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Rapid Recap- Jaguars knock off Steelers in Divisional Playoff win

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Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The playoff rematch between the Jaguars and the Steelers lived up to hype and then some.

And in the end, the Jaguars were clearly the better team for a second straight meeting on the road, in a 45-42 wild win.

The Jaguars established right away, that they were not intimidated, and they were willing to throw hay-makers at the home standing “Men of Steel.”

Taking the opening kickoff and driving 64 yards in eight plays, the Jags elected to go for a 4th and goal from the two and RB Leonard Fournette took to the air:

That one play ignited a tremendous first half that saw Jacksonville lead by 21 points on two different occasions. After intercepting Ben Roethlisberger for the sixth time in just five quarters dating back to the regular season match-up, Fournette took the next play in from 18 yards out and a two score lead.

The Jacksonville defense came up large, again, with CB Jalen Ramsey stopping RB LeVeon Bell on a 4th and one at Jaguars 21 yard line to end their drive. And back on offense, QB Blake Bortles led another long 75 yard drive that bled into the second quarter and then when back up RB T.J. Yeldon got the ball…

The Steelers crowd was stunned, as they should have been, down by three touchdowns.

Bortles continued to play steadily throughout the game finishing with 14-26 for 214 yards and a TD. He also rushed for 35 yards.

Back to the first half and after a Roethlisberger to WR Antonio Brown 23 yard touchdown pass cut the lead to 21-7, the Jaguars defense struck another big blow:

Jacksonville’s Telvin Smith, just like he did with a pick six in the October meeting, picked up the fumble and took it 50 yards to the house for the second 21 point lead at the half.

You wouldn’t expect the Steelers to simply roll over, certainly not with Roethlisberger, Brown and Bell looking to get back in the game.

And, they showed that fight when Roethlisberger floated this one for Bell out of the backfield in the third quarter to bring the Steelers within one score…

Roethlisberger finished with a playoff career high 469 yards and 5 TD passes.

However, the story of the day was the Jaguars maturation almost in front of our eyes, and they would not be denied offensively. Bortles led two more scoring drives of 61 yards, including a long throw to WR Keelan Cole setting up Fournette’s third TD run of the day from three yards out. Then the second scoring drive culminated with Bortles floating this ball in the air for this score:

Tommy Bohanon’s 14 yard TD stretched the lead back to 42-28 for Jacksonville.

Fournette, who limped to the sideline and the locker room to have his ankle checked, did return in the second half and finished with 25 carries 109 yards and 3 TDs.

Meanwhile, Roethlisberger didn’t blink, leading a 75 yard TD drive of his own and then, made this heads up play by throwing the backwards pass to Bell who took it in to trim the high scoring game to 42-35.

However, the Steelers botched the onside kick, that hit their own player first and the Jags recovered with 2:17 remaining.

Jacksonville forced Pittsburgh to use their remaining timeouts, as they moved into field goal range and kicker Josh Lambo iced the game with a 45 yard field goal and a 45-35 lead.

Roethlisberger threw his final TD of the day with :01 left, but it was not enough.

The win puts the Jaguars in the AFC Championship Game for the third time in franchise history, and the first time since the 1999 season.

They will play at Foxboro against the Patriots in two weeks for the right to go to Super Bowl LII.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars DE Yannick Ngakoue hinting he’s gone again?

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

One of the key free-agent questions for the Jaguars continues to be whether or not they’re going to allow their best pass rusher, Yannick Ngakoue, to test the free-agent market coming up? And, once again, the player may be giving a clue that he’s going to do just that.

Ngakoue tweeted Wednesday morning the following phrase, which seems to indicate, yet again, that he will be playing somewhere else in 2020:

This goes along with something that we wrote earlier in January. That’s when just a couple of days after the season Ngakoue posted essentially a goodbye message to Jaguar fans. This came on the heels of him having held out for a new contract for the first few days of training camp last August, but not receiving a new deal during the season, etc.

Ngakoue, whose 37.5 career sacks are the most by a Jaguars player after 63 career games, is sure to be a sought-after player from many different teams. GM Dave Caldwell said at the end of the season when asked about re-sgning his star pass rusher, “He is a tremendous player and even a better person. How he handled his business this year was tremendous. But, I would say that’s priority No. 1, to make sure he comes back to Jacksonville. Hopefully, we can get that done. ″

It’s also worth noting that at Tuesday’s NFL Scouting Combine at media availability in Indianapolis, coach Doug Marrone repeated that he wants Ngakoue to remain in Jaguars teal and white:

However, it remains to be seen if Marrone and Caldwell are willing to “pony up” huge money for him or even potentially,  put the franchise tag on him before free agency begins next month?

Ngakoue figures to want a contract close to what the top ends are getting paid right now. Demarcus Lawrence and Frank Clark both signed five-year, over $100 million deals in 2019 and received guaranteed money that exceeded $62 million. That is massive for Jacksonville.

If the Jags opt for the “franchise tag,” then the talented end will be making around $19 million dollars, which is the current average of the top five players at his position. The Jaguars could also put the tag on him and then work on a longer term, salary cap friendly, deal that would replace the tag later in the off season.

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Jaguars confirm they are declining option on DT Dareus

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Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

At Tuesday’s media session at the NFL Scouting Combine, Jaguars GM Dave Caldwell made official what had been rumored for the last couple of days regarding defensive tackle Marcell Dareus: he will not be brought back for a fourth season in Jacksonville.

Caldwell was a specifically asked about Dareus’ status and gave a quick answer is part of his Q&A session:

Dareus only played briefly in 2019, as he suffered a core muscle injury that sidelined him after only six games and he was placed on injured reserve. The former number one pick of the Buffalo Bills had played for coach Doug Marrone for a couple of seasons in Western New York.

Marrone and Caldwell traded for Dareus during the 2017 season and he helped them with their rise to the AFC South title and two playoff wins. This included Darius registering two sacks and four other tackles-for-loss in the Jaguars three playoff games that year.

Dareus made the Pro Bowl twice in Buffalo in 2013-14.

However, he has not lived up to his hefty contract that was reworked Jacksonville last February. Last season, Dareus made over $8 million dollars and the team would have been on the hook for $20 million this year had they picked up the option. That obviously wasn’t going to happen.

Dareus also has had legal troubles off the field, including a civil suit against him in Tampa for alleged sexual misconduct. As we wrote previously, a woman alleged that Dareus had sexually assaulted her in January of 2018 at a North Tampa Florida home, while Dareus was in town for the Alabama-Clemson College Football Playoff Championship Game.

However, that suit filed in Hillsborough County court was “dismissed with prejudice” last April, which means it cannot be re-filed.

Dareus, if healthy after the core muscle injury rehab, may have some value as a defensive tackle on the free agent market.

As for the Jaguars, they have former #1 pick defensive tackle Taven Bryan to play more in the middle and are trying to decide if free agent-to-be, DE Yannick Ngakoue, can be afforded for their 2020 salary cap?

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