With each close play or each game-changing swing, Tom Coughlin nervously chewed gum and scribbled notes. He occasionally stopped to offer a comment to general manager Dave Caldwell, seated to his right.
The man in charge of installing a winning culture with the Jacksonville Jaguars did this the entire game. By this point, it was out of his control. But in a game with wild momentum swings, the work he did leading up to this point as executive vice president of football operations proved to be just enough.
The Jaguars upended the Steelers 45-42 on the road and clinched their spot in next weekend’s AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots. The output tied the mark for most points ever scored on the Steelers in a postseason game.
Much as it was in Cheap Jerseys Week 5’s 30-9 Jaguars victory here at Heinz Field, Jacksonville’s defense and rushing game was pivotal. But it was an unlikely – and much-criticized player – who helped secure the Jaguar victory.
Quarterback Blake Bortles, who rushed for more yards last week (88) against the Bills than he threw for (87), converted key third downs in the fourth quarter, made smart decisions and helped keep the Steelers at distance.
He completed 14 of 26 passes for 214 yards and one touchdown.
Rookie running back Leonard Fournette, who left the game in the second quarter with an ankle injury but returned after halftime, ran the ball 23 times for 101 yards and three touchdowns.
The Jaguars roared out to a 21-point lead and at times looked like they would pull away, including after linebacker Telvin Smith’s 50-yard scoop-and-score fumble recovery in the second quarter. But the Steelers clawed back in the second half, drawing to within one score at four different points in the fourth quarter.
But by the time Ben Roethlisberger found JuJu Smith-Schuster for a 4-yard scoring strike to cut the deficit to three, there was just one second left.
Jacksonville’s pass Customized Jacksonville Jaguars jerseys rush made a few big plays, sacking Roethlisberger twice. But the group wasn’t consistent enough. On some dropbacks, Pittsburgh’s offensive line pushed back and offered Roethlisberger ample time to throw.
It was with that time that Roethlisberger dropped three pivotal touchdowns in 14 minutes and 11 seconds of game time, spanning from the middle of the second quarter to the middle of the third. Each pass was perfectly placed where only the Pittsburgh players, receivers Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant and running back Le’Veon Bell, could catch them.
Entering the game and including the playoffs, Roethlisberger has had 19 career rushing attempts on fourth-and-1. He converted 18 of them for first downs. Yet, questionable play calls in those situations twice crushed Pittsburgh’s momentum.
Down seven points with 12:50 left in the game, the Steelers faced a crucial fouth-and-1 from Jacksonville’s own 39-yard line. The call was a play-action pass that fell incomplete.