Special Teams Was Anything But

The Jaguars may have to work on tightening up their kickoff coverage as they prepare for their wild card playoff game in Pittsburgh Saturday night.

This will be the second time in three years that they've played a Saturday night game in the wild card round. They lost in New England, 28-3, in 2005.

The Jaguars had nothing at stake in their final regular-season game against the Texans as they rested eight starters.

But the special teams play was something of a concern after Andre Davis ran two kickoffs back for touchdowns in the Texans' 42-28 victory.

Davis returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown with 15 seconds left in the first half and then returned the second half kickoff 104 yards for at touchdown.

Going into the game, the Jaguars' kickoff coverage was tops in the league, allowing opposing teams to average starting their drives on the 24.1-yard line.

But coach Jack Del Rio said one of the problems was that they had several key special teams players also playing on offense and defense while they rested several starters.

Special teams play also was a problem when the Jaguars beat Pittsburgh, 29-22, on Dec. 16 as they botched two extra points and punter Adam Podlesh got off a 13-yard punt. The Jaguars still won by a 29-22 margin.

The Jaguars are confident.

"We're ready for it. We can go as far as we want," quarterback David Garrard said.

But the Jaguars insist they're not overconfident even though they beat Pittsburgh last month.

Defensive lineman Reggie Hayward said, "When you beat a good team, you pat yourself on the back and say we did a great job, but you don't get complacent and you don't start underestimating (them) because they're a good team and we're going to play in their stadium. There's more at stake. We have to play twice as hard as we did the first time. We never underestimate them or take them just for pushovers. You can't have that mentality because if you have that mentality, you're going to get beat," he said

The Jaguars will be well rested going into the game because they avoided any major injuries in the Houston game while resting eight starters, including Garrard and running back Fred Taylor.

Del Rio wasn't concerned that they lost to Houston to finish 11-5 because he was looking ahead to the Pittsburgh game.

"Obviously, I feel very good about our football team and congratulated them (the players) on a strong regular season. We earned a place in the postseason tournament and we know that that tournament will determine the world champions. It won't be a poll. It won't be a hype meter. It won't matter who can talk about it the most. It'll be whoever can go out and play well and earns it over the next month or so. We're looking forward to the challenges," he said.

This will be a critical game for the Steelers because Del Rio has yet to win a playoff game as head coach even though the team has won 32 regular season games the past three seasons.


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