Jaguars hang on to stun Steelers

The Associated Press
Will Graves

PITTSBURGH–The Jacksonville Jaguars heard the chatter, read the tweets, and Instagram posts.
And they got a little confused.
Why were the Pittsburgh Steelers talking about the New England Patriots? Didn’t they have to face the Jaguars first before reaching a rematch with the Super Bowl champions?
“I don’t know if they misread the schedule or didn’t play us this week, but they didn’t acknowledge us at all,” said Jacksonville linebacker Myles Jack.
“And we didn’t take that too kindly.”
Not at all. That shouldn’t be a problem going forward.
The Jaguars, yes the Jaguars, have the NFL’s full attention now. A trip to Foxborough on the horizon, too.
Top-seeded New England advanced after dumping the Tennessee Titans 35-14 on Saturday night.
Dominant at the start and resilient at the finish, Jacksonville stunned the Steelers 45-42 yesterday afternoon to advance to the AFC title game for the third time in franchise history and maybe, finally, earn a bit of respect.
Leonard Fournette ran for 109 yards and three scores.
Embattled quarterback Blake Bortles added 214 yards passing and a pivotal fourth-quarter touchdown as the third-seeded Jaguars (12-6) beat the second-seeded Steelers (13-4) at Heinz Field for the second time in three months.
The victory in October served notice Jacksonville was ready to put a decade of losing firmly behind. This one sent an even bigger message: overlook the Jaguars at your own peril–something Pittsburgh appeared to do in the run-up.
“We knew we had this team’s number,” Jacksonville safety Barry Church said.
“All we did was feed on the fuel that everybody was providing, the media, everybody was talking about how they’re going to run through us, it’s not going to be like last [time],” he noted.
A week removed from an ugly performance in a wild-card round win over Buffalo in which he passed for 87 yards and struggled with the easiest of throws, Bortles went 14-of-26 for a touchdown without an interception.
He ran for 35 more and wasn’t sacked by a defence that led the NFL and set a franchise record with 55 during the season.
Jacksonville’s 45 points tied the most ever allowed by the Steelers in the playoffs.
Not bad for an offence that at times simply appeared along for the ride as the NFL’s top defence carried the load.
The Jaguars built a 21-point lead and responded whenever the Steelers rallied to get within one score.
Ben Roethlisberger threw for 469 yards and set a franchise record with five touchdown passes, but also was intercepted once and had a fumble returned for a score.
All-Pro Antonio Brown caught seven passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns in his return from a left calf injury.
Bell had 155 yards of total offence and two scores.
But Pittsburgh’s vaunted “Killer Bs” couldn’t keep pace with Jacksonville–one of four NFL franchises to never make the Super Bowl.
“It’s disheartening,” Brown said. “I thought we had the right group of guys.”
Pittsburgh rolled up 545 yards of offence, but it’s two yards the Steelers didn’t get that helped send them into an off-season filled with questions.
Twice Pittsburgh had fourth-and-one in Jacksonville territory. And twice the Steelers did something other than have the 6’5″ Roethlisberger sneak.
Pittsburgh ran wide in the first quarter and Bell was stuffed for a four-yard loss.
The Steelers then were down a touchdown early in the fourth quarter and had fourth-and-inches at the Jacksonville 39.
Roethlisberger checked at the line of scrimmage, faked a hand-off to Bell, and instead threw incomplete to diving rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster.