Big Lead Sports Bar

12/07/2008

IT'S HOW YOU FINISH

STEELERS (10-3) 20
COWBOYS (8-5) 13

ROETHLISBERGER 17/33, 204 YARDS, 1 TD
PARKER 12-25
HOLMES 3-82

It's hard to believe that you could've turned this game off halfway through the fourth quarter thinking that the Steelers could not improve upon the 13-3 deficit they created for themselves. To that point in the game, play had been sloppy on both sides of the ball, and the Steelers had been offensively inept, to say the least. But as a certain coach from Crafton used to say, "It's a 60-minute game."

And the Steelers used all 60 minutes to outlast the Cowboys in a widely-watched game played in the bitter cold of Heinz Field. Let's go to the bullet points....

1. Biggest thing I noticed from Sunday's contest was the absence of Hines Ward. At one point I wondered if he was still in the game. Turns out that he was. Final totals: one catch, two yards. For a guy that usually rises to the occasion in big games, his absence was noticeable.

2. Did Jason Witten have money on the game, or was he really that bad down the stretch?

3. To the best of my knowledge, the city remained intact despite the presence of one Adam "Don't Call Me Pacman" "OK, I Guess You Can Call Me Pacman" Jones this weekend. However, I'd be interested to hear the weekend box-office numbers from the local "gentlemen's" establishments and hear exactly how much precipitation (a.k.a. "rain") was in fact made.

4. That Tony Romo, he really rises to the occasion. Wait....I meant to say that he crumbled like a stale Chips Ahoy cookie.

5. Crushing loss for the Cowboys. They're in one of the two divisions where all of the teams are over .500, the other being the NFC South. And the AFC East features three teams (New England, Miami, and the Jets) at 8-5, followed by Buffalo, only a game under .500. So which teams are losing games this year?

Well, five teams have between zero and two wins and are making a mockery of the sport: Detroit (zero), Cincinnati (one), Kansas City (two), Seattle (two), and St. Louis (two). Plus, you've got the Raiders at 3-10. So that's 67 losses spread among 18.8% of the league. That would probably answer my previous question of who's losing.

Is that an usually high number? Well, in 2007, there were six teams that won four games or less: Kansas City, Oakland, the Jets, and Atlanta won four; St. Louis won three; and Miami won one. Amazingly, three of those six (the Dolphins, Jets, and Falcons) have already won eight in 2008. So NFL logic would tell you that at least one or two of this year's stinkers will probably rise out of the ashes in 2009.

6. Wade Phillips, in his Cowboy blue Gore-Tex jacket: a blue version of the Michelin man?

7. Arguably the best part of Sunday's game was the inevitable Terrell Owens blowup after the Cowboys' last gasp, as he wore his finest ninja gear. He never lets me down. I'm sure it was a long flight back to Dallas for everyone involved.

8. I thought the Cowboys would be in trouble without Marion Barber, but Tashard Choice was tough. 88 rushing and 78 receiving against the Steeler defense is about as good as it gets. Of course, he was invisible in the fourth quarter, so maybe I should temper my enthusiasm on some level.

9. Owens, on the other hand, had three catches for 32 yards, the most infuriating clearly a 12-yard TD reception in the third quarter that turned out to be the Cowboys' only touchdown. It was also a rare bit of ammunition for Owens to use in his trash talk fest with Ike Taylor, who obviously covered his hands in glue before the game in order to nab an interception on Sunday.

10. For the first time in a long time, I was very emotional during a Steeler game (I'm actually pretty reserved during most of them). I'm talking about jumping-out-of-my-seat, screaming on the good plays, agonizing over the close or bad plays. Make no bones about it, that was beyond a football game, that was an event on Sunday. And it was pretty sweet to come out on the winning end, especially when things looked so glum.

11. If you thought I was excited, you must've missed Mike Tomlin's display late in the fourth. A four-game winning streak, including back-to-back wins over Dallas and New England, and a second consecutive 10-win season have given the coach a lot to smile about. Hiring a coach can be a dicey proposition, but I think the Steelers hit it out of the park this time. They seem to have a pretty good batting average in that department, even though they get very few at-bats.

12. The Steelers' running game was virtually non-existent, as you probably noticed by seeing that their leader was Willie Parker's 25. Once again, their defense kept them in this one, because the offense generated only one touchdown. And that's not going to get it done in January. They have to start finishing drives and improving around the goal line.

13. Deshea Townsend has intercepted 20 passes in his 11-year NFL career, but I doubt he'll ever remember any more than the game-clincher on Sunday. Un. Real.

14. It wasn't the greatest game of Big Ben's career, but once again, he rallied his team when he had to, which can't be said for his counterpart on the Dallas side. A win is a win is a win.

15. Santonio Holmes couldn't have picked a more timely occasion for the Steelers' longest punt return of the year, a 35-yarder that set up a Skippy field goal in the fourth quarter and gave the Steelers some much-needed momentum.

16. Not a good day for the third-down category. Cowboys: 3-14. Steelers: 3-16. Total: 6-30, a LaRoche-esque .200.

17. Please, give your opinion on this in the comment section: did Tomlin make the right call in going for it on fourth-and-goal from the one down 13-3? I say yes, because the offense was going nowhere and you needed a touchdown eventually. Not knowing if or when you'd ever get that close, I was in.

