Stillers 20, Jags 7 ���. Nov. 18th, 2001 ����Game #9
Stillers-Jags Postgame Analysis and Grades
The pesky Jaguars, riddled by injury that might have caused most teams to get blown out, hung tough for well over 3 quarters of football before finally succumbing to the Stillers, who had a ragged day on offense but dominated the game with their defense. This win gets the monkey off the back of a Stiller team that, while they aren't likely to admit it, had to be thinking "jinx" after hideous losses to Jax last Nov. and in week 1, both of which were games where Jax imposed their will on the Stillers and dominated both sides of scrimmage. Perhaps most satisfying, besides seeing the disgusted look on RatFace Coughlin's face at the end of the loss, was the total team effort, in which numerous Stillers chipped in with key plays to help garner this win.
1. Jags' kicker Mike Hollis misses 46-yard FG on first possession of game.
2. On 3rd & 10 midway through the 1Q, Shaw snares a deep seam route and gains 40 yards, helping to set up the Stillers first FG.
3. Stewart scrambles for 19 yards on 2d & 14 late in the 2Q, but then is flagged for taunting, pushing the Stillers back from the 15 to the 30.
4. With Jax on a promising drive on the Pgh. 20, Kendrell Bell sacks Quinn and jars the ball loose, giving the Stillers a critical turnover.
5. Hines Ward takes a short WR screen and craftily weaves through the Jaguar defense for a 28-yard score.
6. On the ensuing KO, Elvis Joseph take the ball to the house for a 95-yard TD return.
7. On another promising Jaguar drive, Joey Porter chops the ball from Quinn and creates a turnover to snuff out the last chance for the Jags.
QB: Not that it was excessively shaggy, but in some respects, this was perhaps Stewart's most raggedy start in terms of sharpness and accuracy since the Buffalo game. He made some solid throws, but looked at on the whole he was erratic and scattershot during some of the game, which bogged down many a drive (although, he did complete 21 of 33 for 266). A prime example was the 3rd down pass to Edwards on the first series of the game, in which Bryant got a paw on the ball at the last second. This was a pass that was clearly thrown a smidgen behind Edwards, which allowed Bryant the chance to bat the ball away. This happened a couple of times in the game. There were also a host of low throws, high throws, and off-target passes. That said, Stewart kept his composure and completed several clutch passes, including the deep seamer to Shaw. Stew actually averaged over 8 yards per attempt, which is a downright gaudy figure for him. Stew also ran the ball adroitly, using good decisiveness and reading. His best run (19 yards) actually resulted in an ensuing 15-yard flag after-the-whistle, in which Stew was flagged for taunting. For the record, I cannot find any fault of Stewart for this kind of play. Bettis, on occasion, does similar stuff when he jaws at defenders and dances right in their face after a rumbling run. And we've all seen the likes of Favre get up after a key scramble and a big hit, and spout off some typical talk to the defender. All in all, Stewart was spotty on a few occasions, but overall he played fairly well and had a sound, solid effort. On top of that, Stewart took some strides in shedding the Dink and Dump label with some quality downfield completions of 20+ yards. A-.
RB: Like opening day, Bettis had enormous problems running the ball today. The quick Jaguar defense got incredible amounts of penetration, which either caused hits, or severe disruption, in the Stiller backfield. Compounding problems were two things: 1.) Bettis all too often was avoiding his FB lead-block, rather than following it. 2.) The Whaleshit Counter returned its ugly head to the Stiller game plan, as Bettis continually was running slowwwww-developing counters where he tip-toed wide and took a good 3 seconds to finally turn up-field, by which time the Jax defense had already swarmed to the ball and smothered the tubby tailback. Bettis did finally gain some good yardage in the 4Q, when he bounced thru a scrum after cutting up on a toss sweep, and rumbled for 40 yards. Amoz added a nice spark with a couple of quick-hitting runs that allowed him to flash through the line before the Jax defense had a chance to fully react. AZ finished with 6 carries for 39 yards. Fu played a lil' at RB and some at FB. B.
FB: Dan Kreider -- the team's rookie of the year last year -- finally got his first start. The running game was bogged down, but don't throw the blame at Kreider -- see the 2 primary reasons, above. And ignore CBS announcer Solomon Wilcock, who started mumbling later in the game that the Stiller ground game was bogged down because they were missing the lethargic Jon Witman. Kreider had a simply outstanding lead block on Bettis' late TD, which was nullified by the Duffy holding penalty. Fu, playing as a FB, had a crushing blitz pickup on a 3d & 9 play in the 1Q, allowing Stew to hit Shaw for 16 yards. Fu had one carry as a FB, on a 3rd and 2 plunge in the 2Q. This was an awkward looking play, in which I'm not sure if Fu hit the wrong hole or if Stewart botched his assignment on the handoff to Fu. B.
