Frustrating. We were so close to the kind of collapse that can destroy a franchise and send them packing to the second coast. DZ and I were furiously IMing each other about how David Garrard is who we thought he was. We were loving it. One moment Ask Vic’s game blog was calling the Steelers “not playoff caliber” and the next moment the Jags had blown an 18 point lead. We deserved this. This was our moment. I hastily threw together this picture of a Jaguar lounging in Los Angeles:
And then Mike Tomlin and his staff took over. He called what appeared to be designed run for Big Ben on 3rd and six. Not even close. Folks, you have to be able to throw the ball to run out the clock. It’s seems counter-intuitive, but it’s been proven to my satisfaction this season. The reason the Patriots are 16-0 is largely because team’s think they can eat time by running the ball. Wrong. You eat time by getting first downs.
The difference in the game was Tomlin’s bizarre two point conversion strategy. It was probably the right call down five points, but when your attempting it from the twelve due to a penalty, just kick the extra point. He ended up failing on consecutive conversion attempts and losing by two points. That can’t feel good this morning.
In the end both teams played exactly how we expected. The Steelers were horrible in most respects, but could throw the ball. That made them dangerous against anyone. The Jags have an unproven offense and poor pass defense. It showed. They were very lucky to win this game. An interception return for a touchdown and a kick return to the one yard line masked a mediocre night on offense. The over-hyped running back duo was mostly bottled up, especially Fred Taylor.
Neither team looked capable of beating the Patriots next week. The Steelers probably had a better chance because they have better secondary when Polamalu is playing, and they have Big Ben. I think Garrard seems like a good leader and nice guy, but I think he showed his true colors last night. I hope I’m wrong, but I’d pick them to lose by 14 if the game was played this afternoon.