JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Things started out just right for the Jaguars. Sunday night, perfect weather, full house and the fans in "full throat." I don't know if it contributed but in the first series, Ben Roethlisberger hit Rashean Mathis right in the chest on third down. Rashean grabbed the interception, returned it for a score and the Jaguars had a 7-0 lead before everybody really got settled.
But the Steelers are attacking right where the Jaguars are weak on defense, hitting passes over the middle and after 12 plays and 71 yards, the Steelers tied it on a Roethlisberger pass to Heath Miller, 7-7.
While the Jaguars were moving the football, they were converting long third downs to get it done. They have gained zero yards on first down and that won't get it done. But after 39-yard pass interference call (Matt Jones beat his man deep) the Jaguars scored to take the lead on a one-yard plunge by Maurice Jones Drew.
I still don't like what I'm seeing from the offense but they have a TD, for now.
The second quarter feels like all Steelers, aided by one of the dumbest plays every by Brian Williams. Williams made a nice defensive play on a long pass attempt but stood over the receiver and ran his mouth enough to get a personal foul called and keep the Steelers drive alive.
The Steelers don't look like they need any help. They're converting what seems to be every third down and grinding away on the clock. The Jaguars defense is giving up the middle of the field. Will James got burned on a hook and go for a touchdown and the Steelers tied it at 14.
James is now out of the game and the Jaguars have what I thought would be their starting lineup on the field on defense. Pierson Prioleau is in the game at safety with Williams moving back to corner. This is a better pass defense lineup but the Steelers still own the middle and the clock. A nice stand at the goal line and a couple of Jeff Reed field goals and the Steelers lead at half 20-14.
The time of possession is daunting for the Jaguars. Pittsburgh had it over 21 minutes, the Jaguars just eight. Jacksonville only ran 17 offensive plays to Pittsburgh's 46!
The Jaguars took the second half kickoff and drove it right down the field (again). But this time a couple of penalties and a bad drop by Matt Jones (right in his hands!) and they had to punt.
But the defense is a little better and they're just exchanging field position.
Big 4th down play by the Jaguars at midfield, with Garrard going with play action and hitting Greg Jones for 15 yards and a first down. Bad news as MJD left the game with an ankle sprain. They went for it on 4th and ten but the ball was tipped at the line.
After an exchange of punts, the Jaguars started moving the ball. MJD came back in the game (a miracle!) And Matt Jones just got annihilated over the middle. It looked illegal and the back judge and umpire both threw flags for unnecessary roughness. Jones popped right back up. That's the kind of play that makes you a hero in this town.
Garrard fired a bullet to Marcedes Lewis, who caught it and stepped into the end zone for a TD and a 21-20 Jaguars lead at the beginning of the 4th quarter.
The crowd is really into it now, and Paul Spicer came up with a big sack at the 10.
Another exchange of punts and the Steelers are on the move. Roethlisberger is a big, strong guy who eluded John Henderson's tackle to complete a 16-yard gain. I don't know if any other quarterback in the league could have done that. Maybe Garrard.
This game has a lot of talk going on, with the Steelers Nate Washington getting a taunting call, this time for mouthing off to Brian Williams. No matter though because the Steelers are running the football with Mewelde Moore getting deep in Jaguars territory.
Roethlisberger just made the most amazing throw over the middle, all arm, guys hanging on him, 18 yards to Hines Ward and a first down at the Jaguars 13 at the two minute warning.
I've always liked Roethlisberger since coming out of college. I liked him more than Eli Manning and Byron Leftwich but he was the third quarterback taken. Imagine if he was the Jaguars quarterback from the outset. This would be a very different team.
Big third down for the Steelers. If the Jaguars can stop them, it'll be only a two-point game with just under two minutes to play. Instead, they throw the fade to Hines Ward over Brian Williams for the TD. The two-point attempt was no good after a delay of game penalty, 26-21 Pittsburgh.
11 plays, 80 yards, again in the 4th quarter against the Jaguars defense.
So now with 1:53 to play and two timeouts, David Garrard has a chance to build on his legend. He'll start from his own 26. And he needs a touchdown, not a Josh Scobee field goal. One bad throw, one bad decision and one drop bring the game down to one play, 4th and10 from the 27.
Matt Jones again!
47 seconds to play from the 38.
Garrard with a fumble but recovered by the Jaguars and they use their final time out.
This has been very strange clock management and watching the receivers, not interesting routes. Another 4th down but this time batted down at the line of scrimmage and the Steelers will win.
Not a bad performance but again the Jaguars weaknesses are exposed. For the 5th consecutive game, the opposition scores on their final possession. That won't cut it in this league. Eventually you have to stand up and make a stop with the lead in the fourth quarter.
Now 2-3 and off to Denver next week before the bye.