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Mike Smith deserved 'game ball'

Join senior editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions.

Dale from Fernandina Beach, FL:
What an exciting time for this franchise and its fan base. How many of the "Teal Army" will you expect to see in Indy?

Vic: That's an interesting question. I hadn't considered the possibility Jaguars fans might "travel" to Indianapolis. I don't have an answer to your question now but I'll take a stab at it next Monday if you care to ask again.

Greg from Matthews, NC:
Up 3-0 with 6:18 left in the game and the Jaguars facing fourth-and-one at the Pittsburgh 14-yard line, I wholeheartedly believed and was screaming for the Jaguars to go for it. Converting would've almost certainly sealed it and probably would've resulted in a touchdown. If we wouldn't have made it, we'd have them pinned back on their 14 and any score by them at that point was highly unlikely. Plus, kicking the field goal looked pointless if they were to eventually get a touchdown. What were your thoughts?

Vic: In my opinion, the points were meaningless because there was no doubt in my mind Pittsburgh's offense was belly-up and done for the night. There was only one way the Steelers could win that game and it had to be the result of a Jaguars mistake. For example, do you remember when Troy Polamalu jumped that quick throw to the side when the Jaguars were deep in their own territory? He almost picked it off and scored. That was the kind of unforeseen thing the Jaguars had to avoid, therefore, I considered the possibility of going for it on fourth-and-one merely to avoid the potential of a snap over the holder's head or a blocked kick and a return.

Jon-Michael from Orlando, FL:
Is it true to say a really good throwing team wins games, a really good running team wins championships? I call this the Manning rule.

Vic: The old saying is: You throw to score, you run to win. It's the same thing. I have no problem with a team having a great passing game. You can win in the postseason with a great passing game, provided you also play sound defense. The problem is that only a few passing teams have been able to play good defense, too. The two usually don't get go hand in hand. The Patriots certainly did it. Of course, Tom Brady is their quarterback. The problem with being a team that throws a lot of passes is that in the postseason you're playing against top defenses that create turnovers and it's likely they're going to intercept some of your passes, and turning the ball over is a formula for defeat. Ask Dan Fouts.

Jason from Jacksonville:
How is the short week this week going to affect the Jaguars going into Sunday's game against the Colts? Also, can't three big-time games in a row start to wear down a team?

Vic: It's going to affect the Jaguars as you would expect it to affect them: They're going to have one fewer day to rest their bodies. Plus, they're coming off a very physical game. There's a residual effect from playing the Steelers. Teams get banged up playing against them. The Colts are very fortunate – aren't they always? – to be scheduled to play the Jaguars at home and on a short week for the Jaguars following a game against the Steelers. I'm not sure that's even fair, but that's what the schedule-maker does: He challenges teams aspiring to become champions to respond as champions. We'll see what happens.

Mark from High Springs, FL:
Do you think, thus far, that Rashean Mathis is the best corner in the league? Is this his year to finally step up to the elite status?

Vic: His performance on Monday night earned him status as one of the elite cornerbacks in the league. In my opinion, he is the best big-play cornerback in the game. James Harris talks a lot about play-makers. Mathis is a play-maker.

Julio from Riverside, CA:
Please answer my question or I will fly all the way to Jacksonville and throw golf balls at you.

Vic: What kind of balls are they?

Pete from Jacksonville:
Did you see the uniforms for the U.S. Ryder Cup team? Tell me you never wore something like that out on the green.

Vic: I have not seen them but I hope they're not as awful as those shirts they wore at Brookline. Either way, I only wear one uniform on the golf course: khaki slacks or shorts, a white golf shirt and khaki hat. I heard someone say the other day that Steve Irwin's death has created a new craze for khaki. The guy said khaki is "the new black," therefore, my fashion sense was way ahead of everybody else. Fashion is very important to me.

Raj from Atlanta, GA:
We have to realize that we did not score a single touchdown. The team as a whole performed above par, but that's not good enough, at least not in my book. What are we missing to get the seven points on the board?

Vic: Jaguars fans weren't in the mood immediately following Monday's game to have water thrown on their party, but we're three days out now and it's time to take a more sobering look at Monday night's game, especially as it pertains to Sunday's game at Indianapolis. You're right, the Jaguars did not score a touchdown. I don't think that should be ignored because I can't imagine the Jaguars winning in Indianapolis without scoring a touchdown or two. I don't know what they're missing, but I acknowledge it was missing against Pittsburgh.

