Mark Brunell: Jaguars shock the football world

Jags earn trip to AFC Championship with win over Steelers

By Mark Brunell

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Wow! This will certainly go down as one of the greatest victories in franchise history. 

The Jaguars shocked the professional football world by beating the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Divisional Playoff game 45-42. But it wasn’t a shock to those who have been following the team. 

All week long, many in the national media didn’t give the Jaguars a chance. There was so much talk about the previous 30-9 win against the Steelers being a fluke. Blake Bortles was repeatedly ridiculed for his performance against the Buffalo Bills in the previous week. Very few gave the Jaguars a chance, but the Jaguars used all of this as motivation as they entered Heinz Field Sunday afternoon. 

The team played tough, physical football and simply dominated the Steelers on both sides of the ball. Perhaps the Jaguars have finally earned the much deserved respect that has been denied them all season. 

The keys to winning the game were simple, but not easy: play dominant defense, run the ball and make sure Bortles didn’t turn the ball over. That’s exactly what took place. It was critical that the defense made Ben Roethlisberger make mistakes -- and he made them. 

Two first-half turnovers led directly to points. Running back Leonard Fournette had an incredible day on the ground and Bortles took care of the football. Who would’ve thought that the offense would score 38 points against a Steelers defense? 

While I wasn’t shocked, I honestly was a little surprised the way the Jaguars played Sunday.

 

We all knew the Steelers would have their hands full on offense, but the way the Jaguars played was somewhat of a surprise. Fournette just hasn’t been Fournette for at least a month. Something wasn’t right, but on Sunday, everything was right -- three touchdowns and over 100 yards. 

Bortles also had been struggling in the last few weeks. I can’t tell you how impressive it was the way he bounced back from last week. Other than one drive against the Bills, he was off. Against the Steelers he looked confident and comfortable. He made some big throws and once again kept drives alive with his legs. The big stage wasn’t too big for our quarterback. 

So now we find ourselves playing the best team in football led by the best quarterback that’s ever played the game. And I’m sure most will not give us a chance. That’s okay. The Jaguars like it that way. If it takes getting a trip to the Super Bowl to get the respect they deserve, this team would be just fine with that. 

On to New England. Go Jaguars!

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