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Not running, not stopping the run

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Jack Del Rio was clearly still digesting Sunday night's defeat at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers when he met with reporters on Monday.

"There's not much to add. You guys have covered it pretty well," Del Rio said in response to the press conference's first question, which went right to the failure of his defense to hold a 21-20 lead late in the game with the Steelers taking possession at their 20-yard line.

Eleven plays later, the Steelers were in the end zone and their defense would follow by protecting a 26-21 lead to claim victory in a nationally-televised game that drew the most enthusiastic crowd of the season.

Del Rio built his Jaguars on the principle of run the ball and stop the run, but they did neither against the Steelers, who out-rushed the Jaguars, 129-38. That is an especially bitter pill to swallow since the Steelers were down to their fourth-string running back and two backs that were signed to the roster last week.

"I'll agree that's something we continue to believe in. If you want to run the ball, you have to convert third down," Del Rio said.

The Jaguars converted only three of 13 third-down attempts, leaving the Jaguars to run just 54 plays to the Steelers' 70 plays.

"I think it's more than anything lack of attempts," he said in attempting to explain the team's failure to run the ball to previous years' standards. The number two rushing offense in the league last year has now fallen to number 19.

The failure to stop the run may be even more perplexing. Once upon a time, the Jaguars routinely turned back the Steelers at a time when the Steelers were the top rushing offense in the league. Sunday night, the Jaguars came within a yard of allowing Mewelde Moore to reach the 100-yard mark.

What's the solution? Del Rio, of course, wasn't willing to offer possible cures but a scheme change midway through Sunday's game might provide a hint of what's to come.

In the first half, the Jaguars played a lot of single-high safety, which is a pressure-defense scheme that includes man-to-man coverage. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger repeatedly burned that scheme.

The Jaguars switched to a base-defense scheme in the second half, playing a lot of double-safety, cover two defense. It had long been Del Rio's defense of choice.

"We made the adjustments we thought were appropriate from the personnel we had and the way the game was flowing," Del Rio said when asked why the Jaguars had made the abrupt scheme change.

Scheme aside, the Jaguars need to get healthy in their secondary and that may not happen until after this Sunday's game in Denver and the team takes its bye week. Cornerback Drayton Florence may return to action this week, but Del Rio made it sound as though safety Reggie Nelson may require more time to recover from his bruised knee.

"With Reggie, it's wait and see. If it doesn't show significant progress, he could miss again this week," Del Rio said.

Three other players – return man Brian Witherspoon, defensive tackle Rob Meier and wide receiver Mike Walker – sustained knee injuries against the Steelers.

"I refuse to get involved in excuse making," Del Rio said. "We have to have the courage to fight the good fight."

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