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Post #1 - 06.11.2018 08:25

The Jacksonville Jaguars heard the chatter [url=www.coltscheapshop.com" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://www.coltscheapshop.com]Colts Cheap Jerseys[/url] , read the tweets and Instagram posts. And they got a little confused.

Why were the Pittsburgh Steelers talking about the New England Patriots? Didn’t they have to face the Jaguars first before reaching a rematch with the Super Bowl champions?

”I don’t know if they misread the schedule or didn’t play us this week, but they didn’t acknowledge us at all,” Jacksonville linebacker Myles Jack said. ”And we didn’t take that too kindly.”

Not at all. That shouldn’t be a problem going forward.

The Jaguars, yes the Jaguars, have the NFL’s full attention now. A trip to Foxborough on the horizon, too.

Dominant at the start and resilient at the finish, Jacksonville stunned the Steelers 45-42 on Sunday to advance to the AFC title game for the third time in franchise history and maybe, finally, earn a bit of respect.

Leonard Fournette ran for 109 yards and three scores . Embattled quarterback Blake Bortles added 214 yards passing and a pivotal fourth-quarter touchdown as the third-seeded Jaguars (12-6) beat the second-seeded Steelers (13-4) at Heinz Field for the second time in three months.

The victory in October served notice Jacksonville was ready to put a decade of losing firmly behind. This one sent an even bigger message: overlook the Jaguars at your own peril, something Pittsburgh appeared to do in the run-up. Coach Mike Tomlin hinted at facing the Patriots twice back in December. Running back Le’Veon Bell posted on Twitter about the pair of “round 2s” the Steelers will face in coming weeks.

Turns out, one rematch is all the Steelers will get.

”We knew we had this team’s number,” Jacksonville safety Barry Church said. ”All we did was feed on the fuel that everybody was providing, the media, everybody was talking about how they’re going to run through us, it’s not going to be like last (time). Blake Bortles this. Blake Bortles that. all he did was dominate their defense.”

A week removed from an ugly performance in a wild-card round win over Buffalo in which he passed for 87 yards and struggled with the easiest of throws, Bortles went 14 of 26 for a touchdown without an interception. He ran for 35 more and wasn’t sacked by a defense that led the NFL and set a franchise record with 55 during the season. Jacksonville’s 45 points tied the most ever allowed by the Steelers in the playoffs.

Not bad for an offense that at times simply appeared along for the ride as the NFL’s top defense carried the load.

”Blake Bortles has always been criticized,” Fournette said. ”It is different now. He has guys that have his back, especially me.”

Certainly looked it as Fournette scored two first-quarter touchdowns. The Jaguars built a 21-point lead and responded whenever the Steelers rallied to get within one score.

”The guys played with confidence all day long,” Bortles said. ”Obviously, what they have on their side of the ball, it’s a good team. We know they got a good offense. We knew we were going to have to be efficient, hold on to the ball for a little bit, so we did it.”

Ben Roethlisberger threw for 469 yards and set a franchise record with five touchdown passes, but was also intercepted once and had a fumble returned for a score. All-Pro Antonio Brown caught seven passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns in his return from a left calf injury. Bell had 155 yards of total offense and two scores.

But Pittsburgh’s vaunted ”Killer Bs” couldn’t keep pace with Jacksonville, one of four NFL franchises to never make the Super Bowl.

”It’s disheartening,” Brown said. ”I thought we had the right group of guys.”

The Jaguars dominated the Steelers on Oct. 8 [url=www.jaguarscheapshop.com" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://www.jaguarscheapshop.com]Jaguars Cheap Jerseys[/url] , winning by three touchdowns in a performance so overwhelming Roethlisberger only half-jokingly wondered aloud whether he still had ”it’ after throwing a career-high five picks.

Roethlisberger and his teammates left little doubt they hoped for a rematch, though Jacksonville cornerback A.J. Bouye cautioned Pittsburgh to be careful what it wished for. The Jaguars hardly appeared intimidated by the 18-degree chill or trying to earn their first road playoff win in a decade.

”I’m sure there will still be tons of people that are going to disapprove and talk negative or hate or do whatever they want,” Bortles said. ”But we get to keep playing and we get an opportunity to play in Foxborough next week for another week. Just honored to be able to do this especially with this group of guys.”

”It’s been an awesome year. Just want to keep it going.”

FOURTH AND WOE

Pittsburgh rolled up 545 yards of offense, but it’s 2 yards the Steelers didn’t get that helped send them into an offseason filled with questions.

Twice Pittsburgh had fourth-and-1 in Jacksonville territory. Twice the Steelers did something other than have the 6-foot-5 Roethlisberger sneak. Pittsburgh ran wide in the first quarter and Bell was stuffed for a 4-yard loss. The Jaguars responded immediately by going 75 yards in 11 plays, the final one a 4-yard sprint by T.J. Yeldon that put them up 21-0.

