Mike Tomlin on onside kick: We hadn’t stopped them

By Nick Shook
NFL.com
Read full post on NFL.com

Pittsburgh is going home earlier than most expected, and plenty of Steelers fans will likely spend much of the offseason second guessing the team’s coach.

Trailing 42-35 with 2:18 to play and two timeouts remaining, Mike Tomlin elected to onside kick instead of kicking deep. Pittsburgh never had a chance on the onside attempt, which failed to go the necessary 10 yards before it was recovered by Jacksonville. The Jaguars eventually moved a whole nine yards before kicking a field goal to extend their lead to 10 and essentially ice the Divisional Round victory.

Tomlin explained his decision after the 45-42 loss.

“We wanted to get the ball back,” Tomlin said. “We hadn’t stopped them convincingly enough, in my opinion. It was my decision.”

Tomlin’s right — Pittsburgh hadn’t stopped Jacksonville for much of the game. Before the onside kick, Jacksonville scored touchdowns on consecutive possessions, covering a combined 136 yards in just 6:56. The Jaguars did it with a mix of short runs and long gains via the pass, converting three third downs combined between the two possessions and scoring via a Leonard Fournette run and a play action pass to fullback Tommy Bohanon. The second score was so bewildering, it essentially confirmed Tomlin couldn’t rely on his defense to get a much-needed stop.

Even then, Tomlin’s faith in his defense had to be nonexistent in order to make such a call. Pittsburgh had two timeouts and the two-minute warning, yet decided to risk giving up great field position in an attempt to regain possession.

It backfired when Josh Lambo drilled a 45-yard kick through the uprights, sending Jacksonville to the AFC Championship Game in a stunning upset.

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