Jaguars answer 4 biggest questions in playoff win over Steelers
Jacksonville wins 45-42 to advance to AFC Championship Game
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A rollercoaster of a season continues with a rollercoaster of a game. The Jaguars become just the second team in history to beat the Steelers twice in Pittsburgh in the same season, joining the 2007 Jaguars, as Jacksonville won 45-42 to advance to the AFC Championship game for the third time in franchise history. Here's how they answered the four biggest questions I had entering the game.
Can they rattle Big Ben?
After the first game, Roethlisberger openly questioned whether he "still had it." A five-interception game will do that to a guy. Big Ben wasn't rattled, but he was made uncomfortable again by the Jaguars defense. Despite giving up 42 points, the Jaguars defense made plays. The Jaguars don't win without Telvin Smith's fumble return for a touchdown and Myles Jack's interception that set up a touchdown. Big Ben kept making plays, but the Jaguars made more.
Will the running game return?
Before he left the game temporarily with an ankle injury, Leonard Fournette looked like the guy who ran for 181 yards in Pittsburgh in October. The rookie ran 25 times for 109 yards and two touchdowns. As a team, the Jaguars ran for 164 yards, including 20 yards from T.J. Yeldon. The running game was very important to the Jaguars victory, as expected in the playoffs and in the cold weather.
Can they handle the cold?
It did not appear that the cold was much of a factor in the game. The winds were certainly not a factor. Two weeks ago in Nashville, several players looked like they weren't ready for the cold. I didn't see any similar signs this week. By the way, the forecast for Sunday in New England calls for temperatures in the mid-40s during the game.
Can the Jaguars defense win on early downs?
Early in the game, the Jaguars were winning on every down, stunning the Pittsburgh offense in the early stages. However, as the game went on, the Steelers found a way to move the ball, mostly through the air. Antonio Brown finished with a game-high 132 yards and two touchdowns. The bigger issue was on late downs. The Steelers scored two touchdowns on fourth-down plays and another on a third-and-long. They'll have to keep an eye out for more of the same Sunday against the Patriots.
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