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HometownGal
01-03-2008, 06:42 PM
Quite an interesting read and they make some valid points here. No matter what the outcome, though, I believe the Steelers will give this game their all and hopefully come out with a huge W. :tt02:

http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stories/010308/jag_231098211.shtml

New role: Fear factor

Postseason perception of Jaguars has changed since 2005 appearance

By Vito Stellino, The Times-Union

Two years ago, the Jaguars made the playoffs as a wild-card team with a 12-4 record, though they were swept by the Indianapolis Colts. The Jaguars played their first playoff game at the home of the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots in prime time on a Saturday night. This season, the Jaguars made the playoffs as a wild-card team with an 11-5 record, though they were swept by the Colts, and will play their first playoff game at the 2006 Super Bowl-winning Pittsburgh Steelers in prime time on Saturday night.

But there is one huge difference between these two parallels.

Two years ago, the Jaguars were the team everybody wanted to play in the playoffs. This season, the Jaguars are the team the pundits say nobody wants to play.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick was so eager to host the Jaguars two years ago that he virtually tanked the final regular-season game at Miami so New England wouldn't have to play Pittsburgh. Belichick's move paid off when the Patriots beat the Jaguars 28-3 in Foxborough, Mass.

By contrast, the Jaguars are favored to win their first-round playoff game at Pittsburgh. There's even a lot of chatter that Jacksonville is the team best-suited to end New England's dream of a perfect season because the Jaguars' strong running game might be able to gash the Patriots' run defense and control the ball.

So why has the perception of the Jaguars changed so much in just two years?

-In 2005, the Jaguars were 7-1 in the second half of the season, but faced only one winning team (Indianapolis) and lost. The perception was that the Jaguars took advantage of an easy schedule. This year, the Jaguars were 6-2 in the second half, with three of those wins against AFC playoff teams - the Steelers, San Diego Chargers and Tennessee Titans. The victory at Pittsburgh last month, which showed that the Jaguars are a Southern team that can win in bad weather, caught the national media's attention.

-The Jaguars are a better offensive team. They scored 24 or more points in their final 10 games this season. By contrast, in 2005, they barely edged two losing teams - the Cleveland Browns (20-14) and San Francisco 49ers (10-9) - in the second half of the season. Now the offense can run the ball with its 1-2 punch of Fred Taylor and Maurice Drew, and David Garrard has been an efficient quarterback. He threw only three interceptions this season while spreading the ball around among several receivers and specializes in moving the chains on long drives.

The Jaguars' defense has dropped from sixth to 12th in the league, but the ability to generate long, time-consuming drives has masked the dropoff.

-Postseason experience. Though the Jaguars lost that playoff game in New England two years ago, it gave them a taste of playoff football. Their previous appearance was in 1999, and many players on that team weren't on the 2005 roster.

-Sense of team. The Jaguars appear to have good team chemistry, though that's a difficult aspect to define. But a team that didn't have any players voted to the Pro Bowl stresses team play.

"We have good chemistry going on, and I think this is the best team I have been on as the word team is concerned," Taylor said. "On past teams, we had some great players. These guys on the team now, there are no selfish players. We thrive off of everyone else."

But the Jaguars generally are reluctant to compare this team to the 2005 version.

"I think there is probably going to be a time to reflect back on all that," coach Jack Del Rio said. "I don't care to sit here and elaborate on a season right now. I'd just like to focus on the Steelers."

When asked why this team is better than the 2005 version, Taylor said, "That's one of those tricky questions. If I say yes, then it's Taylor guaranteed a win. I'm not going to say that."

He did concede, "I think we're better considering we have more guys now that have had playoff experience.

"Now you've got guys talking about the sour taste that they had in their mouths [after the New England loss]. [They had to] go back home and watch the playoffs. The preparation might be a little different this time."

But Taylor said the Pittsburgh game will define whether the Jaguars really are better.

"At the end of the day, if we don't win, it's the same thing like the team in 2005," he said.

