Jags 34, Stillers 24��..Nov. 19, 2000 Game #11
Stillers-Jags Post Game Analysis & Grades:
(Note: due to my attendance at this game, this report will be slightly abbreviated in the essence of time. I did, of course, review the entire tape after the game.) This was the Stillers big chance, on prime time national TV, to show the country that they truly belonged in the wild card chase. A win over the improved-health-Jaguars would silence any critics. Instead, the Stillers, after appearing in the first 20 minutes that they had a stranglehold on this game, rolled over and laid an egg, getting embarrassed in a game in which the final score fails to show the whipping administered by the visiting Jaguars.
1. Hawkins allows pass to hit him in gut, and pop out for a key INT in early 2nd quarter.
2. Taylor 25-yard TD run at 9:24 2nd quarter, which breathed life into a running game that had mustered 16 yards on 6 carries.
3. Stewart�s fumble late in the half, giving Jax a freebie 3 points before time expired.
4. Troy�s fumble of kickoff after Jax early-3rd qtr. FG, which was followed 2 plays later by big 34-yard run by Taylor to set up the Taylor TD plunge.
- Shaw�s fumble, which set up another big play � a 26-yard TD scamper by Taylor that effectively ended the game.
QB: Stew showed some signs that this may have been his best performance of this season. He made several good throws and hit some decent completions. He was also victimized by Hawkins on the one INT, plus drops by Hawk, Plex, Ward, and Troy. On the other hand, there was far too much tentative indecision and poor decision making that showed Stewart hasn�t progressed much at all this season. On one 2nd qtr play, Stewart -- the man who despise throwing deep � threw deep to a double-covered Ward, who was heavily blanketed. The 1st quarter sack was a classic case of Stewart indecisiveness. So was the fumble late in the 2nd qtr. Walker came in just to Stewart�s right, and Stewart foolishly held the ball too long and refused to scoot laterally from pressure, and huge strip & fumble-recovery ensued. Even the missed 2-point try to Breuner was classic Stewart --- Breuner was the primary receiver and was wide open, yet Stewart inexplicably held the ball too long, and then threw a terrible, high throw that Breuner had no chance at snaring. Most everyone seems to gush over Stewart�s "ability to avoid the sack", but once again Stewart took a few unnecessary sacks en route to a 5-sack effort. There were also more than a few throws that were miserably off-target from the intended receiver. Stew did get the team moving late in the 3rd qtr. and 4th qtr, but this was in garbage time with the game well out of reach, and Jax was playing a loose, lax defense. C-.
RB: Bettis had the motor going early on, and seemed poised to have another effort versus Jax in which he was going to grind up the soft Jags defense. Bus averaged a superb 4.8 yards/carry. However, the huge lead that Jax got in the 3rd quarter took Bus out of the game, as did Jax�s total disrespect of the Stiller passing offense, which allowed Jax to have Darius play as an extra LB nearly the entire game. Huntley was actually allowed to carry the ball on plays other than the shotgun draw, and he responded with several good runs and a good screen-play run was well. A.
FB: What else can you say about this guy, Dan Kreider? Kreider once again had a strong effort, despite not playing on many downs because of the 2 TE-formations. Kreider delivered several bone-jarring blocks in support of the running game, and also had a couple quality blitz-pickups on passing plays. A.
WR: This game reminded me of the �98 season finale in Jacksonville, when the MNF announcers rightfully ridiculed our WR corps on national TV after the group of slackards dropped one pass after another. This game was virtually a mirror image of that game. Hawkins � deemed the savior of the WR corps by Cowher and most of the Pittsburgh media -- dropped a pass right in his gut on the first play from scrimmage. Not satisfied with that pathetic drop, Hawkins again allowed a pass to plop into his gut, and then it popped out and into the hands of LB Hardy for a crushing INT. Burress, who is showing he�s afraid to take a hit, allowed an easy crossing route pass to slip from both hands just before he was hit. This soured a promising drive in which we settled for a 2nd qtr FG. Troy dropped an easy 0-step hitch. Ward did have a nice RAC on his 32-yard TD, but he, too, dropped a long bomb in the 4th qtr. Shaw led all Stiller WRs with 5 grabs and 81 yards, but ganged up by 3 Jaguars, he was stripped of the ball on a key 3rd qtr turnover. F.
TE: Bruener had his obligatory 1 grab, for 8 yards. Cushing chipped in with 2 short catches. The blocking was pretty solid. B.
OL: The OL had an ok nite. By no means did they play great, but one simply can�t look at the stat of 5 sacks and point fingers at this crew. At least 3 of those sacks were slothful indecisiveness by Stewart. Furthermore, because of the sputtering passing game, the Jags showed no respect and sent a slew of jailhouse blitzes. The run blocking was actually pretty good, despite having to face a host of 8-man fronts. Bettis was finding nice holes to run through during the first half. However, the massive deficit meant the running game had to be scrapped. Rich Tylski should be berated in film sessions for his pitiful effort on the late 2nd qtr strip of Stewart by Walker. Tylski was literally bowled over � onto his back � by Walker. This was as shameless a play as I�ve ever seen conducted by a guard in the NFL. B-.
DL: The DL stood pretty stout in the early stages of the game, but soon got worn down by Boselli and company after the offense kept giving the ball back to the Jags. Smith did have a couple nice plays, and Henry and Kimo chipped in here and there with some disruption of the ground game. Had the field position and time of possession more benefited the Stillers, this gang would have had a better overall showing. B-.
