Stillers 24, Jax 13 ��. Oct. 1, 2000 Game #4
Stillers-Jags Post Game Analysis & Grades:
The streak is over. Actually 2 hideous streaks are over. The Stillers finally ended their 0-fer-2000 slide, while also ending a 5-year streak of futility down in Jacksonville, in a win that was a bit more lopsided than the final score indicates. The Stillers dominated Jax in the trenches on both offense and defense, and survived the usual (and unusual -- see Plex Burress) malady of botched plays to hold on for victory against the hated Faguars.
1. Defense's big stand after blocked punt, holding Jax to a FG instead of giving up what had been routine TDs the past 3 weeks.
2. Coughlin's acceptance of a holding penalty, giving the Stillers another shot on 3rd down, rather than forcing to Stillers to surely kick a FG on 4th down. No way would Cowher have, in 78 years, gone for the 1st down on 4th down. Fu then got the needed yardage on the 3rd down, setting up a huge Bettis TD run.
3. Porter and Holmes stop Brunell short of sticks on 4th quarter, 4th-down rollout, snuffing Jax's last gasp at a comeback.
QB: The Western Union Man had what's been a pretty typical day for him -- 10-16 for 132 yards. To his credit, he limited foolhardy throws and mistakes. In fact, on the stat sheet both turnovers are attributed to him, but the INT was Burress' fault for juggling a decently-thrown pass, and the Stewart fumble was the case of a DT shooting in and hitting the QB before the handoff could be made to the RB. Stewart ran exceptionally well, and showed little of the tentativeness that has often plagued him. Both his fade-pass to Plex in the EZ, as well as his deep bomb to Plex, were poor throws, but all in all Stewart played Gilbride's Dink and Dump pretty well. B.
RB: Bettis ran hard and tough, gaining 97 yards on 28 usually-punishing carries, as well as 2 TDs. Fu chipped in superbly, rushing for 51 yards on only 7 rushes, and catching 2 screens for 39 yards. Both of these battering rams pretty much wore down the will of Jax as the game went on. A+.
FB: Witman had a fairly solid game (despite sitting often due to many 1-back sets), delivering some ok blocks on occasion. He caught 1 ball for 5 yards. B.
WR: A real mixed bag from this crew. Burress had a couple nice grabs, including one on a stop timing-pattern on a low throw. He also threw many solid blocks on running plays, including a crunching blow on Stewart's 34-yard jaunt. But he committed another false start, which is allowing him to close in on the NFL record for false starts by a WR. Worse, on a 3rd down reception in the 4th quarter, deep in Jax territory, Burress fell to the ground, untouched, and then proudly got up and spiked the ball in triumph. Problem was, he was never down, and the ball was still live. Jax returned this dumbassed fumble 44-yards, and had the defense not stood tall, the entire game could have swung over to Jax. Troy had only 1 grab, but he had a superb RAC on it. After catching a short 6-yard hitch (the staple of the Gilbride offense), Troy shook off the tackler, and ran strongly for a 20-yard gain. Troy also blocked hard on many good running plays. But Troy was also flagged for holding in the 2nd half. Ward was smothered all day, and benefited from a lucky deflected pass off the hands of Geason, which landed in Ward's hands for a bizarre 15-yard gain. Shaw played only on 3rd downs or obvious passing situations, and had no catches (I don't think he even had any balls thrown to him.) C-.
TE: Breuner caught the obligatory 5-yard dump, and was immediately blasted by the DE dropping off in pass coverage. Breuner received a slight concussion and did not return. Geason had his one pass bounce off his hands. Geason and Tuman got loads of PT, due to a large use of 1-back, 2 TE sets, and blocked well. B.
OL: The line picked up right where it left off the past 2 weeks -- blocking well in both running plays and pass protection. Bettis and Fu reaped the benefits of some massive holes being opened by the O-line. Stewart, other than some all-out blitzes, was usually given adequate time to throw the ball. Dawson had a strong game, despite the hamstring problem. Pourdanesh was flagged for holding and a false start, but provided superb pass protection and very solid run blocking, including a strong block that paved the way for the Fu touchdown run. Gandy continued his strong play that has been evident week in and week out every game this season. Faneca played ok, though he performed his weekly "Lookout" block, allowing a DT to dash in so quickly, that the DT hit Stewart before the ball could be handed off to the RB, causing the fumble & turnover. Two illegal chop blocks were called on the Stillers (both on RT Shar), but this appeared to be the fault of a RB hitting a D-lineman while he was engaged with Shar. When you rush for over 200 yards and give up only 2 sacks --- 1 on a jailhouse blitz -- the OL deserves applause for a job well done. This could have possibly been a higher grade, but considering Marts didn't suit up, and Nickerson left the game in the 2nd quarter, the relative quality of the Jax defense was a bit wanting. The Polish Army in '39 offered more resistance than the Jags' defense did in this game. A-.
