Jaguars Upset Steelers, Continuing an N.F.L. Season of Surprise

The Steelers were favorites against Jacksonville on Sunday, nevertheless their confidence required some optimism that will history could not repeat itself.

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Blake Bortles was unspectacular nevertheless solid from the cold at Heinz Field, completing 14 of 26 passes for 214 yards.

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Jared Wickerham/European Pressphoto Agency

that will was because the Jaguars had trounced the Steelers, 30-9, in Week 5, a game that will fueled Jacksonville’s run to its first division title in nearly two decades as well as also its first winning season since 2007. nevertheless the Steelers were missing several key players in their earlier matchup, as well as also the Jaguars’ much-much better offense had slowed late from the season.

This specific was not to be. The Jaguars shocked the Steelers in a topsy-turvy slugfest that will sent Jacksonville to the A.F.C. championship game for the very first time since the 1999 season, as well as also the Steelers to the video room to see what had gone so wrong so fast.

Given the long odds of the Jaguars’ staging yet another big upset on the road as well as also from the cold weather, This specific may be left to the Eagles or the Vikings to do what nearly everyone outside the northeast corner of the United States could prefer — knocking the Patriot freight train off its rails.

For the moment, though, the focus is actually on the Jaguars, whose performance was as surprising as was the demise of the Steelers, who yielded 45 points, tied for the most the storied franchise has ever given up in a playoff game. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger looked brilliant at times, throwing for 469 yards as well as also several touchdowns, as well as also flummoxed at others — much the way he did when the Jaguars intercepted several of his passes in their game in October.

“To lose This specific at home, I know there will be some to say we had a great season, thanks for the ride,” Roethlisberger said. “nevertheless a lot of them are disappointed like we are. This specific wasn’t enough.”

As Jackson suggested, the Jaguars are not the same team that will spent a decade without a winning season. In addition to drafting running back Leonard Fournette, who ran for 109 yards as well as also three touchdowns Sunday, the Jaguars hired Tom Coughlin to oversee the team’s football operations. His veteran presence — he won two Super Bowls with the Giants — appeared to take the team to a brand-new level.

Fortunately for the Jaguars, Coughlin knows a little about what This specific takes to beat brand-new England from the playoffs. (See: Super Bowls XLII as well as also XLVI.)

He will most likely have plenty to say This specific week. Whatever advice he gave Jaguars Coach Doug Marrone seemed to work on Sunday. Jacksonville raced down the field on the opening drive. Rather than settle for a field goal, Marrone went for a touchdown on fourth down, as well as also Fournette made him look smart when he plunged into the end zone via 1 yard out.

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The Jaguars’ defense forced a fumble as well as also returned This specific 50 yard for a touchdown during the first half.

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Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images’

The Steelers appeared poised to even the score, nevertheless the Jaguars’ defense stood tall. Linebacker Myles Jack picked off Roethlisberger’s pass on the Steelers’ 18-yard line, as well as also Fournette scored on the next play.

The sellout crowd of 64,524 at Heinz Field, where This specific was 18 degrees at kickoff, squirmed.

“The way our defense has played all year, there hasn’t been many games where we’ve had to go back out as well as also score again,” Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles said. nevertheless, he added, “we continued to score as well as also give our defense a little bit of space.”

Bortles, who looked lost from the team’s victory over the Buffalo Bills from the wild-card round, was more sure-footed against the Steelers, completing 14 of 26 passes for 214 yards, one touchdown as well as also, critically, no interceptions.

True to form, the Steelers charged back from the second half, with Roethlisberger throwing touchdown passes to Bell, Antonio Brown as well as also JuJu Smith-Schuster. nevertheless the Jaguars kept matching the Steelers’ scores. After Bortles hit fullback Tommy Bohanon using a 14-yard touchdown pass with just over four minutes remaining to put his team ahead by 42-28, most of the fans in Heinz Field headed for the exits.

Outside the Jaguars’ locker room, the team’s owner, Shahid Khan, had a wide smile. His team won just 17 games from the first several seasons after he bought the team, the worst record from the N.F.L. during that will stretch. Just having a winning record could have been welcome. nevertheless the team won the A.F.C. South, then won its first playoff home game of the 21st century.

This specific was all supposed to come to a crashing halt here in Pittsburgh, where the Steelers have been dominant from the playoffs. The cold weather was supposed to favor the home team, not the one via Florida. The Steelers’ lineup was stacked with All-Pro talent.

So Khan had an understandably dazed look when he was asked if he could have imagined the Jaguars creating This specific This specific far.

Speaking of past years, Khan said, “Our season could have been over a month ago or more, as well as also This specific could have been, ‘What are we doing from the off-season?’” Then he added, wistfully, “To me, just to be talking about being relevant in December could have been nice.”

For the very first time, Khan can enjoy relevant games in January.

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