers did in a home playoff game for a team who has players in that room who feel they walk on water and were destined to reach the Super Bowl is nothing more than this group of players being out-prepared and not having the right amount of preparedness doesn’t always fall on the coaching staff’s shoulders.
You always had to wonder with this group if there were too many egos and too many individuals with personal agendas in the room for them to put it together and reach a Super Bowl.
That burning question only gets heightened when a Jacksonville Jaguars team with Blake Bortles as their quarterback come into your stadium and punch you in the mouth from the first snap to end your so called ‘Super Bowl or Bust’ season.
The Tim Tebow loss was embarrassing but that one was at least on the road and Ben Roethlisberger came in with a bad ankle.
This one has to be the worst playoff loss of the Tomlin era because of the magnitude of having a home-playoff game with a much inferior QB on the other side and the heavy expectations Tomlin placed on this team in that he expected to reach the Super Bowl.
You could see it on his face when the Jaguars went up 42-28 late in the 4th quarter.
The shock and disbelief he had that his team was getting thrashed for 40+ points against Blake Bortles and a ‘Super Bowl or Bust’ season was ending without even getting a crack at New England.