Jaguars Outlast Steelers, 29-22

The Jaguars persevered through snowy conditions and the NFL's top ranked defense to notch their 10th victory of the season, 29-22 over the Pittsburgh Steelers who were previously undefeated at home. Jacksonville's offense and defense were very good for most of the day, as they had to overcome some terrible special teams play to hold on.

On their first possession, the Jaguars drove the ball 42 yards on eight plays to take a 3-0 lead after a Josh Scobee 36 yard field goal. After a few stalled drives by Pittsburgh, Jaguars punter Adam Podlesh shanked a 13-yard punt which left the Steelers at the Jacksonville 31-yard line to start their fourth drive. Pittsburgh cashed in on just four plays, as Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hit tight end Heath Miller with an 18-yard touchdown pass to take a 7-3 lead.

Jacksonville answered the Pittsburgh drive with one of their trademark long, clock killing drives right before halftime which turned the game around when quarterback David Garrard scrambled to his right side and hit wide receiver Ernest Wilford in the end zone for his first touchdown of the season. The drive encompassed five minutes and six seconds and went for 68 yards to give the visiting Jaguars a 10-7 lead entering intermission.

The Jaguars came out in the second half and kept the momentum going as they controlled the clock, and the Steelers defense for a 20-play, 74-yard drive that ate up nine minutes and 40 seconds of play, and was capped by a three yard David Garrard touchdown pass to Reggie Williams, his eighth of the season. Holder Adam Podlesh dropped the snap on the extra point attempt, and the Jaguars went up 16-7. The 20-play drive was a Jaguars franchise record.

After Jacksonville stopped the Steelers on their next drive, the Jaguars offense struck quick as David Garrard rolled again to his right and hit wide receiver Dennis Northcutt for a 55-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the drive. The Jaguars failed again on the extra point attempt, and the Jacksonville lead was 22-7 with 3:47 left in the third quarter, and it appeared as if the Jaguars were headed for a blowout victory.

Following another stalled Pittsburgh drive, the game turned around on one play. After the Jaguars offense had ran the ball four times for 24 yards, and appeared to be having their way with the Steelers front seven, quarterback David Garrard rolled right and threw an ill-advised pass that was intercepted by safety Anthony Smith and returned back to the Jaguars 12-yard line. Pittsburgh quickly converted on an 11-yard pass from Roethlisberger to wide receiver Hines Ward, and following the extra point, it was a one-possession game, 22-14.

The Steelers held on to that momentum, and after a Jacksonville punt, Pittsburgh drove the ball 84 yards in less than four minutes, capped off by a Roethlisberger to Nate Washington touchdown pass from 30 yards. The Steelers tried a gimmick two-point conversion play in which wide receiver Cedric Wilson found Santonio Holmes in the end zone to tie the game at 22.

Jacksonville's offense came through as it had the entire day, following the Steelers drive with an eight play, 73 yard drive of their own as the Jaguars leaned heavily on the running of Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew. Jacksonville ran on six of those eight plays and there was nothing the Steelers battered defense could do about it. Fred Taylor capped off another great game by scampering 12 yards for what proved to be the game-winning touchdown. Taylor had a monster day by running for 147 yards on 25 carries and a touchdown. It was Taylor's fourth consecutive 100-yard game, and he went over 1000 for the season for the seventh time in his illustrious career.

Offensively, the Jaguars had another efficient day as they beat up the top-ranked Steelers defense for 421 total yards of offense. The Jaguars offensive line paved the way for Fred Taylor's 147 yards on the ground, as well as Maurice Jones-Drew's 69 yards rushing. Overall, Jacksonville pounded the second-ranked rushing defense in the NFL for 224 yards on the ground, and an overwhelming time of possession advantage of 37:39- 22:21.

Quarterback David Garrard had a tough time passing through the fierce Pennsylvania wind, as he finished with 17 completions in 33 attempts, for 197 yards, with three touchdowns and one interception. The interception was just Garrard's second of the season, and he finished with a quarterback rating of 87.6.

Dennis Northcutt led the Jaguars receivers with 81 yards on four catches including his 55-yard touchdown, his fourth of the season. Tight end Marcedes Lewis chipped in with two receptions for 38 yards, and Jaguars wide receivers Ernest Wilford, Reggie Williams, and Matt Jones combined for five catches for 50 yards, and two touchdowns.

Defensively, the Jaguars were able to get pressure on Ben Roethlisberger for much of the day. Brent Hawkins led the team with two sacks, and John Henderson and Bobby McCray each registered a sack. Linebacker Justin Durant had his best game as a pro as he was all over the field making plays. Durant finished with eight tackles on the day. Defensive tackle Rob Meier registered just one tackle, but harassed the Steelers quarterback and forced Ben Roethlisberger into quite a few errant throws and less than 50% completions (16/33).

Jacksonville played in a very tough environment and showed a lot of character when they withstood the furious 15-0 fourth quarter run by Pittsburgh to tie the game, after it appeared as if the Jaguars had all but put the game away in the third quarter with their physical play on both sides of the ball. The Jaguars had to overcome poor special teams play, and a major momentum shift to beat the previously unbeaten Steelers at Heinz Field. The Jaguars victory was their third consecutive over the Steelers and bettered their record to 10-4. Jacksonville appears to be in the drivers seat for a playoff berth, as they need just one more victory, or a Tennessee loss to secure their plans for continued play in January.


Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of JagNation.com, and a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports.com, Sirius NFL Radio, MySpace Sports and Sportsillustated.com. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers Association, and is a columnist for the New Smyrna Observer. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.



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