|Garrard bounces back after 2 costly mistakes, leads Jaguars to victory|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 05 January 2008 18:57|
Garrard looked as if he was about to have his worst game of the season at the worst possible time for Jacksonville.
Garrard threw two second-half interceptions - the first time he's thrown two in a game this season - and helped the Pittsburgh Steelers overcome an 18-point deficit in their AFC wild-card playoff game Saturday night.
But Garrard scrambled for 32 yards on a fourth-and-2 play at the 43, setting up Josh Scobee's 25-yard field goal with 37 seconds remaining that gave the Jaguars a 31-29 victory and their first postseason victory since 1999.
Garrard's run proved to be the turning point.
Making his first postseason start, Garrard was 9-of-21 passing for 140 yards and a touchdown. And thanks to the one big run, he was the team's leading rusher with 58 yards on five carries.
But his two interceptions almost sent the Jaguars home with their third consecutive loss in the playoffs.
Garrard had been so poised and polished all season. He ranked second in the NFL in passer rating while making few mistakes in his first full season as a starter.
Everyone told him how different things would be in the playoffs. He found out in the second half.
The Steelers stacked the line of scrimmage, vowing to take away Fred Taylor and the running game that burned them for 224 yards in their meeting three weeks ago, and forcing Garrard to beat them.
Garrard was fine in the first half, completing four of eight passes for 74 yards and a touchdown. He threw a perfect wheel route to Maurice Jones-Drew for a 43-yard touchdown and played most of the game with a lead thanks to big plays from Jacksonville's defense and special teams.
Rashean Mathis returned the first of three first-half interceptions 63 yards for a touchdown, Jones-Drew returned a kickoff 96 yards to set up a score and the Jaguars led 28-10 to start the fourth quarter.
Then came the near-collapse.
It started with two missed tackles on a fourth-down play and then really got going with Garrard's second interception.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, taking short drops and making quick throws, hooked up with Santonio Holmes for a 37-yard play on fourth down that made it 28-17. Mathis and fellow cornerback Terry Cousin missed tackles on the play.
Garrard couldn't get anything going on the ensuing drive. He misfired on two throws, then got sacked on third down.
Roethlisberger drove the Steelers down the field for another touchdown, this one a 14-yard strike to Heath Miller that made it 28-23.
Two plays later, Garrard badly overthrew tight end Marcedes Lewis near midfield. Ike Taylor was waiting for the ball and then weaved his way to the 16-yard line.
Pittsburgh went ahead on Najeh Davenport's 1-yard run, but decided to go for the 2-point conversion. It failed, and then Garrard went to work.
He completed two short passes to get the Jaguars in fourth-and-2, then dropped back to throw on what could have been the team's final shot.
He juked Tyrone Carter several yards down the field and ended up with the team's second-longest play of the game.
It was just enough - for him to erase his mistakes and the Jaguars to elude a loss.