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Sexton-Oehser: Back and forth

Posted Oct 10, 2017

Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton look back at the Jaguars’ victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers and forward to Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Rams

JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton look back at the Jaguars’ victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers and forward to Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Rams

 

Oehser …

1.Reviewing the preview. When previewing Jaguars-Steelers, the thought here was the Jaguars needed offensive balance, to stop the run and to manage running back Leonard Fournette’s workload correctly. The Jaguars held Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell to 47 yards rushing and forced Pittsburgh into enough passing situations that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw five interceptions. As for offensive balance, the Jaguars didn’t have any. They didn’t need it because Fournette rushed for 181 of the team’s 231 yards rushing. Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone put Fournette’s workload into proper perspective: When the Jaguars win, his workload will feel right; when the Jaguars lose, it won’t. Sounds about right.

2.As I saw it. The 30-9 victory at Pittsburgh was perhaps the Jaguars’ biggest in a decade, but the style of victory and its one-sided nature made it even more important. The Jaguars see themselves as a defensive-oriented, running team that can contend by imposing its will. The Steelers see themselves the same way. The Jaguars not only stuffed the Steelers running game, they harassed Roethlisberger into one of his worst career games. That had Heinz Field emptying midway through the fourth quarter. To out-Steelers the Steelers in Heinz Field in dominant fashion … that’s rare stuff, and it’s why early an October victory can be so memorable and important.

3.Looking ahead, briefly. The Jaguars’ theme this week will be obvious: attain consistency. They have won big three times this season – in Weeks 1 (Houston), 3 (Baltimore) and 5 (Pittsburgh) – and offset those victories with discouraging Week 2 (Tennessee) and 4 (New York Jets) losses. But there’s more to Sunday than the consistency story. The Jaguars must play well to beat the Rams, who led the NFL in offense before a 16-10 loss to Seattle Sunday; quarterback Jared Goff and running back Todd Gurley have shown signs of being two of the NFL’s better young players. The Rams’ season fell apart after a 3-1 start in 2016. They were 3-1 before Sunday and feel they’re solid enough to write a different story this season. They’ll be motivated Sunday to show they’re right, which makes the Jaguars’ first game at EverBank Field in a month a tough task.

 

Sexton …

1.Reviewing the preview. I was way off base last week; it seems a lot of Steelers fans thought their offensive coordinator was, too. I thought the Steelers would send Bell against the Jaguars’ 32nd-ranked run defense until the Jaguars proved they could stop Bell. He only carried 15 times and Roethlisberger threw 55 passes against the NFL’s No. 1-ranked pass defense. Go figure. The Jaguars’ defense pressured Roethlisberger, then picked him off five times – scoring twice and essentially putting Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles on the shelf for the rest of the game. So neither ‘Good’ Blake nor ‘Bad’ Blake had to do much more than make sure he put the running game in the best position to succeed; the 231 yards in that area spoke loudly. Fournette went through, over and around the Steelers’ defense – which is about as difficult a job as any running back in the NFL could possibly have. He made it look easy.

2.As I saw it. The Jaguars proved their formula for winning in 2017 can work against any team when they execute well. Midway through the third quarter, they looked as if they were up against the wall; they were down 9-7 and the offense went three-and-out, which left them against a suddenly effective Steelers offense. Linebacker Telvin Smith intercepted Roethlisberger two plays later and scored; six plays after that, safety Barry Church did the same thing and it was 20-9. That sudden burst let Marrone do what he said he wanted: run the ball on every play. The Jaguars ran 19 times in the fourth quarter. Pressure the quarterback, score on defense, run the ball: It worked against Houston with a rookie quarterback and it worked against Pittsburgh with an elite, Super Bowl-winning quarterback.

3. Looking ahead, briefly. Who would have thought EverBank Field would be the obstacle on the Jaguars’ schedule when this season began? The Week 2 loss to the Titans here is in the head of some Jaguars players, who acknowledged Sunday in Pittsburgh they had to prove they could go home and win. They get a Rams team with an emerging quarterback working with an enigmatic young play-caller, an elite running back and plenty of weapons on the outside. The Los Angeles defense is loaded up front and you would think it will stack the line of scrimmage to avoid the same fate that befell the Steelers last week. The Rams went to Dallas and took down the Cowboys; they will have no doubt they can travel further east and win in Jacksonville. The Jaguars need EverBank to be what it was for so many seasons: an obstacle to the visiting team with warm weather, a good team and loud – even crazed – fans. For that to happen, they must be ready to play at their best on Sunday and earn it.

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