31 - 29 Final
  for this game

Garrard, Jaguars hold off Steelers in wild fourth quarter

Jan 8, 2008 - 8:09 PM
PITTSBURGH (Ticker) -- One of the league's most efficient passers, David Garrard saved the Jacksonville Jaguars' season with his legs.

Garrard set up Josh Scobee's go-ahead, 25-yard field goal with a clutch fourth-down run as the Jaguars held off a frantic comeback by the Pittsburgh Steelers for a 31-29 victory in their AFC wild card matchup on Saturday.

Jacksonville next will face either New England on January 12 or Indianapolis a day later in the divisional round.

"We stood together, everybody played their hearts out, played their butts off, and we get to move on," Garrard said.

After the game, Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio was focused on this win.

"A lot of smiles in that locker room," Del Rio said. "Guys are excited. Obviously, we played a great team. We talked at halftime about the need to come out and play good football. We knew Pittsburgh wasn't going to die easy, that they had the heart of a champion.

"They came back on us. We made some mistakes, but they did some things to get back in it as well. At the end, we had the winning plays. That's what it takes in this league, in this playoff tournament."

Maurice Jones-Drew scored two touchdowns - one receiving and one rushing - for Jacksonville, which squandered an 18-point, second-half lead and then rallied for the victory in the waning seconds.

"It was a lot of teamwork," Jones-Drew said. "We played a great team. We wound up getting a win."

The model of efficiency in his first full season under center, Garrard completed 64 percent of his passes with 18 TDs and just three interceptions this campaign.

But in this one, he instead used his elusiveness with his team's season on the line. Garrard scrambled on a do-or-die 4th-and-2, ripping off a 32-yard run down to the Steelers 11 - shaking several defenders in Pittsburgh's secondary with the clock running under two minutes.

"It was kind of getting a little hectic," Jones-Drew said. "Then, David made that great move at the end."

Garrard, who was just 9-of-21 with one TD and two interceptions, admitted he had to put the poor play behind him when it mattered most.

"You have to forget interceptions - a short memory when those things happen," Garrard said. "I said all year, they are part of the game. They made a great job catching (the interceptions) and I made some poor throws."

Jacksonville then milked the clock down to 40 seconds - even taking a delay-of-game penalty - setting up Scobee's kick with 37 ticks left to make it 31-29.

"Fortunately, we were able to get down there and put us in position for a short field goal for the win," Scobee said. "Unfortunately, they were able to come back on us. David and the offense put us in that position to win."

Pittsburgh had one more chance to drive down for the winning score, but quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was sacked by defensive end Bobby McCray, forcing a fumble with 20 seconds left and securing the win.

"On the final play, it was something we worked on all week. We felt good about Ben running for (the first down)," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "We actually had the look and we didn't execute it. Good job by them."

The Steelers put forth a gutsy effort despite a myriad of injuries, including those to running back Willie Parker (broken leg) and defensive end Aaron Smith (biceps). Pittsburgh also relied on its third-string left offensive tackle.

It also was the second trip into Pittsburgh for Jacksonville, which grinded out a 29-22 victory on December 16 - a cold, snowy afternoon in a town known for its fierce winter weather.

That weather, combined with the Steelers' identity as a defensive-mind club which relies on a perennially strong running game, has provided Pittsburgh with a distinct advantage in the postseason over the years.

But on Saturday, the Steelers faced off with the tough-minded Jaguars, who possess similar traits. Jacksonville relies on the dual running threat of Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor.

In the first half, the Jaguars flexed their muscle and nearly ran away with the game, taking a 21-7 lead at halftime. But they could not close it out easily in the second half.

Trailing, 28-10, entering the fourth quarter, the Steelers began a frantic comeback, scoring 19 unanswered points to take a 29-28 lead on Najeh Davenport's second TD run of the game with 6:21 left. The two-point conversion failed.

It was the second straight missed two-point try for Pittsburgh, which attempted its first after Heath Miller's 14-yard TD catch cut the deficit to 28-23 with 10:25 left.

Tomlin's decision not to kick those two extra points was questioned after the game.

"If I had a crystal ball and I knew we were going to lose by two, I probably would have kicked the extra point," the coach said.

The Steelers' comeback started with a 37-yard catch and run by Santonio Holmes to make it 28-17.

Prior to that, it had been all Jacksonville, which physically dominated Pittsburgh on both sides of the ball for the first three quarters.

The Jaguars rode the backfield tandem of Jones-Drew and Taylor, who combined for three of their team's first four TDs. Jones-Drew ran for a score and caught a TD pass in the first half.

The duo made its presence felt early for the Jaguars, who allowed an opponent to score a touchdown after the opening kickoff for the first time this season.

Davenport opened the scoring for the Steelers with a one-yard TD run with 10:03 left in the first quarter.

Jones-Drew responded by taking the ensuing kick 96 yards to the Pittsburgh 1-yard line. Taylor plunged in for the tying score to make it 7-7 with 9:39 left in the opening period.

The Jaguars got another big play in the second quarter from cornerback Rashean Mathis, who jumped Holmes' route, intercepted Roethlisberger's pass and returned it 63 yards to make it 14-7 with 11:09 remaining.

Roethlisberger threw for 337 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions for the Steelers.

"I don't know what changed in the second half," Roethlisberger said. "They did a lot of good things. They rushed four, and when they did, we burned them for a touchdown. In the second half, we started going no-huddle, started calling the plays. We went down the field. We just tried to get out of the hole I dug."