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Article:Jaguars Joining League's Elite

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Before Saturday night’s gut-check victory over the favored Steelers at Heinz Field, it was hard to think of the Jacksonville Jaguars as an elite team. Sure, they were 11-5 this year, and had posted a 31-17 in the last three years under their fiery coach Jack Del Rio. They did have the leagues best rushing duo, and a physical defense that dominated opponents. But, until Saturday, this team failed to break through in big games, developing a reputation as a nice, but not super team. That all changed with Josh Scobee’s game-winning kick that clinched Jacksonville’s first postseason win since 1999, back when Brunell and Coughlin were the stars. It’s definitely been awhile. The 31-29 win may have been their second of the season over the Steelers, but this one meant a lot more.

It wasn’t a typical Jaguars victory; they allowed 29 points, and let Ben Roethlisberger throw for over 300 yards in picking apart their defense, especially during a spirited rally from 18 points down in the fourth quarter. It didn’t matter, though. The Jaguars remained cool
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when it mattered most and just accomplished the impressive feat of beating Pittsburgh on the road twice in a month. The Steelers hadn’t lost in Heinz Field since Christmas Eve ’06 before Jacksonville’s tilt with the Steelers in Week 15. Now, the Steelers have a two-game losing streak at Heinz. The win also continued Jacksonville’s strangle hold over the Steelers. The Jaguars have beaten Pittsburgh four times in a row over the past three seasons, with only one of those wins at home. This scenario was perfect for a team to make a statement.

It started perfect, too. After an impressive opening drive by the Steelers got them a touchdown, the Jaguars would dominate for the next 30 minutes, and take a 28-10 lead when Maurice Jones-Drew danced his way into the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown. All seemed good when Pittsburgh lined up on a 4th down play with the Jags looking to strike the coffin. But, a breakdown in the secondary led to a Santonio Holmes touchdown that sparked a 19-point run that gave Pittsburgh a 29-28 lead with only minutes left.

Despite not playing his best game, David Garrard made plays at the most opportune times, and was instrumental in the comeback drive. His stat line was nothing to boast about, 9/21, 143 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT, but when his team was facing do-or-die he made the play that had to be made. On 4th and 2, with under 2 minutes to go, Garrard dropped back looking for a receiver to save him, but nothing was there. With the Pittsburgh rush approaching, Garrard made like Pat White and rushed right by the first down marker for a 36-yard gain that effectively sealed Pitt’s fate. It’s the type of play Garrard makes, and a big reason why Del Rio let Byron Leftwich walk in the offseason. This decision was pure gold.

With this win, the Jaguars look ahead to the two teams in the AFC that they have been looking up at for years. A matchup with New England or Indianapolis awaits in the Divisional Round. The AFC has been the Pats and Colts versus the field for the better part of two years now, but Jacksonville is looking to sneak in as the latest foil. Having already beaten San Diego, the Jaguars must now take the next step, and show they are Super Bowl worthy by taking out one of the giants that awaits them.

For more, check out The Sports Lounge at www.sportsloungeblog.com


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