One of the most remarkable facts about yesterday’s game to me is that, in spite of the fact that the Jacksonville Jaguars seemingly ran the ball at will against the Pittsburgh Steelers for most of the first half, gaining 141 yards on the ground, they did not actually run a single play from inside Pittsburgh’s 20-yard line.
Even more remarkable, though, is the fact that the defense forced the Jaguars to go three and out or worse on eight of their nine final possessions of the game, which is almost hard to even imagine, outside of a 10-play, 80-yard, six-minute touchdown drive in the middle of the third quarter that came off of a defensive interception in the end zone, Jacksonville had no offense for the final 32 minutes of the game.
In fact, if you take away the 80-yard drive, Jacksonville actually went backwards on their other final eight possessions, accumulating a total of minus-13 yards in total. They punted on fourth and 11 or worse on four separate occasions.
That included a drive on which they took over from the Steelers’ 41-yard line, nearly already in field goal range in a 16-6 game. Blake Bortles was then sacked twice, resulting in the Jaguars punting the ball away on fourth and 24—from their own 45.
How much of it was the Jaguars just playing too conservatively and how much of it was the Steelers’ defensive willpower to keep the game in check? Because almost literally every play that they made proved to be necessary to give the offense enough to come back in the end.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter, but it’s pretty remarkable either way. The Jaguars had 14 total possessions, and the majority of them—nine in total—lasted three plays or fewer. Eight were three-and-outs, and the final possession was a one-play drive with five seconds left on which Bortles was strip sacked.
The only time Jacksonville was able to get anything done on offense after kicking a field goal with 3:37 to play in the second quarter was when Jalen Ramsey ended a very promising Steelers offensive drive by intercepting Ben Roethlisberger in the end zone from the 11-yard line looking for Antonio Brown.
That seemed to charge Leonard Fournette and company back up, but it only lasted for one drive, albeit a critical one that extended their lead from 9-0 to 16-0. But the Steelers’ offensive wheels were already turning by that point.
They came back less than a minute later with a 78-yard touchdown that began a run of 20 unanswered points in the final 16-plus minutes of the game. But the table was set by the often stifling defensive play of the second half.