DL: The line did what it needed to do -- dominate an inferior line and set the tone for the defense. Aaron Smith came out of nowhere, and had a stellar game, including some nice speed to chase down Brunell for a sack. Henry and Sullie provided some solid run-stuffing and pocket push. Kimo may has well been given a Jax jersey with a RB jersey number, since he spent half the day in the Jaguar backfield. He continually whipped Jags' center Smith. On one 3-yard Taylor loss, Kimo blasted Smith onto his ass, and then bolted in and dropped Taylor for the loss. Kimo also provided good harassment of Brunell, including a near-sack on the 4th quarter play in which Brunell fumbled. A-.
LB: The LB crew had a very strong game, stuffing Taylor and providing some heat on Brunell. Holmes led the way, stuffing Taylor; shutting down Brunell on the 4th down run; and sacking Brunell and essentially causing Brunell to fumble on the play. Kirkland had a couple crisp tackles and helped stuff the run near the goal line. Gildon chipped in 2 sacks, one a coverage sack and one an earned sack that snuffed a Jaguar drive. Porter helped snuff the Jag goal-line threat after the blocked punt, hurrying Brunell into a poor throw on 3rd & goal. Porter also came from pass coverage to run Brunell out of bounds for a loss, which then was ruled a sack, and Porter teamed with Holmes to shut off Brunell on the late 4th-down rollout. Credit Porter with fighting tooth & nail against Tony Boselli. Vrabel subbed at both OLB spots and provided some good pass rushing. A.
DB: DeWayne helped lead the way in shutting down the vaunted Jaguar passing attack. Deep or short, he had good, sound coverage on Smith the entire game. Scott played fairly decent. Townsend, except for a missed tackle, had a very strong game, providing good run support and good coverage. Flowers also had a strong game. He was beaten deep once, but the pass was overthrown. Otherwise, Flowers provided exceptionally strong run support and played pass defense adequately. Even Alex helped bust up a pass. Most of the 7 sacks were coverage sacks, and the DBs deserve credit for clamping down on a quality passing offense. A.
Spec Teams: Another spotty day of blundering by the spec teams. On the game's first punt, John Fiala totally blew his blocking assignment, allowing a man to come in up the gut totally untouched for the punt block. Fiala continued his miserable afternoon, committing a hold on an extra point attempt, as well as failing badly in kickoff coverage on the long Stith return. Chad Scott committed huge penalties on spec teams. One was a foolish delay of game penalty on a Jax punt, in which Chad was trying to draw a cover-man offsides. The other was a poor call by the referee, on a block to the back of a Jaguar who was falling away from the runner anyways and was in no position to make the tackle. This negated a long, spectacular punt return by Poteat, who also had a good kickoff return to start the 2nd half. Kris unbelievably kicked the opening kickoff woefully out-of-bounds. Other than the 2 good Poteat returns, the special teams were pitiful. D+.
Off Coord: Gilbride used his Dink & Dump Offense exclusively today, rarely ever ordering a pass further than 8 yards downfield. He went with a large amount of 1-back, 2 TE sets, which gave the offense a little spread and a lot of hats to put on Jax defenders. Although the Fu screen pass after the bizarre Coughlin acceptance of the penalty ended up netting a first down, I still despise using a screen pass that close to the GL, with such little room. I also despised the shotgun draw to Fu on 3rd & 7 at the Jax 10 in the 2nd quarter, which got just over 5 yards and a typical settling for a FG. I will give credit to Gaypride for using Stewart's running skills, rather than keeping Kordell entrenched in the pocket. The fact that Gilbride, despite all his work with garbage cans and despite having 2 of the tallest receivers in the entire NFL, cannot get a QB to throw a simple fade route with any sort of mediocre touch, accuracy, and placement, is despicable. So is the failure to adequately teach RBs about the NFL rules concerning chop blocks, which we lead the NFL in getting flagged for. B-.
Def Coord: Lewis improved a good bit from the first 3 weeks of vanilla vomit that he's been throwing into his gameplans. He sent some heat and bodies after Brunell, including the Townsend blitz that dropped Brunell in the 1st quarter. He also used Porter, for most of the game, to do what he does best -- run like hell after the QB. It was a big relief that no hideous "communication problems" occurred in the secondary, which had been killing the defense in all 3 losses. B.
Head Coach: Billy Cowher has to be relieved to finally beat a nemesis like Coughlin. Cowher seemed to have his boys fired up, and his defense really turned up the heat after spending the first 3 weeks doing little else except watching offense run up & down the field. B.
If only. If only this team hadn't gone into opening day less prepared than America was for Pearl Harbor. If only the team knew how to manage the clock and run a 2-minute drill with at least the competency of a high school football team. This team, after today's win, could easily be sitting at 3-1 and elbow-to-elbow with the division leaders. There were some positives signs of hope from today's win. At the same time, glaring concerns -- slovenly special teams, continual dumbheaded mental mistakes, an offense that plays turtle in the red zone -- remain, and they appear unlikely to be rectified anytime soon. Let's hope the team can capitalize in the energy created from this win, and travel to NY with vigor and intensity.
The Still Mill