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Old 01-12-2009, 10:13 AM   #1
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Default Holmes, not Sproles, is special star

Notebook: Holmes, not Sproles, is special star
By Bill Allmann
Times Sports Correspondent
Published: Monday, January 12, 2009 12:04 AM EST


PITTSBURGH — All the talk before the San Diego Chargers’ visit to Heinz Field for the AFC Semifinal was about big kick returns by the Chargers’ Darren Sproles.

The game was indeed turned on a kick return, but the return wasn’t by Sproles. Instead, it was by the Steelers’ Santonio Holmes, a 67-yard punt return in the first quarter that erased San Diego’s biggest lead of the game, tying the score 7-7 as the Steelers headed to a 35-24 win.

“That was a special moment for this team,” said Holmes of the longest punt return for a score in Steelers postseason history. “They’ve been outkicking their coverage all year.

“I don’t think it would have been any bigger if it was during the season.”

At the time Holmes returned Mike Scifres’ 53-yard punt, San Diego had the momentum. On the first drive, the Chargers needed only four plays to travel 75 yards for a score. On Pittsburgh’s opening drive, it managed just two first downs but the Steelers’ defense stiffened, allowing Sproles 5 yards in two runs and a third-down pass to him fell incomplete, setting up the punt.

“The field was a little sloppy. I knew their guys weren’t going to be able to stop and cut and breakdown, you know, make the tackle like they are supposed to,” Holmes said. “But that didn’t affect us. You don’t expect 60- or 70-degree days in Pittsburgh in January.”

After that return, San Diego didn’t match their yardage of the first drive in the next two quarters combined. Sproles did finish with 274 all-purpose yards — with 164 on kickoff returns — but much if that yardage came after the Steelers had the game under control.

“It can’t get any better than this,” said Holmes.

INACTIVES

The most notable player on the inactive list was San Diego running back LaDainian Tomlinson, but he wasn’t the only name not usually on the list. The Steelers designated safety Anthony Smith as inactive for only the third time this season and offensive lineman Jeremy Parquet was activated for only the third time this season.

Joining Smith on Pittsburgh’s inactive list were defensive linemen Scott Paxson and Orpheus Roye, offensive linemen Jason Capizzi and Tony Hills, cornerback Fernando Bryant, and linebacker Bruce Davis. Dennis Dixon was designated as the third quarterback.

STAT STUFF

Hines Ward became the first Steelers player to catch 70 passes in the postseason, finishing the day with 71. He also moved into second place in receiving yardage with 966, trailing only John Stallworth (1,054).

Ben Roethlisberger’s first quarter left-footed punt was his first of the season and third of his career. It traveled 25 yards and pinned the Chargers at their 9-yard line. It was his second punt inside the 20.

Holmes’ punt return was only the second punt return of Pittsburgh’s postseason history. Antwan Randle El had the first on Jan. 5, 2003. It was San Diego’s first punt return allowed for a touchdown in the postseason since the AFL Championship game in 1965.

Parker’s 146 yards rushing were the most by a Steelers running back in the postseason since Franco Harris’ 153 yards in 1975 against Baltimore. The record in the postseason is 158 set by Harris in Super Bowl IX.

THIRD QUARTER ALL STEELERS

The Chargers had the football for a total of 17 seconds in the third quarter, with only one offensive play. That play was an interception by Larry Foote off a pass tipped by Brett Keisel and was the first play following a 63-yard kickoff return by Sproles. San Diego challenged the play but lost the challenge.

“There was no way that ball hit the ground,” said linebacker James Harrison, the NFL’s defensive player of the year. “The offense controlling the ball for the whole quarter, that was the kind of thing we’ve gotten used to seeing the offense doing.”
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Old 01-12-2009, 11:45 AM   #2
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Default Re: Holmes, not Sproles, is special star

It would be great if Holmes could get on any kind of return roll especially against the Rats. That was a big play at the perfect time and Holmes gave us a big lift.
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