Positive Changes

Why the Jaguars are better now than in 2005, when they lost in the first round of the playoffs:

1. David Garrard
He's the main reason behind the Jaguars' success story. In 2005, the quarterback was 4-1 in the last five games when Byron Leftwich was injured, but coach Jack Del Rio wasn't confident enough in him to start him in the playoff game. So Del Rio went back to Leftwich against the Patriots, even though he had an air cast on his ailing ankle. This year, Del Rio committed to Garrard when he cut Leftwich nine days before the season started, and Garrard has developed into a first-rate quarterback.

2. Fred Taylor
The running back didn't have a vintage season in 2005, missing four games with injuries and rushing for 787 yards. This season, Taylor finished with 1,202 rushing yards and ripped off five consecutive 100-yard games. He had 147 rushing yards against the Steelers last month in Pittsburgh and could carry the Jaguars in this playoff game.

3. Maurice Drew
He was a running back at UCLA when the Jaguars lost in 2005 and will be making his first appearance in the playoffs. He complemented Taylor by carrying for 768 yards this season and adds another dimension to the running game. He's also a threat as a kickoff returner.

4. Dennis Northcutt
Signed as a free agent, he gave the Jaguars another target at wide receiver and Garrard, who likes to spread the ball round, more options. Northcutt caught 44 passes and also is a dependable punt returner. And nobody has more incentive in Pittsburgh. His drop there late in the game in 2002 when playing for the Cleveland Browns help cost the team a playoff berth.

5. Brian Williams
In 2005, the Jaguars had journeyman Kenny Wright starting at cornerback, so teams tended to stay away from Rashean Mathis. But the addition of Williams as a free agent last year helped solidify the position. He could play a major role Saturday because the Steelers, missing running back Willie Parker, might throw the ball a lot.

6. Reggie Williams
He didn't have a single touchdown catch during the 2005 season and was slowed by a concussion. This season, he has a team-record 10 touchdown catches. Though Williams has only 38 catches, compared to 35 in 2005, he has developed into a scoring threat for the Jaguars.

7. Dirk Koetter
The former Arizona State coach has used all the team's weapons to give the Jaguars a varied offense that has improved from 24th to 17th in the NFL in passing yards and from third to second in rushing. In the playoff loss at New England two years ago, Taylor had only five carries in the first half of a 7-3 game and just eight overall. Koetter doesn't figure to make that mistake.

8. Chemistry
The Jaguars are an 11-win team that didn't have a player voted to the Pro Bowl. They're a synergy team, whose whole is better than the sum of its parts. Taylor and Drew (above) have shared the rushing duties without letting their egos get in the way. The Jaguars overcome their lack of stars by playing well together.

Atlanta Dan
01-03-2008, 06:47 PM
Since they did not play the Pats and only played the Colts twice how come they are not at least 14-2 with all this talent & team chemistry?

Count on media hype to drive any story line into the ground.

stillers4me
01-03-2008, 06:59 PM
They are the team to beat.......because they beat us. The Steelers are the measuring stick that all teams (except the Pats*) are held up to.

cubanstogie
01-03-2008, 07:16 PM
The media is the biggest bunch of bandwagoners I have ever seen. They all want to get it right, and say I told you so. Weeks ago we were talking about a record 34 or something games since a RB rushed for over 100 yds against us, and now we all of a sudden suck against the run. LeBeau will come up with something to stop it. If Garrard beats us I will tip my hat, but I don't see it happening. Our line has basically sucked the whole year, Essex cant be much worse the Smith or Starks. They (the media)will be eating crow saturday night when we stomp their ass. Playoffs on the road is different than a game in the regular season when you have a wild card wrapped up.

Steeler in Carolina
01-03-2008, 07:31 PM
Although we have quite a few injuries, I look for us to come out and whip the Jags on Sat night.

Stlrs4Life
01-03-2008, 07:44 PM
I wouldn't expect them to write any other stuff about there team.

19ward86
01-03-2008, 09:24 PM
a lot of people dont realize this but jaxonville just didnt pop out of nowhere, they were 12-4 the year we won soup bowl foety(sweat nickname).`