On a 32-yard, fourth-down run with 1:56 to play in the game, David Garrard went from goat to hero and the Jaguars won their first postseason game in eight years.
The Jaguars scored a 31-29 win over the Steelers at Heinz Field on Saturday night and now await the outcome of Sunday's Tennessee at San Diego game, which will determine whether the Jaguars will play at New England or at Indianapolis next weekend. Should it be in New England, it will be in prime-time on Saturday night.
Prior to Garrard's dash, the outlook was bleak. The Jaguars had blown an 18-point, fourth-quarter lead. Had the Steelers held on for the win, the Jaguars would've executed the largest fourth-quarter collapse in NFL postseason history.
Garrard was central to the Jaguars' problems. He threw two interceptions, one the result of not seeing linebacker James Farrior and the other the result of a wild throw. The first resulted in a Steelers field goal and the second in a touchdown that gave the Steelers the lead, 29-28, with 6:21 to play.
All of a sudden, the Jaguars were in danger of losing a game they had dominated for three quarters. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had caught fire at the same time Garrard went dead cold.
"It was sweet, even when it gets ugly. Sixty minutes; that's what it's all about," Garrard said in his postgame interview with the media.
On fourth and two at the Steelers 43, needing only to get the ball into field goal range, Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter called for a quarterback draw. Was there a Jaguars fan who didn't know it was coming?
Garrard found a seam and took off. He nearly scored, but it wasn't required. When the dust had cleared and after the Jaguars had extinguished the Steelers' times out and most of the time left in the game, Josh Scobee came onto the field and kicked a game-winning, 25-yard field goal.
"I knew they weren't going to stop me for two yards," Garrard said. "I made some poor throws. It's part of football. You are going to have some bad throws. It's how you respond to them."
Garrard was asked what he learned about himself in the victory.
"That I can make mistakes … and rebound from them," he said.
Garrard experienced his first bad game of the season, completing just nine of 21 passes for 140 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions and a 41.9 passer rating. He made up for all of that, however, by making one big play with his feet at crunch time.
"I wanted the ball in my hands … to make up for earlier mistakes," he said.
He'll no doubt have to play better in the divisional round. What if the Jaguars are to face the Patriots? Can they beat them?
"We know that if we bring our 'A' game, eliminate mistakes and play with everything we have, then we'll have a great chance. They are really, really good," Garrard said.
The Jaguars were really, really good for much of Saturday's game. The Jaguars' two lines dominated play. Most impressively, the Jaguars were able to sack Roethlisberger six times, even though the Jaguars rushed just four guys against five blockers. That strategy allowed the Jaguars to drop seven into pass-coverage, and Roethlisberger struggled against those odds in the first half.
In the second half, Roethlisberger seemed to get the picture. He started throwing underneath the coverage instead of into the teeth of it, and the result was that the Steelers were stopped only once in the second half. It was, however, at the most critical time of the game.
With the lead and the ball, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin decided to take the conservative approach. Three runs forced the Steelers to punt and the Jaguars took over near midfield. Tomlin may think long and hard into the offseason about not allowing Roethlisberger, one of the best third-down-conversion passers in the game, to attempt a pass on third and six with 2:56 to play.
Tomlin made another curious decision to attempt a two-point conversion from the 12-yard line. Had he ordered a kick, the Steelers would've likely held a three-point lead when the Jaguars began their final drive.
"Yeah, I wasn't expecting that," Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said of Tomlin's decision to go for two. "We thought they would kick it. We all make our choices."
Del Rio notched his first postseason win as a coach and he was clearly relieved.
"I want to win in the postseason. Right now, I'm feeling a lot of joy. I really love coaching this team," Del Rio said.
Garrard had to share big-play honors with Maurice Jones-Drew, who returned a kickoff 96 yards to the one-yard line immediately following an opening-game touchdown drive of 80 yards by the Steelers. Jones-Drew's return led to a 7-7 tie and quieted a towel-waving crowd that could've made life very difficult for the Jaguars offense.
"That was such a huge play," Del Rio said of Jones-Drew's return. "They were making plays and that's what it takes to win in this league in the playoffs."
Defensive end Paul Spicer led another spirited defensive effort. Spicer recorded a sack and reserves Jeremy Mincey and Derek Landri each contributed a sack and Landri made an interception, too.
Cornerback Rashean Mathis intercepted passes on consecutive possessions in the second quarter. He returned the first interception 63 yards for a touchdown and Garrard capped Mathis' second theft with a 43-yard touchdown pass to Jones-Drew.
Asked if the Jaguars can beat the Patriots, Spicer said: "I believe we can put pressure on Brady. I believe our offense can sustain drives against their defense. I believe our special teams are better than theirs.
That would seem to qualify as a yes.