LB: Levon Kirkland and Earl Holmes played this game as though it was their last game on earth, playing with fire, reckless abandon, intensity, and tenacity. Holmes led all players from both teamsw ith 7 solos and 6 assists. Sitting in the stands, I was actually getting annoyed with the PA-announcer�s dry repetition of "Holmes on the tackle" or "Stop made by Holmes". Porter also chipped in with 6 solos. Porter, of course, had his hands full facing all-world LT Tony Boselli, which limited his pass pressure, though he did get one sack. The man who once again had another wretched, feeble performance was none other than Jason Gildong, who acted like a windmill, standing around waving at things and doing nothing of any useful purpose virtually the entire game. Gildon had a sack on the very first Jaguar play, in which he was solo-blocked by the RB and got to Brunell, who was looking for a quick pop-pass that was covered. After this, and aside from falling on a fumble caused by Flowers, Gildong did absolutely NOTHING the entire rest of the game. NOTHING. He had solo coverage on McCardell in the 2nd quarter, and was beaten badly for an 18-yard gain. Two plays later, Gildon did his 1-arm flail-and-miss on Taylor, who then scampered in for a TD. Taylor 34-yard scamper to the Stiller 2 was off a play in which Gildon was manhandled by Brady. And on Taylor 26-yard TD jaunt, Gildon foolishly overpursued, shuffling a good 7 yards to his right for absolutely no reason at all, which allowed Taylor an enormous cutback lane for the TD. Gildon, facing a 3rd string RT in Fordham who is only playing because of injuries to Searcy and Weigert, finished with 1 tackle all game � on the first Jax play in which he was solo blocked by a RB. Porter, Holmes, and Kirk: A-. All other starting LBs: F.
DB: The secondary�s play was adequate for most of the night. Facing the skilled Jax duo, they shut down McCardell and limited Smith to an ok but quiet, evening. Washington was beaten deep once by Whitted, but recovered in time to break up the play. He also had a sterling breakup of a pass to the EZ to Smith late in the 1st half. Wash�s worst gaffe was the CB blitz in the 2nd qtr, in which he took a poor, wide angle and allowed an acre of room for Taylor to run for big yardage up his left tackle. Flowers had a couple nice hits, and also stripped Brunell of the ball on a sack. My major beef with Lee was the 16-yard screen TD by Taylor late in the half. Lee had 3 defenders to his INSIDE to help stop Taylor, but instead Lee himself too an inside angle and gave Taylor huge room to run down the sideline for the score. Worse, it fully appeared that Flowers quit on this play, as he made no effort whatsoever to move back outside toward Taylor. Scott was again a bit soft and tentative in his coverage, though he did have one pick. Alex had 6 solos and chipped in well on run support. B-.
Spec Teams: Another poor showing by the STs. Troy had a huge fumble that helped seal the game for the Jags on a 3rd qtr kickoff return. What was poor, was that he flat out dropped the ball as he was vaulting thru the air � it was not caused by a hit. I can sometimes forgive a returner when he fumbles after being hit by a coverman who has 45 yards of steam, but this clearly was not the case. Kris badly missed a very makeable FG, and his kickoffs were once again unimpressive. The KO coverage was spotty, and neither return team gave much in the way of good gains. C-.
Off Coord: Gilbride will be quick to point out the drops and fumbles and INT off a drop. Fine. Jacksonville also had a fumble off a sack, plus two Taylor drops. The difference is that the Jax offense runs plays with a purpose. Gaypruide�s offense has no purpose, instead blindly pulling plays from a grab-bag. We did run 2 nice plays --- the 3rd and 6 middle-dump to Breuner in which Breuner peeled off his pass block and snuck out, and the Stewart fake handoff and keeper for the TD. 11 games into the season, and we finally run two plays that should be part of the bread and butter of a smashmouth offense. Gilbride also should have found out after tonite�s game, what happens when you start a small, slowpoke receiver who has no business starting in the NFL � the Jags responded by playing their SS as a LB and they smothered Hawkins all nite. The failure to even mediocrily develop these young receivers must fall, at least partly, on the shoulders of Gaypride. C-.
Def Coord: Tim Lewis once again got soft late in a half, and he got burned. Jax got the ball at their own 45 with 4 minutes left in the half, and immediately marched down at their own leisure for a key TD that gave them a 14-10 lead a plenty of momentum in a game that Pittsburgh seemed to have control of. Lewis is also guilty of not making any adjustments --- be it personnel, scheme, or both --- for the wretched play of LOLB Jason Gildon, who for about the 4th week in a row got absolutely manhandled at the point of attack on running plays. C.
Head Coach: Cowher seems destined, with last week�s botching of a sure win and this week�s shameful embarrassment at the hands of Jacksonville, to repeat his annual 2nd Half Swoon, in which he team makes a plethora of mistakes caused by poor focus, and basically starts quitting when the going gets rough. This was a must-win game for this team to even consider any thoughts of a wild-card sport, and they failed miserably. Cowher won�t, but he must accept responsibility for this team stink that occurred at home on prime-time national TV. D+.
The time is quickly approaching where this team must begin (but they won�t) to evaluate youngsters down this stretch of the 5 remaining games. After last week�s debacle versus Philly, I smelled another 2nd Half Swoon, and this blowout loss to Jax confirms it for me. I look for the Stillers to pull out, at most, 2 wins of these remaining five games, which will probably be just enough to allow Cowher to keep his job and keep this franchise submerged for another season in the morass of sub-par mediocrity that is has been in the past three seasons.