The Steelers were down a touchdown early in the fourth quarter and had fourth-and-inches at the Jacksonville 39. Roethlisberger checked at the line of scrimmage, faked a handoff to Bell and instead threw incomplete to diving rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster .

”It’s been a while since I’ve run a quarterback sneak, I’m for it,” said Roethlisberger, who added he wi Drop into just about any bank or supermarket or sports bar in the Kansas City metro area these days and there’s a good chance you’ll see one of several photographs from just a few years ago hanging on a wall.

It might be Yordano Ventura unleashing a fastball. Or Eric Hosmer sliding into home at Citi Field in New York. Or Wade Davis with his arms thrust high into the air, his blazing fastball having just closed out Game 5 of the World Series and making the Kansas City Royals the world champions.

More than likely, you’ll find the now-iconic photograph of Union Station, where an estimated 400,000 people turned out to celebrate the club’s first title in three decades.

Those photos are reminders of better times. And how quickly things can change.

The Royals, who were indeed baseball royalty in 2015, are now neck and neck with the Orioles for the worst record in baseball. They’ve traded off their star closer, their best players are struggling and the prospects that might one day raise them from the abyss are years away from joining the club.

”The record is what it is. The hitting is what it is. The pitching is what it is,” said Royals manager Ned Yost, who presided over the rebuild that led to back-to-back World Series appearances. ”I have to continue to lead. We have to make sure this year has not been a waste.”

How did things fall apart so quickly?

To start, the Royals doled out big contracts to players that have not produced. Left fielder Alex Gordon consumes 14 percent of the payroll in the third year of a $72 million, four-year deal, but he’s hitting just .247 with five homers and 15 RBIs. Right-hander Ian Kennedy consumes 11 percent of the payroll in the third year of a $70 million, five-year deal, and he’s 1-8 with a 5.11 ERA.

The few stars that remain on the roster have likewise struggled to produce.

Salvador Perez likely will see his streak of five straight All-Star games end. The catcher, in the third year of a $52 million, six-year deal, is hitting .255 with 11 homers and 33 RBIs.

Good luck winning many games that way.

The Royals were 25-61 heading into their off day Thursday and had lost 24 of their last 28 games. They needed to go 38-38 the rest of the way just to avoid the ignominy of 100 losses.

Making things worse: The Royals are losing that many games with a payroll of about $144 million.

Another reason for the precipitous slide was year after year of poor drafts. Only one of their 13 first-round picks since 2010 is currently on the 25-man roster; Hunter Dozier is hitting .223 in 44 games as he struggles to lock down an everyday job.

”As a young guy you know you’re going to fail [url=www.chiefscheapshoponline.com" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://www.chiefscheapshoponline.com]Chiefs Cheap Jerseys[/url] , and in some ways we want you to fail because that’s how you’re going to get better,” said Yost, who is going through the same slow learning process with infielder and erstwhile top prospect Adalberto Mondesi.

The son of longtime big leaguer Raul Mondesi, he is hitting .214 in 42 at-bats this season.

”We also don’t want to heap too much on their shoulders,” Yost said, ”so it’s balancing act.”

Maybe that’s why the Royals have been slow to gut their roster in favor of a complete rebuild, even if that appears to be coming. They’ve already traded utility outfielder Jon Jay to the Diamondbacks and star closer Kelvin Herrera to the Nationals, getting five prospects in return that the Royals hope will help restock a farm system that remains one of the worst in baseball.

More moves could be coming, too. The Royals are hopeful of trading third baseman Mike Moustakas, who signed a one-year deal when no long-term offers materialized last offseason. Versatile infielder Whit Merrifield could land a few solid prospects, and left-hander Danny Duffy and even Perez could be made available, though both have torpedoed their value with poor seasons.

The combination of an old and bad team has been made even worse by the fact that the Royals are, well, pretty boring. They don’t hit an abundance of homers. Their starting rotation includes the first two pitchers to hit 10 losses in the majors. There are no young stars yet worth watching.

As a result, the Royals are drawing an average of 20,283 fans to Kauffman Stadium. That’s a drop of more than 7,000 from last season and more than 13,000 from their championship season.

Still, for all the gloom, the typically irascible Yost has taken a decidedly optimistic approach to this season. He’s been through these long and painful rebuilds and come out the other side.

It takes patience. It takes smart moves. It takes more patience.

”There’s a lot of things to look at that you’re happy with, even though the record is what it is,” he said. ”There is progress that you’re going to see on the back end, in the light, just as we did in 2013 and 2014, when we turned the corner the last time.”




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