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Sexton-Oehser: Back and forth


JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton look back at the Jaguars' victory over Buffalo in an AFC Wild Card Playoff game and ahead to Sunday's AFC Divisional Playoff against the Pittsburgh Steelers

Oehser …

1.Reviewing the preview.When previewing Bills-Jaguars, the thought here was the Jaguars needed to make plays in the passing game, protect the ball and swarm defensively. The Jaguars didn't do the first on anything close to a winning level Sunday, but they did the second two – and it was the second two that keyed their first postseason victory in a decade. Quarterback Blake Bortles struggled and finished with 87 yards passing – though he did rush for 88 yards, including 20 on the Jaguars' game-winning drive in the third quarter. The Jaguars did not commit a turnover, and that was key against a Bills team that thrived on takeaways during the regular season. But it was the Jaguars' defense that made the difference Sunday – and that unit definitely swarmed. The Jaguars allowed just 85 yards and no points in the second half, showing again they may be the NFL's best defense.

2.As I saw it. Sunday was about one thing: winning. The Jaguars didn't play remotely close to perfect. The passing game struggled and the run game continued the struggles that have defined the area much of the season – particularly in November and December. Still, the Jaguars won their first playoff game in a decade on Sunday. As Head Coach Doug Marrone and Jaguars players said often on Sunday and Monday, the postseason is not about how a victory looks; it's about moving forward. NFL history is littered with Super Bowl winners/participants who have struggled past early postseason opponents. The Jaguars don't look like AFC favorites right now, but they do look like a team with a good enough defense to win any game. That's not the worst postseason formula.

3.Looking ahead, briefly. Up next for the Jaguars: the Pittsburgh Steelers in AFC Divisional Playoff at Heinz Field Sunday at 1:05 p.m. The Jaguars are one of eight teams still playing. Let that sink in and think back to how you felt about this team in August. But the Jaguars' mindset entering Sunday isn't about August, nor should it be. It also shouldn't be about the Jaguars' 30-9 October victory over the Steelers, a game in which Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw a career-high five interceptions. The Steelers undoubtedly will play better Sunday. Still, this Jaguars defense is good enough to go on the road in the postseason and win. The Jaguars won't be favored, but neither should they be overlooked. Nor should any team with a defense as fast and furious as the Jaguars.


1.Reviewing the preview.I firmly believed the Jaguars could run the ball against the Bills. They could not, or at least they couldn't line up and hand it to running backs Leonard Fournette and Chris Ivory and expect to find room. I thought they had to run to set up the passing game; since they couldn't run, they couldn't pass either. The truth from Sunday: The Jaguars' offense was a one-player show; Bortles, who will be assailed for his inability to move the offense through the air, did the only thing he could do; he ran. It was an awkward performance by an offense that hasn't looked very good since dispatching the Texans a month ago. Thankfully the Jaguars' defense did what it has done all season – and the one long drive that ended with a touchdown was all that was needed.

2.As I saw it. The Jaguars seemed to know the Bills weren't going to be able to move the ball and score, not without a fully healthy LeSean McCoy on the field. So they played it safe and conservative – almost to a fault. The Jaguars' three-play series after cornerback Aaron Colvin's second-quarter interception tells the story of their mindset; considering the wind and the Bills' penchant for taking the ball away, the Jaguars didn't want to give the Bills anything they couldn't earn on their own. They played to their strength and their plan was a success. It wouldn't seem that the same approach and/or results will work in Pittsburgh or beyond. That will be the major storyline this week – after of course, Roethlisberger getting a chance to redeem himself after the five-interception performance in October.

3.Looking ahead, briefly.I am tempted to turn off all external media sources this week. The unyielding storyline will be Roethlisberger and Bortles and we all know that match-up heavily favors the home team. What we can't know is what Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone and Company have in mind for a game plan and how well the Jaguars can execute it. The Jaguars' defense is as good as any Steelers defense I have seen since 1995 – and truthfully, it may be better than even that Steelers defense that took Pittsburgh to Super Bowl XXX. When you have a defense of that caliber, you can win. The question is whether or not the plan will be to let Bortles off the chain or to play a more conservative approach and lean on a defense that has carried them all season long. We shall see …

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