Now the play call, I disagree with. Everyone in the stadium knew that one was coming. But it wouldn't be a Steeler game if we couldn't second-guess Bruce Arians, would it?

18. Nate Washington, of all people, came up with some huge, tough catches down the stretch., accounting for 51 of the 67 yards on the Steelers' lone touchdown drive. I was very impressed. I was also amazed after he literally bounced up after having his leg twisted in directions it shouldn't have been twisted by Ken Hamlin.

18a. The bomb to Santonio, spanning 47 yards, was one of the aforementioned plays that spontaneously got me out of my seat. Glad to see he's still capable of the occasional big play.

19. Rare miss by the Skipster yesterday. We totally take his accuracy for granted.

20. James Harrison, who was apparently trash-talked by Tony Romo in the game's final moments, tied Mike Merriweather's single-season record with his 15th sack. I say NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He's gotta be.

21. We all get agitated by repetitive commercials during NFL games, so let me nominate a new one: I officially wave the flag to the UPS whiteboard guy. Enough. Please. Put away your marker. I'll even consider upgrade, upgraaaaading you to DirecTV if you leave us alone.




22. This doesn't involve the Steeler game, but it does involve a prominent ex-Steeler, so I thought it was worth mentioning: Eli Manning's final scoresheet on Sunday was 13-27, 123 yards, 1 TD, and a divisional loss to the Eagles. No, the Giants didn't look distracted from Plaxigate at all. (Did you like how I tacked the -gate on, as if to suggest that Watergate, a scandal named after an office complex, is the only inspiration we have anymore to name scandals?)

Over the past two-plus seasons, the Giants have played for significant stretches without Tiki Barber (retirement), Jeremy Shockey (injury, followed by trade), Michael Strahan (retirement), and Osi Umenyiora (injury). But the loss of Burress is different. Since joining Team Coughlin, he's connected with Manning for 33 touchdowns. And as much as people seem to like Domenik Hixon, he's no Plaxico Burress (on the field, of course).

And here's something interesting I found out while doing research on #17: his career best season, at least statistically, was not with the Giants, but with the Steelers in 2002: 78 catches, 1325 yards, and seven TDs. The way some people talk, the Steelers rarely threw him the ball, and that's simply not true.

23. Anyone have a report from the Cowboys rally at the Clark Bar & Grill yesterday?

24. Next up for the Steelers: an appointment with Baltimore on Sunday, with the AFC North on the line. Yep, another big game. But don't expect it to bother this team. They've been playing big games all season.

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17 comments:

Get Fresh Designs said...

I like the fact that Tomlin isn't afraid to go for it on fourth down. They get stuffed and the defense is there to back them out while the opposing team is buried deep in their territory. Ask the chargers on what that is like. Plus the wind was at their backs, Skippy had a better chance of nailing a three from further out, even though Aikman didn't think he could.

Jon said...

I am with you on the 4th and 1. we should have gone for it, but would a PA Boot and Roll to look for Heath have been such a terrible choice? If he was covered, Ben could have tried to run for it maybe?

Also, I was a fan of Andre Frazier I believe it was ,nearly snapping Pacman Jones' arm off and all of the hurt we were putting on him in the return game!

RedHawks Hockey said...

I think you gotta kick the FG in that instance. Knowing what I know now, it didn't matter, but I was yelling at the TV and my roommates were wondering what was going on. You need two scores no matter what and when you make the FG, you can go down and put 7 up next time and tie the game on one more possession but since you missed, you don't even know if you're gonna have a chance to get the ball back to tie up because you need 2 more possessions after coming empty handed. But, it didn't matter in the end, so whats the big deal.

"WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!" - Mike Tomlin

Someone Somewhere said...

I think kicking the field goal on 4th and 1 would have been waiving the white flag. If you can't gain 1 yard, maybe you don't deserve to win the game?

I like how Dallas kept trying to bang away at the running game even though they weren't gaining much ground. Maybe coach Arians can take a hint there.

On that note, is it really too much to ask for a draw play out of the shotgun from the Steelers on 3rd down? I don't think they've run that play once all season. Even with the last drive, the offense is completely stagnant. I have all the confidence in the world with the defense, but in the end it's about how many points are on the scoreboard.

Koz said...

If you can't gain a yard to score with the game on the line, you don't deserve to win.

Fortunately for Steelers fans, they ended up winning anyway.

Steve said...

I was wanting them to go for it also. If they failed, the way the defense was playing, they had a good chance of getting the ball back soon and in good field position. I do have problem with Arians and his play calling. All game long this knucklehead had it bass-ackwards and 3 of the goal line play calls were just as bad. For starters, there was no reason to have Willie "The Fidget" Parker in the backfield at all, but there he was on the first two attempts, when that is clearly a job for Moore or Russell unless they are going outside which they weren't. Then on 3rd down, a pass to Davis, when the best option would be Moore who is our best all-purpose receiving back.
I used to criticize the Philthy Eagles and Reid for their unwillingness to have a balanced run/pass offense but the Arians/Tomlin approach is no better. The reason the Steelers don't run the ball isn't necessarily because the can't, they don't because they won't. Since when did passing on first down become a Steelers trademark? The Steelers don't even know if the have a running game anymore because they won't even give it chance.

