JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – For the Jacksonville Jaguars, it's better to be safe than sorry.
In playoff wins against Buffalo and Pittsburgh, the Jags didn't commit a single turnover, complementing effective and, at times, highly efficient offensive game plans.
As a result, Jacksonville is playing in the AFC championship game for the first time in nearly two decades.
Against the Bills two weeks ago, quarterback Blake Bortles did more damage with his legs than with his arm, running for 88 yards while passing for just 87. Is throwing for less than 100 yards at home against a Buffalo defense that finished in the middle of the pack a concern? Not if you're making sound decisions and taking care of the ball, which Bortles and his mates did throughout.
Fast-forward to this past Sunday, when it was anything but a defensive struggle in the divisional round matchup with the Steelers. Both teams combined for more than 900 total yards as Jacksonville held on for a 45-42 win. But the Jaguars' recipe for success stayed the same: It was all about ball security.
Jacksonville won the turnover battle, 2-0, and both takeaways were critical. Myles Jack's acrobatic interception of Ben Roethlisberger led to a touchdown run and a 14-0 lead. That preceded Telvin Smith's 50-yard scoop and score on a strip sack of Roethlisberger later in the first half. The 14 points off turnovers certainly came in handy in a three-point road win.
As the Jags gear up for their stiffest challenge to date against the Patriots on Sunday, making safe and smart decisions with the pigskin could once again be critical for playoff success.