The Jacksonville Jaguars Make Light Work Of Pittsburgh On The Road
PITTSBURGH, PA — The AFC South-leading Jacksonville Jaguars (3-2) dismantled the Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1) at Heinz Field Sunday. The last time the Jags beat the Steelers was in the 2007 playoffs. Jacksonville with their ultra-aggressive pass defense feels like a playoff team.
The Jaguars are a force to be reckoned with this year, ranking first in the NFL in interceptions, sacks, third in pass defense, and third in scoring defense. It seems like Jacksonville will have to rely on that side of the ball if they want to keep a hold on the AFC South lead.
Can the Jacksonville defense lead to the first playoff berth in over a decade? After five games with four being on the road (London considered a home game), the Jaguars proved their strength. Most noteworthy, the Jags secondary is the best in the history of the team.
The Jags picked off Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger five times; taking two back for touchdowns on consecutive drives in the third quarter. As a result, the Jags have four defensive scores this year. Jacksonville has more interceptions this season in five games than all of the last season.
After giving up 256 yards on the ground last week to the New York Jets, the Jags held the best running back in the league in check. Hence, Steelers running back Le’veon Bell’s 46 yards rushing and added 47 yards receiving with no touchdowns.
The Jaguars did a stellar job of keeping the All-Pro in check. “I think it shows the Jaguars are for real,” defensive tackle Malik Jackson said after the game.
It’s Fournette’s Time
Last week, Jags running back Leonard Fournette was on the sideline during a crucial drive at the end of the game. At the six-yard line, Jacksonville threw the ball three times against the last ranked passing offense. Furthermore, the drive ended up in a game-tying field goal. As a result, the Jags eventually lost the game to the Jets 20-17 in overtime.
Sunday against the Steelers, Fournette had career highs in carries(28), yards (144) and touchdowns(2). “Coach Tom Coughlin, Coach Doug [Marrone] drafted me for a reason,” said Fournette, the fourth overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
As expected, the Steelers stacked the box not fearing Jacksonville’s passing attack. Fournette ran for 39 yards in the first half. However, the second half was a different story. Playing with a lead for the whole half, the Jags pounded away at the Steelers’ defense. Fournette broke Pittsburgh’s back with a 90-yard run late in the game.
Jacksonville’s offense will go as for as Fournette’s success. Due to injuries at the receiver position and sub-par play from quarterback Blake Bortles, the Jags will rely mostly on the rookie for a playoff run.
Bortles – Game Manager
Bortles had a career-low 14 pass attempts at Heinz Field Sunday. Playing with a lead in the second half, the former UCF Knight had one pass attempt the entire half. As a result, the Jags now rank 30th in pass offense.
“As I’ve said many times, I [couldn’t] care less about my numbers,” Bortles said. “I really do not care. If we are going to run the ball the way we ran the ball today, I would hand it off every time.” Bortles said after the game.
However, Jacksonville cannot continue this formula if they want to reach the playoffs. If Fournette has 28 carries every game, he won’t make it to the end of the season. The Jags have to establish a consistent passing game to make a real playoff run.
Up Next: Jacksonville takes on the Los Angeles Rams in the first game at EverBank Field since week two.