PITTSBURGH, Pa. -- Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton both offer three quick thoughts on the Jaguars' game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pa., Sunday
1.Talent matters – and so do Top 5 selections. That point was clear all day Sunday – and it showed in a big way early. The Jaguars' last two first-round selections in the NFL Draft – cornerback Jalen Ramsey and running back Leonard Fournette – changed the game's momentum and were dominant throughout. With the Jaguars trailing 3-0 late in the first quarter, Ramsey – the No. 5 overall election in the 2016 NFL Draft – took flight and registered his second interception in three games to give Jacksonville possession at the Steelers 47. That set up a 53-yard drive that Fournette – the No. 4 overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft – capped with a memorable touchdown dive from the Steelers' two-yard line. Both players showed elite athleticism and the ability to take over a game. Fournette finished with 181 yards and had a 90-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. You must hit on Top 5 selections; Ramsey – who had four passes defensed Sunday – and Fournette both showed continued to show Sunday they're big-time hits.
2.This defense is special.It may not be a dominant defense play in and play out, but the Jaguars' defense has shown in five games it has special elements that could carry this team through a lot of this season. The defense on Sunday did what it did in one-sided Week 1 and Week 3 victories in that it turned the game around with big plays and turnovers. What was notable was that several of Sunday's big plays came with the Jaguars trailing. That included a 28-yard interception return for a touchdown by Jaguars linebacker Telvin Smith that turned a 9-7 deficit into a 13-9 third-quarter lead. One possession later, safety Barry Church's 52-yard interception return for a touchdown pushed the Jaguars' lead to 20-9. It's one thing for a defense to feed off momentum and stretch a lead. It's another for the defense to provide big, game-altering plays when trailing and with the game in doubt. The Jaguars' defense is starting to show it can do the latter – and its ability to do so was unquestionable the story of Sunday's victory.
3.This was a huge, huge victory.It goes without saying, but this game's circumstances made Sunday one of the Jaguars' biggest victories in the last decade – perhaps the biggest victory. The Jaguars, after a disheartening loss to the New York Jets last week, did a few notable things Sunday. They won in a tough venue on the road. They beat one of the AFC's best teams, a team with Super Bowl aspirations. They also won the way they want to play – with turnover-, chaos-creating defense and a running game that got stronger as the game continued. The Jaguars haven't been over .500 this late in the season since 2010. A road victory? At Pittsburgh? With two Pick Sixes and a dominant rookie running back as the key storylines? This was memorable stuff.
Images of the Jaguars Week 5 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
1. Winning in Pittsburgh is always impressive but when you win by beating the Steelers at their own game that's another level of excellence altogether. The Jaguars drove the ball down the Steelers throats in the fourth quarter for 83 yards, moving the chains and putting the game away when it was still in doubt. Leonard Fournette's 90 yard touchdown was the icing on the cake because the Steelers knew it was coming and he ran through then past them. When you beat Pittsburgh by outrushing them 231-70 you are making a very loud statement.
2. This is the best defense Jacksonville has ever fielded. They took control of the game mid-way through the third quarter after the Steelers regained the lead and the Jags offense went three and out. First Telvin Smith intercepted Ben Roethlisberger and took it back for a touchdown then less than three minutes later Barry Church did it to cripple the Steelers psyche and thrust the game to the Jaguars. Whenever they needed a play the defense came through. This is easily the best defense in the Jaguars 23 year history.
3. The offensive line played very well without their best player. Defensive coordinator Todd Wash told me two years ago that Tyler Shatley can play and boy did he. Against a 3-4 team he didn't miss a beat with a man on his nose he made the right adjustments nearly every time and the Steelers normally disruptive defense never did find the right formula. Credit Shatley with stepping into a unit that has far exceeded expectations through five weeks and seemlessly integrating into a crucial role against a defense that puts a lot of strain on the center.