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Two Plays Made all the Difference

Garrard runs for 32

Tough to feel good about  the Black and Gold today, less than 24 hours from a heartbreaking 31-29 loss to the Jags in a game in which it seemed that the Steelers outplayed the big bad Jags.  They outgained them (340-239), were better on third down (7-of-14 as compared to 4-of-11), had more first downs (24 to 14) and won the time of possession 32:59 to 27:01.

So why today is the team planning on cleaning out their lockers instead of getting ready for a momentumal test in New England?  Turovers, lack of exucation in the end, and the usual – poor special teams.  They had 4 turnovers while the Jags had just two, were unable to make some huge plays down the stretch, and allowed a 96-yard kickoff return and a late 16-yard punt return to allow the Jags to be in solid field position for the game-winning field goal.

With all that, there were two plays that totally stand out as to why the team lost this contest.  Here they are:

1. QB Sweep Run on 3rd-and-6 from the Steelers 26 with 3:02 to play – The Steelers had the ball with 3:43 to go, and on first down got a five-yard run from Najeh Davenport to set up a 2nd-and-five.  I liked the thought to doing a few things on second down, up the middle run, or play-action with a screen.  Instead, they ran a off tackle run that lost one-yard, and it seemed like the Jags were ready for it.  Then it was time for third and I was begging them to take a shot and throw the ball.  Screen, flare out to Ward and let him fight for a few yards, or look to Heath Miller, who had a huge second half.  Instead, they ran this awful QB sweep that looked bad from the start and you knew wouldn’t work.  Ben’s not Vince Young or Michael Vick.  He had them on their heels all second half throwing, so why not let him try to win the game with a pass?!  The Steelers get a first there, and I think it would have been over.  Instead they punted, and we all know what happened.

2. Jags QB David Garrard runs for 32 yards on 4th-and-2 from the Steelers 43 – Pretty obvious, but one cannot overlook this crushing play that basically ended the Steelers season.  One more play, and the Steelers would be on their way to the Divisional Round.  Instead, they seemed to have overlooked the fact that Garrard is a QB that can run the ball.  My thought going into that play was to send the house, and run a blitz much like they ran at Peyton Manning on 4th down late in the divisional game two years ago.  Don’t let Garrard breathe, and you can get to him.  Instead, the Jags called the perfect play, and Garrard seemed to quickly find the hole as Troy Polamalu ran right past him trying to come in on the safety blitz.  While I credit the Jags for the call and to Garrard for making it happen, it does not mean it wasn’t tough to watch.

Matt Loede has been in the sports media for over 16 years, with experience covering the MLB, NBA, and NFL. On Sunday’s during football season, you can hear Matt on national networks like Fox Sports Radio, Associated Press, and others. Born and raised in Cleveland Ohio, Matt studies and talks football inside and out, and is anxious to share his thoughts and comments with readers on a daily basis.

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