Pops Freshenmeyer said...

I agree with Tomlin's call to go for it. It sends the message to the players that the coach has faith in his players to win the game, and despite getting stuffed, the defense responded with two big stops, and the offense tied the game on the ensuing possessions.

okel dokel said...

I agree with the call, but the play calling on the offensive side of the ball is just awful.

Steve summed it up best; this team trying to be a West Coast offense.

Please give a a good fullback like John L. Williams or Dan Kreider

Roy Hobbs said...

I actually scared the crap out of my dog on both Miller's TD and Townsend's INT. First time I've come off the couch like that in a while.

The games keep getting bigger, and they keep playing up to them, on both sides of the ball. Yes, the O has problems, but this team just figures out a way to win each week.

I haven't had this much nervous anticipation about an upcoming game in what seems like forever.

blueline said...

I said it before they ran the play that they needed to go for it on that 4th-and-1 at the 1, but I was hoping for a play-action pass and a fade to Miller or Spaeth.

This may be one of the few times where, as a coach, you could make that decision because of the way the Steelers defense has been playing, particularly knowing that the Cowboys had little room to operate.

blueline said...

One more question for everyone: was anyone at the game, and if so, was there a huge amount of Cowboys fans cheering at the game? My old man, who's a season-ticket holder, said he heard WAY too many Cowboys fans at the game and blamed it on many Steelers fans selling tickets.

Please keep in mind that my father doesn't drink, but he does sit in the Bob Uecker seats at Heinz Field...

Discuss...

Laroche'sHuntingBuddy said...

In my 14 years of having Steelers season tix, I never saw that many opposing team fans at 3 Rivers or Heinz Field. The sad part about it that the majority of the Cowboy fans I talked to before the game were from the Pittsburgh or Tri-State area.

Someone Somewhere said...

Like I said earlier, Dallas kept trying to grind out yards via the ground game. Even though attempting to run against the Steeler D is very difficult, if not impossible, they didn't give up on it...which I respect...and if they were playing anyone other than the Pittsburgh defense yesterday, they probably would have won by 2 scores.

I'm not sure who is responsible, but since Arians is the man with the multi-colored laminated sheet and headset, I assume he is calling the majority of the plays. I've noticed that specifically when they are trailing (even early in the game), the tendency of the Steeler offense has been to briefly dabble with the run to see if there is anything working. If nothing happens, then Arians goes immediately into panic mode, gives up on the run and sends out 4 wide into the spread. The offense is struggling because there is absolutely no identity. They don't know if they are a running or a passing team because they cannot do either of them with any sort of consistency. The line struggles because they can never get into any sort of rhythm. The inability to even try and run the ball has rendered the play-action pass all but extinct. Someone mentioned that the Steelers are trying to become a west coast offense. I don't agree with that assertion at all. In the west coast offense, the object is short routes with a high probability of gaining yardage (i.e. running plays through the air). The Steelers do not employ that sort of passing game at all. The primary routes are almost always 8+ yards downfield, which are much lower probability plays than a traditional west-coast offense. Maybe it should be called the Erie-coast offense because much like it's namesake, it's pretty damn ugly. When they were finally able to move the ball they went into more of a west-coast style on the last drive, picking up small chunks of yardage with higher probability throws. Maybe it's a product of the personnel, I don't know...but in a grind-it-out game with the best defense in a generation and the wind whipping around, I just can't understand know how your run:pass ratio is less than 50%.

I love this team, but the defense can only stand on it's head for so long without getting a little help.

jimmy the freak said...

They really need to get rid of Carey Davis and get a good blocking fullback, or use McHugh(sp?) more. The running game seems to be so much more effective with an above average lead blocker in there. Carey Davis is a below average blocker, below average runner, and a below average receiver out of the backfield. But he is so “versatile” that Arians has fallen in love with the idea of using him.

bohica said...

Love the fact they went for it, hate the call. Also hated that play to Carey Davis in the flat. I don't get Arians' fascination with him. Remember the Eagles game when they ran a pitch from inside their own 5 with him? What was that? Arians is a boob.

I agree with Someone Somewhere. This team has no identity offensively and Arians' nonsense is going to cost the Steelers a victory. Let's hope it's one in December and not January. Get rid of him, Davis, and the 5 wide shotgun formation on 3rd and 1.

nuthinhere said...

A useless FYI on Watergate. It also has a high priced hotel and luxury condos, not just offices. Damn good pizza place there too.

Jan said...

this was so much fun to watch and the biggest game for me all season. I wanted to beat those stinkin cowboys so bad...and what a way to beat them. it actual made it sweeter a win since we didn't make that 4th down TD and came back to win it. cowboys thought they had it in the bag. And that chest pump by tomlin and ben at the end of the game...priceless. now it is on the biggest baddest bloodfest of the season...ratbirds.