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Old 11-17-2013, 05:11 PM   #1
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Default Fast start, strong finish keys 37-27 win

Fast start, strong finish keys 37-27 win
Bob Labriola
Steelers Digest


Steelers’ record: 4-6
One year ago: 6-4
Series record (including playoffs): Series tied, 17-17-1

When the schedule was released last April, there was little thought given to the issue of the game against the Lions in mid-November being the Steelers last best chance to make themselves relevant in terms of the playoff picture in the AFC. The challenge to be posed by the Lions was going to be one of a division leader, with all of those high first-round picks accumulated during years of double-digit loss seasons having brought the team some dynamic talent on both sides of the ball.

Coach Mike Tomlin talked about the general play the day before the game. “That we work to eliminate negativity that their scheme and their players up front defensively are capable of creating, and obviously we have to minimize splash plays by their offense. There has been a lot of talk about Megatron, but they have other guys who can produce splash plays. We have to minimize splash plays by that group, whether it’s Megatron or Reggie Bush. We have to make them earn drives if they put them together.”

It’s always simple to identify a team’s go-to players on offense and defense, but what of special teams? With the exception of the returners and the specialists, who are the Steelers’ go-to guys on special teams?

Here are some names to consider: Robert Golden, Antwon Blake, Terence Garvin, and Will Allen.

Golden came into the game leading the Steelers in special teams tackles with eight; Blake had six even though he had been inactive for two of the first nine games; Garvin had five; and Allen had been asserting himself on both the return and coverage units since being brought back to the team a month ago.

“(Golden) has been an awesome contributor in that phase of our game,” said Tomlin. “We have given him some very specific jobs to do. He’s the personal protector – the quarterback, if you will – of our punt team. He’s an integral part of all of our coverage units. It’s what you expect of a second-year safety. Second-year safeties should be at the top of your tackle chart from a special teams standpoint.

“Will Allen has provided everything we have looked for from him since he has come back from Dallas, not only in terms of production but also veteran leadership and know-how. We like what we’re getting from Antwon Blake. I think he quickly has established himself as a legitimate gunner to be reckoned with, and we have a young linebacker in Terence Garvin who’s growing week in and week out and showing that he’s capable of being highly productive and a reason why we are successful in that phase.”

The Lions finished the game with a total of 17 yards on four punt returns, plus 92 yards on four kickoff returns. Blake was the Steelers’ leading tackler on special teams with two, which now ties him with Golden for the team lead.

A fake field goal? With a 27-23 lead? When the gimme field goal would have restored the lead to seven? That was Lions’ Coach Jim Schwartz’s decision, though, and the fake called for the holder – punter Sam Martin – to run the ball up the middle. There he met Steve McLendon, who stripped the ball loose for Ryan Clark to recover. The Steelers took the ball and marched 97 yards on 16 plays to score what turned into the game-winning touchdown on a 1-yard pass to Will Johnson.

For purposes of statistics, the NFL designates runs of 15-plus yards and receptions of 25-plus yards as long plays. In the first half, the Lions had five long plays, one of which was a run. Included among the four long plays through the air was a 79-yard touchdown catch-and-run by Calvin Johnson.

Calvin Johnson was targeted three times and had no catches in the second half.

The Steelers’ three takeaways against the Lions tied for their season high, which previously had come in Oakland vs. the Raiders. The Steelers were plus-3 in turnover ratio against the Lions, which was a season high. They were plus-2 against the Jets.

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Old 11-17-2013, 05:16 PM   #2
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Default Re: Fast start, strong finish keys 37-27 win

What Went Right, Wrong vs. Lions
Bob Labriola
Steelers Digest

* The Lions faced a fourth-and-3 at the Pittsburgh 31-yard line, the decision was made to go for it because PK David Akers hasn’t been having a great season and the attempt would have been into Heinz Field’s open end zone. Matthew Stafford’s quick slant pass for Calvin Johnson was incomplete, with Ike Taylor in tight coverage.

* After taking over on downs for their first possession of the game, the Steelers opened the game in the no-huddle. During that drive, which spanned 68 yards in eight plays, Ben Roethlisberger completed 5-of-5 for 61 yards, including the 34-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Brown, and the Steelers were 2-for-2 on third downs.

* The Steelers remained in the no-huddle offense for their second possession, and it again ended in the Lions end zone with an Antonio Brown touchdown. The first Brown touchdown came after he broke tackles by CB Chris Houston and S Glover Quin. This time it was a 64-yard catch-and-run where Brown raced away from the Detroit defensive backs and got into the end zone with the help of a block by Emmanuel Sanders. Touchdowns on their opening two possession was a first for the Steelers this season.