Thomas from Jacksonville:
Thanks for your preseason insight on how the loss of Jerome Bettis would affect Pittsburgh. Many underestimated the impact but I think you called it and it was evident on Monday. How about the Colts, do you think any drop-off after Edgerrin James will be exposed by the Jags?

Vic: I don't know about exposing it. All I know is that Jerome Bettis and Edgerrin James were and are great players and you don't lose great players without feeling it. Losing players is a fact of life in today's game. This is not a game of maintenance, it's a game of replacement. Nobody wants to lose good players but every team has to accept the fact they can't keep everybody. Do you think the Steelers wanted to lose Antwaan Randle El, Kimo von Oelhoffen and Chris Hope? No way, but they know they have to take a long-term position on their salary cap and payroll structure. The Jaguars know that, too, and it's that stance that turned the fortunes of this team around.

Don from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
Who was responsible for the teal look and props? That idea was fantastic.

Vic: The credit goes to the Jaguars marketing department. The "wiggle stick" promotion was a grand slam.

Brett from Indianapolis, IN:
Due to Byron Leftwich's long delivery, it would seem that pressure up the middle causes him more of a problem than off the edges. Do you expect the Colts to try to apply more pressure via blitzes, a philosophy they normally do not employ?

Vic: I don't know what the Colts are going to employ, but every team would prefer pressure up the middle on a pocket passer because pressure up the middle forbids him from stepping up into the pocket and forces him to do what he doesn't want to do, move laterally.

Charles from Jacksonville:
Would you comment on how Jack Del Rio was able to lose a defensive player of Reggie Hayward's caliber and then shut out the Steelers in the very next game?

Vic: Jack Del Rio gave Defensive Coordinator Mike Smith the "game ball," which should tell you all you need to know. The Jaguars didn't shut out the Steelers solely because they physically whipped them, they shut 'em out because they also pencil-whipped them. The Jaguars coaching staff "attacked" Ben Roethlisberger. The guy hadn't played a meaningful game in six months and he had taken only 43 snaps in the preseason. His thought processes had to be slow and the Jaguars put them to the test. The more Roethlisberger failed those tests, the more the Jaguars applied pressure to confuse him. He wasn't making the right reads. He wasn't making the proper corrections. He was struggling with formations and getting on the same page with his receivers. He accepted blame for the failure of their running game. What's that tell you? Smith expected it and his game plan was right on. Roethlisberger got worse as the game wore on. The game was too fast for him. He was lost.

Jeff from Westminster, CO:
I had to chuckle at your response to D.J. about "punching in the mouth and killing." Does it annoy you when fans and sportscasters use violent words comparing football to hand-to-hand combat in war?

Vic: I'm not a fan of "smack" or "trash-talking." There have been occasions that I've heard myself say something like that or saw that I used those words in print, and I immediately winced. I think "smack" and "trash-talking" is cheap and inappropriate in a journalistic environment. When fans talk like that I think they sound like player wannabes. I'm embarrassed for them. My first reaction when I see that kind of stuff in e-mails is to delete them.

Trevor from Washington, DC:
What type of pass-coverages did the Steelers use on the Jaguars? Did any of the receivers consistently draw double-coverage?

Vic: I saw a lot of soft coverage on the outside receivers. The Steelers cornerbacks consistently played 10 yards off the receiver. That strategy was probably the result of Troy Polamalu being a one-armed player. They probably decided to play it conservatively and the strategy nearly succeeded. On the flip side, I give Jaguars Offensive Coordinator Carl Smith a lot of credit for taking what the Steelers gave the Jaguars. That's what all of those sideways passes to Reggie Williams were about. Williams turned one of them, of course, into a 48-yard gain by breaking the cornerback's tackle.

Rashaad from Jacksonville:
What can the Jags coaches do to teach Matt Jones to run through the ball and not just throw one hand up? Don't get me wrong, he had a great game on Monday, but on that play where Byron led him in the end zone and he threw one hand up, if he would have ran through the ball he would have scored. What do you think about his habit?

Vic: Some guys instinctively move their feet, other guys instinctively reach. Matt Jones, as you would expect from a long-strider, reaches. The one-hand stuff is a habit he has to break. Don't ever think pro football players don't have to practice, learn and improve. If they didn't have to do that, they wouldn't need coaches.

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