Sunday, December 20, 2009

2009 - Packers v. Steelers Analyzed

The Packers continued their losing ways in Pittsburgh. They are 0-4 in Pittsburgh since 1970. By beating the Packers, the Steelers avoided becoming the first Super Bowl champion to lose 6 games the season after hoisting the Lombardi trophy.

The Packers trailed at a number of points throughout the entire game: 7-0, 14-7, 21-14, 27-21, 30-28 and most importantly 37-36. The Steelers out gained the Packers 537 yards to 436 yards and outclassed the Packers on the final drive of the game.

The Steelers made more plays in the clutch which helped them beat the Packers. It was hard to narrow the list down to five plays because of how many explosive plays occurred in this game. After much deliberation, here are the top five plays and analysis from the game (along with the "Trojan Play of the Game"):

#5) Pittsburgh leads 14-7, Pittsburgh ball on their own 34 yard line, 3rd and 5 with 1:17 left in the 1st quarter:
Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh) SACKED and FUMBLED, Clay Matthews (Green Bay) RECOVERED at the Pittsburgh 27 yard line. Pittsburgh challenged the fumble ruling, and the play was REVERSED. Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh) threw incomplete short right to Heath Miller (Pittsburgh).

Instead of Green Bay getting the ball at the Pittsburgh 27 yard line, Green Bay got the ball at their own 27 yard line following a Pittsburgh punt. The Packers drove the ball down the field and Mason Crosby missed an easy field goal (see play #2 below).

I included this play for two reasons:
#1) Was that enough evidence to overturn the call? After being called a fumble on the field there has to be irrefutable video evidence to over turn the call. After watching the play from every angle it seems close whether his arm was moving forward before the ball was coming out. As a result, it amazes me that they overturned the call instead deferring to the original call on the field.
#2) How great of a rookie season in Matthews having? For the first time in Ted Thompson's tenure as the General Manager of the Green Bay Packers he traded back into the first round to get Clay Matthews. With Green Bay moving from the 4-3 to the 3-4 they needed a quality rush end/outside linebacker to help with the transition. Matthews has been just that type of player and exceed all expectations thus far. Matthews's stats for the season through 14 games are: 47 tackles, 10 sacks, 8 tackles for a loss and 1 forced fumble. Pretty good start to what looks to be a VERY promising professional football career.

#4) Game tied 0-0, Pittsburgh ball on their own 40 yard line, 1st and 10 with 14:28 left in the 1st quarter:
Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh) threw deep right to Mike Wallace (Pittsburgh) for 60 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

Losing Al Harris for the seasons meant shuffling the corner back chairs. As a result, Jarrett Bush has been thrust into the lineup more then coaches/fans wanted and has been burned a number of times.

On this play Bush inexplicably slowed down as Wallace raced down field. Without any safety help over the top, Bush allowed Wallace to get behind the entire Green Bay defense. Big Ben bought some extra time by scrambling around and even though he under threw Wallace, it still went for a long touchdown because of how far out of position Bush was on the play.

#3) Green Bay leads 36-30, Pittsburgh ball on their own 44 yard line, 1st and 20 with 59 seconds left in the 4th quarter:
Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh) threw short right intended for Mike Wallace (Pittsburgh) tipped by Brandon Chillar (Green Bay) and INTERCEPTED by Jarrett Bush (Green Bay) at the Green Bay 42 yard line and returned 7 yards to the to Green Bay 49 yard line. PENALTY on Brandon Chillar (Green Bay), Illegal Contact, 5 yards, enforced at the Pittsburgh 44 yard line.

Bush tried to atone for early sins on this play but his interception was nullified by Chillar's defensive hold. It was a clear penalty by Chillar which allowed the Pittsburgh drive to continue.

There were a number of plays on the final drive that could have flipped the game. The Packers committed 3 penalties (defensive holding on Woodson, Chillar and Bell) while the Steelers committed 2 penalties (offensive holding and false start by Starks).

At certain points it looked like both teams were willing the other team on to win. Unfortunately the Steelers had the last laugh.

#2) Pittsburgh leads 14-7, Green Bay ball on the Pittsburgh 16 yard line, 4th and 2 with 13:25 left in the 2nd quarter:
Mason Crosby (Green Bay) 34 yard field goal is No Good, Wide Right (Holder Jeremy Kapinos).

The right hash mark and Mason Crosby are not friends. If this continues any longer Mason Crosby might be looking for a new employer before the New Year. Crosby's kicking troubles have been well documented, if I don't move on I might break my keyboard...

#1) Green Bay leads 36-30, Pittsburgh ball on the Green Bay 19 yard line, 3rd and 10 with 3 seconds left in the 4th quarter:
Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh) threw deep left to Mike Wallace (Pittsburgh) for 19 yards, TOUCHDOWN. The Replay Assistant challenged the pass completion ruling, and the play was Upheld.

After starting slow, the Packers offense gave the team a chance to win. The defense took that chance and flushed it down the toilet. It is inexcusable that the highly rated Green Bay defense allowed Pittsburgh to drive 86 yards in two minutes with only 1 timeout remaining to win the game. The entire drive was a slow burn that resulted in a Steelers win.

Trojan Bonner of the Week Award - Mike Tomlin
Just as a refresher, the award goes to a player/coach/referee that makes a stupid play/decision/call during the game.

Pittsburgh leads 30-28, Pittsburgh ball on their own 30 yard line, kicking off with 3:58 left in the 4th quarter:
Jeff Reed (Pittsburgh) kicks onside 9 yards from, downed by Ike Taylor (Pittsburgh). PENALTY on Ike Taylor (Pittsburgh), Illegal Touch Kick, enforced at Pittsburgh 39 yard line.

Big Ben bailed out Tomlin and almost made me give the award to someone else (Mason Crosby, Jarrett Bush and Donald Lee dodged a bullet). Tomlin inexplicably tried an onside kick with the lead and 4 minutes remaining in the game.

Some might argue that Tomlin is an evil genius for giving the Packers a short field which allowed the Steelers to get the ball back with 2 minutes left in the game. The onside kick seemed like a slap in the face to his defense (similar to the infamous 4 and 2 decision by Belichick earlier this season).

Tomlin lucked out that the Steelers pulled out the victory but the win does not diminish how stupid of a decision it was for Tomlin to attempt the onside kick in that situation.

Congrats Tomlin, you are the second recipient of the "Trojan Bonner of the Week Award"!

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