* There was the potential for a Steelers’ takeaway on the game’s opening possession on a fumble by Reggie Bush, but the runner was ruled down by contact. This time, with 12:41 remaining in the second quarter, the Steelers got the takeaway on another fumble by Bush. Will Allen came up and forced the fumble that Lawrence Timmons recovered and returned 29 yards to the Lions 32-yard line.

* In the first couple of minutes of the fourth quarter, the Lions had moved the ball to the Pittsburgh 10-yard line with what appeared to be an easy chance to extend their 27-23 lead. With David Akers lined up to attempt a 28-yard field goal, the Lions instead opted for a fake. Holder Sam Martin took the snap and ran up the middle, where he was stripped of the ball by Steve McLendon. Ryan Clark recovered at the Steelers 3-yard line.

* Three plays after Clark’s fumble recovery, the Steelers faced a third-and-9 from their own 4-yard line. Behind solid pass protection, Ben Roethlisberger threw a strike to Antonio Brown for 16 yards and a first down.

* The drive continued. On a fourth-and-2 from the Detroit 36-yard line, Roethlisberger converted with a quick pass into the right flat to Le’Veon Bell.

* The drive continued. On a second-and-goal from the 1-yard line, Lions cornerback Rashean Mathis was flagged for pass interference on a pass intended for Jerricho Cotchery in the end zone. A fresh set of downs from inside the 1-yard line.

* On the third play after the Steelers had taken the lead on a 1-yard pass to Will Johnson, the Lions faced a third-and-10 from their own 20-yard line. Targeting Calvin Johnson for just the third time in the second half, Matthew Stafford’s throw was off target and Will Allen intercepted for the Steelers. His 27-yard return gave the Steelers the ball at the Lions 34-yard line.

* On a fourth-and-15 from the Lions 29-yard line with 1:46 to play, and with Cameron Heyward forced to the sideline because he lost a show, Ziggy Hood broke through to sack Matthew Stafford and ice the outcome.

* The Lions converted their initial third down situation with a 17-yard catch-and-run by Reggie Bush. At the end of the play, the ball appeared to come out and be recovered by Will Allen, only to have line judge Byron Boston rule that the runner was down by contact. But sensing the Steelers might be thinking about challenging the play, the Lions lined up and quickly snapped the ball. Even though it was only a 2-yard gain by Bush, it prevented the Steelers from challenging and possibly having the call on the field overturned.

* A third-and-6 became a third-and-11 from the Lions 45-yard line after Kelvin Beachum was flagged for a false start.

* The Steelers’s offense came into the game ranked 28th in the NFL in red zone efficiency, and their woes at that spot on the field continued in the first half against the Lions. Following the fumble recovery/return by Lawrence Timmons, the Steelers moved to a first down at the Detroit 11-yard line. But after a short run by Le’Veon Bell and a couple of incomplete passes, the Steelers settled for a 25-yard field goal by Shaun Suisham. On their next offensive possession, the Steelers again moved into the red zone, with the big play being a 43-yard catch-and-run by Le’Veon Bell. But when Heath Miller was unable to maintain possession of the ball through a catch in the end zone, the Steelers again settled for a field goal. Instead of having 28 points to that point in the game, the Steelers only had 20.

* Mixed in among these red zone failures were some breakdowns by the defense as well. With the Steelers holding a 17-3 lead, the Lions halved that margin in a span of 18 seconds. On a play where Matthew Stafford did a half-roll to his right, Jason Worilds slipped slightly on the wet grass to give the quarterback the time to fire a strike to Calvin Johnson, who broke a tackle by Ike Taylor at the Steelers 35-yard line and finished the play for a 79-yard touchdown.

* It was a rough first half for Ike Taylor. In addition to drawing the coverage on Calvin Johnson on virtually every snap of a half in which Megatron caught six passes for 179 yards and two touchdowns, Taylor also had two Matthew Stafford passes hit him right in the chest, and he dropped them both. After the first interception-that-wasn’t, the Lions went on to score a touchdown. After the second, they kicked a field goal.

* The Steelers received the second half kickoff, and on a third-and-8 Ben Roethlisberger delivered a laser to Jerricho Cotchery, who appeared to make the catch and hold onto the ball for a 16-yard gain. But as the Steelers rushed to the line of scrimmage to get off the next play before the Lions could see a replay, Coach Jim Schwartz threw the challenge flag and the play was overturned on replay. The Steelers punted.

* It was a new level of red zone failure in the final five minutes of the third quarter. After a Le’Veon Bell took a short pass and ran it for a first down at the Lions’ 1-yard line, the Steelers lined up quickly and drew Detroit offside, which moved the ball nearly to the goal line. Over the next three plays, two runs lost yardage and Ben Roethlisberger missed a wide open David Paulson in the end zone. Instead of tying the game, the Steelers still trailed, 27-23, after the field goal.

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