On a day when his team was dominated physically and statistically, Tom Coughlin complimented their effort. What should that tell us?
"I just told the team we didn't accomplish what we set out to accomplish and we didn't win the football game, and we didn't win those little individual battles, but I'm proud of them. They never quit. They played their butts off. They tried as hard as they could," Coughlin told reporters following the Jaguars' 25-23 loss to the Steelers today at Alltel Stadium.
The score was not indicative of the game. The Steelers dominated time of possession by more than 17 minutes. They more than doubled up the Jaguars in rushing yardage; attempted only seven fewer rushing attempts than the Jaguars had total plays.
Other than for a kneel-down at the end of the first half, all of the Steelers' other offensive possessions ended on the Jaguars' side of the 50-yard line, except one that came to a conclusion three yards shy of the 50. Had the Steelers not had to settle for six field goals, the final score would've been lopsided.
Yes, Coughlin praised his team's effort. He refused to allow critics to blame this one on being flat. Give him credit for that. It was time to tell it like it is.
"They're pretty good," Coughlin said of the Steelers, which was a way of saying the Jaguars may not quite be that good. More time and more players will be required.
You don't believe that? You still believe the Jaguars' losing ways, which now number six in the last eight games, are to be blamed on a lack of intensity and poor play-calling?
Well, on this particular day against the Steelers, the Jaguars were penalized no times and committed no turnovers and still couldn't win. You might say they played the perfect game, except, "they got blocked. Pittsburgh came out in the same set we run -- two tight ends, a fullback, running back set -- and they ran the power play off tackle and they ran it pretty much when they wanted to," Coughlin said.
The Jaguars faced a true playoff-type roster today, and the final stats are evidence of the gap that exists between the Jaguars and the playoff team they want to become. More speed and muscle are needed. The Jaguars kept the game close because they didn't quit, and because they called the right plays at the right times, and because the Steelers, very frankly, aren't playing up to the level of a true playoff-type team.
"We didn't get it done up front on either side of the ball. The blitz bothered us. They hit us in the nose with the blitz. But here's Mark Brunell; he takes a shot on the sideline; he has a hand all carved up; he may not be able to grip the ball. What does he do? He stays in the game and throws a touchdown pass. The game is a two-point conversion from going overtime," Coughlin told reporters who were poised to criticize the coach's team for having been flat.
Not this time. Coughlin wouldn't allow it. He wanted to make sure everyone understood that if the Jaguars were judged to have been lacking in every other category, effort wasn't to be one of them.
Maybe today was the day that message sunk in. Just look at the final stats.