Sunday, October 7, 2012

Rashard Mendenhall's Return Keys Steelers 16-14 Victory

I said in a recent blog regarding the Battle for the Keystone State that if the Steelers ran for what the Eagles defense was giving up on average, 91 yards per game at 3.8 yards per carry (YPC), that I'd go back to bed thinking that I was dreaming.

Now that I'm awake again, did I miss anything significant? (Congrats, Drew Brees on number 48.)

The running game, boosted by the return of starter Rashard Mendenhall, ran the ball for a total of 136 yards on 31 carries, an average of 4.38 YPC.

Welcome back, Mendy! He ran the ball 14 times for 81 yards himself and said he felt good about his performance and the win. -

In the previously mentioned blog post, I'd said that the Steelers could exploit the middle of the Eagles Wide 9 line. I said "don't expect them to run it up the gut 30 times," but that "they must attack the middle."

According to ESPN's statistics Twitter feed, @ESPNStatsInfo, the "Steelers ran for 99 yards inside the tackles in Rashard Mendenhall's return."

You're welcome.

In the game, Mendy gained 101 total yards from scrimmage. More importantly, he made defenders miss and ran hard throughout the game. Mendy picked up a lot of yardage that wasn't initially there.

When it can down to it, however, Big Ben Roethlisberger overcame a 1st-and-20 start to drive the Steelers down field, setting up the game-winning field goal by Shaun Suisham with three seconds left. -

It ended up being a tight game after a 10-0 halftime lead for the Steelers as they and the Philadelphia Eagles took all 60 minutes to figure out who'd get the chicken dinner.

With this win, the Steelers are now 100-60-1 all time against the NFC. They've also won 27 out of the last 33 vs NFC, including eight straight at Heinz Field. They are only 27-46-3 with this win, though, against the Eagles during the regular season, including 18-18-1 at home.

It almost didn't happen, however, because the Steelers seemingly went to sleep for a while in the second half. The defense allowed the Eagles to run 28 plays in the second half - 25 of them being for scoring drives. It continues a trend of letting teams back into games late.

The Eagles drove, despite what one may think of the officiating, right over the Steelers to take a 14-13 lead. The Steelers took over after that touchdown with 6:33 remaining and used every second to take a 16-14 lead and victory with Suisham putting a cap on the 14-play, 64-yard drive. -

The 4th quarter comeback led by Big Ben was the 21st of his career. He was 21-37 for 207 yards and no touchdowns, no interceptions and suffered no sacks. It was also the 27th game-winning drive orchestrated by the two-time Super Bowl winner. -

It was only the 2nd game-winning drive in last 21 games, though, for the nine-year veteran. But a win is a win, and the Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin recognizes that they weren't as sharp as they could've been coming off of the bye. -

Neither side of the ball was completely sharp on Sunday. The Steelers yet again hurt themselves with penalties. They saw so much yellow laundry that it looked like fans were throwing their Terrible Towels on the field.

They were flagged nine times in all, with Willie Colon Cancer hitting a grand slam as he saw four of them. Two more were personal fouls where their safeties were flagged for illegal hits.

Probably the biggest news of the game, though, was the injuries sustained by the defense. Troy Polamalu re-injured his calf and linebacker LaMarr Woodley tweaked his hamstring. Both left the game and did not return.

With the Steelers having a short week, it is doubtful that they will be on active status as the week progresses toward Thursday's game.

Despite those losses they still played a fairly good defensive game. Actually executing the game plan meant they weren't hurt by big plays. DeSean Jackson had one big catch of 24 yards and Brandon Boykins had one big punt return of 25 yards.

They also kept Michael Vick contained. They confused, pressured and hit him all day, resulting in two lost 2 fumbles. Part of which being aided by the return of James Harrison, who was supposed to split time with fellow linebacker Chris Carter.

That didn't happen as Deebo amazingly played almost every down.

The Steelers put the Silverback in positions that allowed him to be effective. He was used on X-stunts, in coverage, on blitzes...they moved him around to make people have to be accountable for him. He alone had three hits and the Steelers had three sacks all told to go along with the turnovers.

Lawrence Timmons, the Steelers Digest Player of the Week, was all over the field also. He had 10 tackles, three QB pressures, one QB hit and one forced fumble.

The defense had its questionable moments, but as a whole got back to Steelers football. LeSean McCoy was just a shadow of his normal self as he was held to only 53 yards on the day, averaging only 3.3 YPC.

Instead it was Mendy, not Shady, who led his team to victory on Sunday.