Beatdown in Jacksonville

When the Jaguars left Pittsburgh last season with their second victory over the Steelers in four weeks, there was little doubt who the better team was. After Sunday night's 26-21 Steelers victory in Jacksonville, there's no doubt who the better team is now.

The Steelers ran the ball effectively, despite not having Pro Bowl running back Willie Parker and first-round pick Rashard Mendenhall. Pittsburgh shut down the Jacksonville rushing attack, and their injury riddled offensive line bought ultra-talented quarterback Ben Roethlisberger just enough time to find open receivers all over the field.

Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio insisted that it wasn't any kind of scheme or trickery that made the Steelers so successful. "No, it's not scheme. They whipped blocks and made plays. There wasn't any magic out there; they shed and swarmed and tackled well. I didn't see many missed tackles tonight on their defensive unit, particularly with their run defense. A pretty good effort."

The Jaguars played turnover-free football, intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown, and had 40 fewer penalty yards while playing at home and the Steelers still won the game.

"That's always good, to protect the football," Del Rio said. "One of the things they do is feast on your mistakes and one of the things we knew we had to do coming in here is not allow them to do that. There were several keys to the game. That was one of them that gave us a chance, and we're always looking for that. We want to protect the football. We want to be able to make plays, score points but always protect the football. It's too valuable to give it up. It was a great job early in the game. I thought it would give us a chance to stay in the game if we made a play defensively to score and put points on the board for us with Rashean returning that interception, and that was a big play. That kind of bought us some time to fight through an otherwise not a real good first half defensively."

The final statistics didn't show a 26-21 type of game. They showed a dominating performance by a Steelers team that had twice as many first downs as Jacksonville (28-14), nearly double the offensive output (415-213), more than three times as many rushing yards (129-38), and a 46%-23% advantage on third down conversions. Taking that into consideration it was nearly amazing that the Jaguars held a fourth period lead, and even had a chance to win the game at the end.

Quarterback David Garrard claimed his team was very confident going into the last drive.

"We really felt confident again. Everybody believed in one another. They made some good plays defensively. They broke up some of those passes. We got to do a better job of getting completions and trying to move the chains. It was just a hard fought game and they played a little bit better."

One of the few bright spots for the Jaguars was the play of wide receiver Mike Walker. Walker caught six passes for 107 yards, but had a big drop on the team's final possession.

"We really didn't have the ball," explained Walker when asked about the offensive struggles. "I think we only had the ball one time in the first quarter alone. We just couldn't find the rhythm."

The Jaguars defense allowed 21 points to the Steelers and a whopping 300 yards in the first half alone. That type of performance won't win many games on any level of football.

"You can't have a good half of football in this league and expect to win," said Jaguars defensive end Paul Spicer. "We came out the second half and came out better than we did the first half. The first half we allowed Ben (Roethlisberger) to do some things to hurt us. We made adjustments at halftime and we came back and put some more pressure on him and he's one of the best. When it comes to guys around him with guys hitting him, he finds a way to get the ball out."

The Jaguars were soundly whipped on both sides of the ball and special teams was a wash. The team once again needs to regroup as there are currently nine teams in the AFC with better records than Jacksonville.


Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering multiple teams in the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie is a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports and Sirius NFL Radio, and has been featured on the NFL Network. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.

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