Big Lead Sports Bar



STEELERS (7-3) 11
CHARGERS (4-6) 10


PARKER 25-115

WARD 11-124

Thank goodness that the refs overturned Troy Polamalu's fumble-return touchdown on the game's final play, thus preserving the first 11-10 final in NFL history. It clearly made Jim Nantz's day.

But for Steeler fans, the bigger deal on a cold Sunday afternoon would turn out to be their team eeking out a one-point victory on the toe of one Skippy Reed, despite scoring zero touchdowns on the afternoon.

It was a sloppy game, due in no small part to the snowy Heinz Field turf, which provided some unsteady footing on several occasions. Of course, unfavorable conditions do not excuse 13 Steeler penalties, at a cost of 115 yards, including one from Sean McHugh that negated a fourth-quarter touchdown. But at least the blame won't totally be heaped on the injured shoulder of Ben Roethlisberger, who completed 76% of his 41 passes, led the team to the game-winning score, and threw zero interceptions.

Of course, when your team doesn't score a touchdown, there will be some finger-pointing, win or lose. And some of those fingers will surely be pointed in the direction of the play-calling of Bruce Arians and yet another failed goal-line performance from the offense. At this point, I think we can safely abandon the theory that Mewelde Moore can punch it in from the one.

As usual, the Steelers' defense was stellar, limiting the Chargers to 213 yards of offense and just 10 points. Phillip Rivers was picked off twice, one of the Great Interceptions of All Time variety courtesy of Polamalu, the other by potential Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison. If you were an offensive player trying to tackle either Harrison or Polamalu when they're running with the ball, who's more intimidating? It's a tough call.

Yes, the Steelers dominated most aspects of the game, the lone exception being the Heinz Field scoreboard for all but the last 11 seconds. Willie Parker ran for 115 yards on 25 carries, and Hines Ward caught 11 balls for 125 yards. Matt Spaeth, subject of a bizarre question posed to Mark Madden this week [Caller: "Who's got less heart, Adam LaRoche or Matt Spaeth?"], handled himself nicely, with six catches for 55 yards; hopefully the weird comparisons to LaRoche will subside. It was a strange game, but the fact of the matter is that the Steelers were simply neutralized in the red zone. This is a team that needs to learn how to score touchdowns again.

The Steelers now sit with a .700 winning percentage ten weeks into The Toughest Schedule in Professional Sports History, the next matchup being a Thursday-night special with the Bengals, who tied the Eagles on Sunday. In the process, the Bengals rekindled memories of the game my brother and I have referred to as "The Tie", a November 10, 2002 Steelers-Falcons game that ended deadlocked at 34. Ironically, Hines Ward also had 11 catches in that game. At least the guys playing in that game realized that yes, you can play to a draw in the NFL, because someone forgot to give the memo to Donovan McNabb.

Game Notes:

--Speaking of The Tie, how awesome were the cliches in the original article?

The Steelers, traditionally a blue-collar team that wins with defense and the running game, piled up a Rams-like 645 yards as Maddox and receiver Plaxico Burress each set club yardage records, yet still couldn't help their team win.

That, my friends, is a work of literary art.

--For those of you who missed this, today was a reunion of the actors in the Nike Troy Polamalu & Ladainian Tomlinson commercial: Troy Polamalu and Ladainian Tomlinson. Was I right, they only played this once, near the end of the game? You'd think this would've been in constant rotation. Maybe they thought it might confuse the viewers who couldn't tell the difference between the commercial and the game.

--Can we please knock off the Charger mystique already? Jim Nantz called this game "a battle of AFC superpowers". Last time I checked, superpowers weren't 4-5, soon to be 4-6. Write it down: this Chargers team with this core and this coach will never win a Super Bowl.

--Note to Anthony Smith: when a punt returner waves for a fair catch, that is not a signal to light him up.

