Jags dismantle Steelers, return to cusp of greatness

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- For a week leading into Monday night's game, the Jacksonville Jaguars incessantly repeated one mantra: Bully the bullies.

The Jaguars bullied a rusty Ben Roethlisberger all night to limit the Steelers to 153 total yards.

And so it was only fitting, following his team's 9-0 dismantling of the Pittsburgh Steelers -- yeah, a nine-point win, in this case, qualified as total domination -- that Jacksonville middle linebacker Mike Peterson proclaimed the Jags defensive players as the new tough guys on the NFL block.

Well, kind of.

"Hey, there's some new bullies in town," crowed Peterson as he ran through the stadium tunnel following Jacksonville's victory over the defending Super Bowl champions, and second straight win over a playoff-caliber opponent. "Write it down, man, we are the new bullies."

A few minutes later, in a home locker room surprisingly subdued considering the significance of what the Jags wrought in limiting Pittsburgh to just 153 yards and rendering the Steelers scoreless for the first time since December 2003, Peterson stepped back a little.

And maybe with good reason.

This is a franchise whose history indicates it doesn't always handle prosperity well. Only two years ago, for instance, the Jaguars all but secured a playoff berth with an upset victory at Green Bay, then returned home the next week and were shut out by the lowly Houston Texans. There have been a lot of occasions in which Jacksonville appeared close enough to the top of the hump to see over to the other side, and then slipped back with an inexplicable loss.

But there is some evidence to suggest that these Jaguars, who travel to Indianapolis next Sunday, where they typically play the Colts tough in the RCA Dome, are perhaps beyond such past regressions. The Jags opened the season by overcoming a 10-point deficit to defeat the Dallas Cowboys, then stood toe-to-toe with the Steelers and simply out-hit them in every facet of the game.

"Next up is Indianapolis and, traditionally, that's been our biggest hurdle," said defensive tackle Marcus Stroud, who helped limit the Steelers to a paltry 26 yards rushing, the lowest total of the Bill Cowher Era. "But I think we've built such good momentum, winning two games against such good teams right out of the chute, that we'll go there with a ton of confidence. It's a little bit different mindset in this room. For the young guys on this team, this is big, believe me. But we've got to be smart. As big as these wins have been, they're still only two wins. It's a long season."

"Standing on the sideline, watching our defense go at them, it was like watching a heavyweight fight. I mean, how could you not get excited, really? Our guys just whipped them. Whipped them bad. Those guys on defense, they were playing for real, man." -- Jaguars tailback Fred TaylorJacksonville, which won 12 games in 2005 but was demolished at New England in a wild-card game, could make it a very long season, indeed, if it plays with the kind of overpowering dimension it displayed Monday night. In the lowest-scoring game in Monday Night Football's history, the Jaguars managed just three Josh Scobee field goals (31, 32 and 42 yards). Yet despite not sealing the deal until Scobee knocked home the last of his three-pointers, with just 4:26 left to play, the Jaguars were in control throughout.

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