WR: The benchmark was set pretty low, but this was by far the best all-around game from this crew this season. Hines Ward, in his 4th NFL season, finally eclipsed the 100-yard mark, snaring 9 balls for 112 yards and a big TD. Ward mixed in nice catches and good RAC work. Ward also showed great courage by catching a 2nd-qtr. pass in the middle and holding on despite a blistering hit by Donavan Darius. Bobby Shaw also had a stellar day in the passing game, grabbing 4 clutch receptions for a hefty 18.5 YPC. Troy Edwards awoke from his slumber with his best game of the season, grabbing 3 passes for 35 yards. Amazingly enough, Troy failed to drop any passes. And Troy had a crushing pancake block on Ward's TD. Plex Burress was again frozen out of the offense, having just one ball thrown his way the entire game, which he caught for a 13-yard gain. It didn't get on any highlights, but Burress also had a pancake block on Stewart's 19-yard run late in the 2Q, in which he blasted a DB onto the ground. If the WR corps can approach this kind of effectiveness each week, this passing game can excel adequately enough to supplement the ground game. A.
TE: Breuner caught 2 short passes, one of which he rolled off the defender and gained 9 yards. Tuman grabbed one pass for 12 yards, but he also committed a PI penalty on a Stewart throw-away. The blocking was ok but far from dominant. B.
OL: No doubt, the worst this crew has played since opening day. As I said in the RB grade, I won't throw the entire blame of the bogged-down running game on the O-line. The Jags were doing what they, and other AFC central opponents, have done on numerous occasions -- run blitz like hell and shoot every gap possible, including from the backside, where their speed enabled them to trip up the slow-moving Bettis from behind. The more acute problems pertaining to the O-line stemmed from a few plays in which a blocker miserably failed on his assignment. The play right after Tylski's hold (the first one assessed to this unit all year), Wayne Gandy feebly whiffed, allowing the RDE (Brackens) to blow inside him and get the sack. Roger Duffy came in for Tylski late in the game, and 2 plays later committed a thoroughly dumbassed false start on Bettis' TD run, on a play in which all Duffy had to do was fall forward and nudge off a defender on the opposite side of where the ball was being run. The pass protection was pretty solid the entire game, giving Stewart good time and vision. This unit can, and will, play a bit better than this. B.
DL: Another hard-nosed day from this rapidly-emerging group. Smitty had another strong game. Kimo seemed pretty active all day and spent a good big of time in the Jaguar backfield. Clancy bottled up one run with good penetration, and fellow NT Casey Hampton played solidly. We obviously don't need superstar games from this gang --- the production and effectiveness today was more than sufficient for this defense to excel. A.
LB: It does get boring to write about it at times, but it sure is fun as hell to watch. "The Big 3" had yet another day of domination, wreaking havoc on the Jags offense in such dominant form that I half expected Coughlin or Quinn to throw in the white flag long before the final gun. Joey Porter was a manster -- half man, half monster -- continually blowing up plays the entire day. Sweeps, off-tackle, reverses -- Porter snuffed them all. Porter also had an adroit Derrick Thomas-like chop of the ball on his sack of Quinn, giving the Stillers a much needed turnover. Kendrell Bell had just another day at the office�.a day in which he had 2 sacks, including a highlight-reel sack in which he steamrolled the living piss out of Jaguar center Jeff Smith, bowling Smith onto his back, and then Bell vaulted himself at Quinn for the sack. Earl Holmes was all over the field today, punishing Jaguar ballcarriers for a few stuffs in the backfield, and leading all players with 9 solos to go along with 3 assists. Of course, this day was also business-as-usual for the weak-link of the Stiller defense, as Jason Gildon meekly stood around the entire game and did nothing until the game was nearly over. Through the first 59-1/2 minutes, Big Jason had 1 assist and no solos, and then got a meaningless junk sack in the closing minute of a 13-point game. Gildon's biggest 'contribution' of the game, in fact, came when he jumped offsides and contributed 5 yards toward the Jaguar cause. "The Big 3", A+. Gildon, C-.
DB: This crew was lucky that Brunell did not play, but they still faced a vaunted passing attack in Smith and McCardell, as well as Dawkins. For the most part, they limited the Jags to a lot of underneath stuff for short yardage. McCardell had the big 45-yard gain on the game's first series, on a play in which DeWayne slipped in coverage. But DeWayne responded well after that, and had a good bat-away in the 4Q. And after that 45-yard play, the Jaguar receivers were held in check fairly well. Smith did beat Scott twice on the stop-and-go, which caused Chad to take illegal contact penalties. Scott had been really eager in last week's slant-a-thon by the Browns, yet the Browns never once tried the stop-and-go. The Jags did, and Chad bit. The good thing is that Chad had enough game-sense to take the meager 5-yard penalty. Townsend chipped in on the nickel, though he was flagged for a hold. Deshea did have a good flush on a blitz, and followed it up on the next play with a good bat-away of a pass as it was arriving to the WR. Logan also chipped in well, and on one 20-some yard post play, Logan had as tight of coverage as you can legally have. B+.
