There has rightfully been a lot of attention paid to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ run defense, not just this week, but on the season, after having allowed two teams to rush for over 200 yards on them, both in their two losses on the season.
One of the topics that has been brought up is the fact that the Jaguars’ rushing statistics at the end of the game were heavily distorted by a 90-yard run by Leonard Fournette that came late in the game while the result was pretty much already in hand.
No doubt that run heavily distorted the rushing numbers on paper. That is just undeniable. Prior to that run, the Jaguars gained ‘just’ 141 rushing yards, but they did it on 36 carries, and they were averaging about 3.9 yards per carry. That’s still not far from terrible, but it’s a big difference in comparison to the 6.2-yard average they ended up with. It was carries 23 through 34, however, that really did the damage and helped seal the game.
Late in the fourth quarter, the Steelers were looking to drive, down 11 points. They were able to get to about midfield before they were stopped, taking a sack on third and long. But they, at least, flipped the field, and were able to pin the Jaguars deep at their own four-yard line.
So, sure, they were down 11 points. That’s not good. But after a punt opening the fourth quarter, they had 14:50 left to play in a two-possession game, and had just pinned their opponent deep in their own end. It could have been a lot worse. And they held Fournette tot just one yard on first down.
But then he ran off left guard for 13 yards. And on the next play, he pounded it up the middle for 11 yards. And just like that, two minutes were off the clock and they were at their own 29-yard line with some space to breathe.
One would think that the defense could have regathered themselves, and it looked like perhaps they had. They gave up just a yard on first down, though another six on second down. But it was third and three, and the Jaguars were going to run the ball. You have to make the stop against the run on third and three with your offense needing the ball back.
They didn’t, of course, and Chris Ivory checked in for the three-yard gain off left tackle and a new set of downs. That was the only third-down play they would have to face outside of field-goal territory. Two of the next three runs went for 12 and then 19 yards, putting the ball on the Steelers’ 28-yard line.
The defense after that ultimately gained a yard, and it ended up being fourth and 11, but the Jaguars connected on a 47-yard field goal, making it a 14-point lead. But even more damaging was the eight minutes that the drive consumed because they, at the worst possible time in the game, could not stop the run.