Saturday, December 15, 2007

Odds & Ends: Pre-Game Edition

As the Steelers prepare to host the Jacksonville Jaguars here are some random items for your consideration:

Looking Forward by Looking Back
In week two of the 2006 season the Steelers travelled to Jacksonville for a Monday night matchup with the Jags, losing 9-0. At the time the game represented the lowest scoring Monday night game ever -- until the Steelers beat the Dolphins 3-0 earlier this season. How dominant was the Jags defense? Willie Parker was limited to 20 yards of rushing on 11 carries, and the Steelers had no rushing first downs. And lest anyone think that it was only the running game that performed horribly, Ben Roethlisberger, playing in his first game since emergency appendectomy two weeks before, achieved a 38.7 quarterback rating that night, and Hines Ward had no receptions.

How bad was it? Jacksonville possessed the football for nearly fifteen minutes longer than the Steelers (37:25 v. 22:35) as they ran twenty-two more offensive plays (70 v. 48) than did the Steelers.

Coincidentally, in their defeat of Carolina last week the Jaguars offense ran off 75 plays, their highest total of the season so far, and possessed the ball for 38:58, also their best performance in that category of the season-to-date (though it should be noted that they have had a time of possession total of thirty-four minutes or more in six games this season -- their record in those games is 5-1, with the only loss coming against Indianapolis on December 2nd).

The Marcus Stroud Factor
Much is being made of the Pro Bowl defensive end being placed on injured reserve; and while we do not know Jack Del Rio, it's probably safe to say that he would rather have him playing than not. However, if any Steelers fans believe that Mr. Stroud's absence is a just the "advantage" that the team needs remember this: In the game last season Marcus Stround had one tackle, and zero sacks. The big playmakers in that game were middle linebacker Mike Peterson (2 tackles, 5 assists), Donovan Darius (3 tackles, 3 assists -- what a difference a year makes), middle linebacker Daryl Smith (yes, two middle linebackers -- 4 tackles, 1 assist), and the biggest of them all -- left cornerback Rashean Mathis who had three tackles, one assist, and two interceptions. That's the same Rashean Mathis who in week six off the 2005 season intercepted a Tommy Maddox pass in overtime and returned it for a touchdown.

Coming into this week's game Mike Peterson is the Jaguars' leading tackler, however Mr. Mathis has only one interception. Instead, free safety Reggie Nelson and strong safety Sammy Knight are tied for the team lead in picks with four each. In addition to his four picks Mr. Knight is number two in tackles for the Jaguars' defense.

Rushing Defense
In the first game of the 2007 Jacksonville's defense yielded a mind-boggling 282 yards rushing to Tennessee. Since that game the Jaguars have given up 928 yards of rushing (77.33 yards per game), and have not allowed a team to rush for 100 yards since their November 4th loss to New Orleans.

The Jack Del Rio Factor
Jack Del Rio has a 17-20 record as head coach in road games; and his record when trailing at the end of the first quarter is 8-21. Additionally, his coaching record in games in which the turnover margin was either even or in his opponent's favor (i.e. the Jaguars committed more turnovers) is 13-29. Conversely, when the Jags lead at the end of the first quarter their record (under Mr. Del Rio) is 24-3 (and, under Mr. Del Rio, the team is 29-5 when they score first). And when Jacksonville wins the turnover battle they have a record of 30-4.

From the "who'd have thunk it?" file, Mr. Del Rio's Jags are 15-15 when they win the coin toss, and 28-18 when they lose the toss.

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