Spec teams: Despite some pluses, yet another day where the spec teams tried to turn a win into a loss. With all the momnetum in the world and a 13-point lead late in the 3Q, the kickoff team gave up a 95-year TD return. Lenzy Jackson made a poor play near the end of this run, in which Kris had the sideline covered and Joseph was hemmed in along the chalk, but Jackson practically held hands with Kris and allowed Joseph to cut the ball back and dash in for the score. One worthy note -- Deshea Townsend was blatantly held on this return, by a Jaguar blocker who had enough black jersey in his hands to cover the rear end of Joel Steed. Chris Fu committed a blatant block-in-the-back at the Stiller 6-year line on a punt return, but luckily for him the flag was picked up and waived off. Josh had some solid punting, though on one 2Q punt, he booted a low, 5-yard punt that was easily returned for 21 yards. Hank seemed in the groove on punt returns, but the blocking always seemed to allow too much leakage for Hank to slip past for big yardage. Kris Brown looked fully back in the saddle with a 48 and 27 yard FGs. Bottom line -- how soon can someone -- anyone -- run spec teams coach Jay Hayes out of town ?? C.
OC: Mularkey had another plus and minus game. On the plus side, he pushed the ball downfield on the deep crossers to Ward and the deep seam to Shaw. As Stewart and the receivers satisfactorily conduct these kind of plays, so should Mularkey increase their frequency. I also fully enjoyed the partial use of the "no huddle" offense on the drive that began at 2:18 of the 3Q, in which the Stillers looked sharp and crisp while Jax looked confused, befuddled, and unable to get their situation-substitutions into the game. Let this be a good "yep, we can do it" for Mularkey and the offense, and let's see more of it, especially because Stewart looks a lot more comfortable and less wooden when he's put in these kind of situations. On the negative side, it's readily apparent that Mularkey learned absolutely nothing from the Raven loss 2 weeks ago, in which the Stillers -- coming off a timeout -- completed a pass to Shaw at the 17 and promptly spiked the ball instead of running 2 previously "called plays" in succession. Today, Stewart ran OOB for the 19-yard gain, but then was flagged for taunting. After the flag was thrown, the ref crew took a good 2 minutes to huddle around and debate the penalty, and then debate the placement of the ball. So what did the Stiller offense do during this free "timeout" ? Obviously, nothing, except conduct a thorough pudd-pull. When play finally resumed, Stewart hit Shaw on a deep curl for at first down at the Jax 16. The Stillers then called their final timeout at 0:28 while I punched a hole through an interior wall of my apartment. With the lengthy dickdance the refs were doing in discussing the merit and spot of the Stewart taunting flag, there is no reason whatsoever that Stewart couldn't have strolled to the sideline, chatted with Clements and Cowher, munched down most of a Primanti's sandwich, and then called TWO plays in the huddle. And after this boneheaded TO, the Mularkey offense came out and hit Ward on a 6-yard curl, followed by a chickenshit spike at 0:10. Again, just as in the Ravens game, this is a team coming out of a full timeout, yet the best they can do is a 6-yard curl and a spike. If you're not gonna take a stab at the end zone, why the #%& not run another play in rapid succession after the 6-yard curl?? Simply pitiful. And the reintroduction of the slow-developing Whaleshit Counter -- and the insistence on running it time and time again after it got engulfed the first 9 times it was run -- was downright idiocy at its worst. So, too, was freezing Burress out of the offense. C-.
DC: With the good fortunes that he had going into the opening kickoff of this game, Lewis probably should have dashed out and bought some PA lottery tickets. Not only was he facing the 26th ranked rushing offense, but star RB Fred Taylor did not dress. And not only was he facing an offense missing its dominant LT, Boselli, but then QB Brunell was replaced in the starting lineup shortly before gametime by Jon Quinn. The defense looked pretty well prepared, and unlike week 1, Lewis hounded the QB with a good deal of blitzes and harassment. A.
HC: Another game that was played exactly in-line with the Cowher script -- "keep the game close and hope to win in the 4th quarter". Frankly, with the way the Faguars were decimated by injury, and playing at home in Heinz Field, this was a game in which the Stillers should have poured it on and embarrassed the Jags. Instead, due to Billy Ball, the team slopped and slathered around for about 56 minutes until finally putting the game away on a solid late-game drive. Field Goal Bill's Billy Ball turtling tactics at the end of the half were entirely identical to the late-game fiasco against Baltimore 2 weeks ago, and it's shameful -- but not surprising, given Cowher's stubbornness and lack of any offense intelligence -- that the team did not learn a single iota of a lesson from that debacle. It all starts at the top, and if Cowher wasn't convinced of how blatantly the 2-minute offense has screwed up, then no one else on the team can be, either. B-.
Synopsis: For the most part, the basic building blocks of tackling and hitting and blocking were evident today. Added to the basics was catching, which the Stiller passcatchers did with remarkable aplomb today. The disturbing thing is the lack of killer instinct, which once again allowed an out-played opponent to hang in there and be within 1 score of taking the lead in the 4th qtr. And special teams continue to bite this team in the ass. But, nonetheless, this team sits atop the Central with a 7-2 record, and combined with Balt's loss today, the Stillers are in the catbird's seat with 6 games remaining, 3 of which are at home. Next week, the Stillers travel to Tennessee, a state that has never been too kind to them since the Oilers moved out of Houston.