--Big Ben's passer rating on Sunday was 96.4; Rivers came in at 43.6. Fortunately, Rivers didn't trash talk to Roethlisberger like he once did to Jay Cutler:

--With the loss, the Chargers are now 0-13 in the regular season in Pittsburgh, although they're 2-0 in the playoffs, unless you've forgotten Alfred Pupunu and Stan Humpheries.

--Wow, what a game by Paul Ernster on Sunday. Unfortunately, not in a good way.

--Did the Steelers actually run a screen pass, or was that some sort of hallucination I experienced from drinking too much Diet Pepsi?

--Don't get me wrong...I enjoyed the safety (I always enjoy the immediate reaction of the defense, running around with two hands together over their heads). But if the Chargers end up punting from their own end zone, do the Steelers end up with better field position from where they started after the free kick, which would be their own 6 yard line.

--Heard Charlie Batch this morning on WDVE and he noted that during The Tie in 2002, Dewayne Washington, much like Donovan McNabb, did not realize that the game would end after one overtime. Classic.

Batch's appearance was also notable for the fact that I realized who he sounds like on the radio: the voice of the ant from those old "Ant and the Aardvark" cartoons.

--The refs admitted they once again screwed up a call, saying after the game that Polamalu's touchdown should have counted. I'm sure all the folks betting on the game (with a spread of Pittsburgh -4.5 last time I checked) are satisfied with that answer.

--How many times has the NFL admitted an error in officiating a Steeler game? I'm pretty sure it was a weekly occurrence during the Cowher years.

--Also, note the disparity in penalties called yesterday: Steelers 13, Chargers 2. Hmm....

--This just in: The Big Lead notes that $100 million was legally wagered on the game. Let the conspiracy theories roll in.
Update Part Two, From Deadspin:

"An estimated 100 million dollars was wagered worldwide on the Pittsburgh/San Diego game, according to RJ Bell of Approximately 66% of that money was on the Steelers; with only 34% on the Chargers.

"If the touchdown was properly upheld, Steelers bettors would have won about 32 million dollars instead of losing big. This admittedly incorrect call resulted in a 64 million dollar swing in favor of the bookies."

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HotDog_Zanzabar said...

I remember AJ commenting or writing (both of which he does a fine job) once of "The Tie". Every time teams in the NFL were getting close to OT, they always referenced that game, now we'll have to hear about the Bungholes/Eagles.

Brando said...

I guess ties inspire writers for some reason. I particularly liked this one for the Eagles/Bengals recap:

'"I didn't know that [a tie was possible]," said McNabb, who played a leading role in keeping it tied.'


Steve said...

A smart betting man would follow the games Scott Green and his crew are officiating and bet the spread. I'm thinking the replay official might need to be watched too.

Anyway, now that the error has been admitted, what's wrong with changing the official final score back to 17-10? Should the NFL care that bet winnings would need paid back. They shouldn't, since they aren't involved with gambling in anyway, right?

AJ said...

I think I have mentioned "The Tie" in the past. I was actually at that game and witnessed the debacle with my own eyes. The Steelers had a comfortable 17 point lead in the 4th quarter and let it evaporate.

I distinctly recall two things from that experience.

1) Walking out of Heinz Field that day was eerily quiet. It was kind of like a funeral. We just watched our team blow a sure win... but yet they didn't lose. Nobody knew how to react.

2) Michael Vick made his career playing against Cowher coached Steeler teams. Seriously, the guy pretty much sucked against everybody else, but line him up against black and gold jerseys and he became the new Joe Montana.

Steve said...

Is it just me, or should Bill Cowher be given a nickle every time the word "debacle" is used to describe a sporting event from now on? I'm pretty sure that word was about as popular as a fruity umbrella drink at a shot and beer bar in West Newton until Cowher dragged it out of the mothballs to describe that infamous "stuff a photo in the officials pocket" game. Now, every contoversial/bad moment in sportsdom will forever have that word mentioned somewhere to describe it.

If he was smart, he would have trademarked it like Pat Riley did with "Three-peat". AJ, you owe Cowher a nickle. Damn it, me too.

Reggie Dunlop said...

i can't believe they didn't cover