Sunday, December 16, 2012

Cowboys Capitalize On Steelers Miscues, Win 27-24 In OT

This one hurts.

Personally, there is no team that stirs emotions like those stirred by the Dallas Cowboys.

But, congratulations, to the Cowboys. They deserved the win Sunday. They outplayed the Steelers in every facet of the game, handing the Steelers their fourth three-point loss of the season, 27-24 in overtime. The first ever overtime game between the two teams in their 31 all-time meetings. - http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-game-highlights/0ap2000000112303/Steelers-vs-Cowboys-highlights

It was a loss that handed the Baltimore Ravens a playoff berth and damaged the Steelers' chances, though not ruined, for taking the division and for making the playoffs period.

Now the Steelers playoff season starts earlier than expected. For all intents and purposes, they open their playoff run with the Bengals at home on December 23, of all days, at 1:00 EST.

If the Steelers can't find it within them to celebrate with a win the birth of their franchise's taking over the NFL, what will?

Since the NFL-AFL Merger in 1970, the Steelers have an NFL best 403-256-3 record. They have an NFL best six Super Bowl wins. They are tied with these Dallas Cowboys for the most Super Bowl appearances (8). They are also tied with the Cowboys for the most playoff wins (33).

None of that matters now.

The Steelers could’ve moved to within a game of the first-place Ravens with a victory. Instead, they’re looking up at the Bengals and Colts as they fight for a wildcard spot. At 7-7, the Steelers are now two games behind Indianapolis and one behind AFC North rival Cincinnati. Not a good place to be with two games left.

That said, they still have a chance. In a 3-way division tie at 9-7, the Steelers would have a 3-1 head-to-head record among the Ravens and the Bengals with Baltimore at 2-2 and Cincinnati with a 1-3 record. In that case, the Steelers would win the tiebreak.

Not necessarily probable, but possible.

But that's of little concern tight mow. The only goal for the team right now is to win the next game. Then make playoffs. After that, if their talent can show itself and they can get relatively healthy, they still are a dangerous team. - http://tinyurl.com/cyhwzxj

IF.

For two weeks now, though, the Steelers have been outplayed. Once again, they also were bereft of a running game. Aside from a 22-yard gain by Isaac Redman, the Steelers gained just 47 yards on 16 carries.

Mainly, though, it was senseless miscues and numerous mental errors that sealed the Steelers' fate. It was a truly pathetic showing at times. Nonetheless, believe it or not, they still control their own destiny. Next week is a must win.

As far as Sunday this loss is concerned, it was the secondary and special teams that killed the Steelers.

The Steelers defense got virtually no pressure on Tony Romo. As a result, Romo was the first quarterback this season to throw for over 300 yards against the Steelers. What's worse is that the Steelers gave up approximately half of his 341 passing yards after the catch. That's not 'tackling the catch.'

Mike Tomlin said in his post-game press conference that he thought his young secondary competed, but that they they just did not make enough plays critical plays. - http://tinyurl.com/d45qvjy

The secondary doesn't get a pass. Mental errors and miscues did the Steelers in and Dallas took advantage as much as they could.

With the Steelers leading 24-17, Cowboys linebacker Victor Butler stripped Antonio Brown on a potential, game-breaking punt return midway through the fourth quarter with tight end John Phillips recovering the fumble at the Pittsburgh 44-yard line. DeMarco Murray tied the game with a touchdown run seven plays later.

If Brown doesn't fumble, the Steelers probably clinch the game. Brown knows that and was remorseful in his comments after the game.

"We definitely have to be better and that starts with myself," Brown said afterwards. "I can’t put the ball on the ground. It was just careless. You have to protect the ball in the open field. I’ve got to a better job of protecting the ball. It was definitely my fault.” - http://tinyurl.com/d6nkgh4

The special teams almost allowed a win in regulation when the Cowboys' Dwayne Harris returned a punt 39 yards with 47 seconds remaining. It gave the Cowboys a shot, but the Steelers forced a punt.

But what ultimately ended the night was the Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger interception on the second play of overtime. Big Ben threw a lazy pass too far inside, well behind Mike Wallace, and in a place where really only the Cowboys Brandon Carr could catch it.

Carr snatched up a diving interception and returned it 36 yards to set up the game-winning, 21-yard field goal.

Big Ben had some Houdini-like big plays in the game, including a remarkable touchdown-pass play to Heath Miller, the Steelers Digest Player of the Week, before the half that had enough pump fakes and spins to give defenders Vertigo. - http://www.nfl.com/videos/pittsburgh-steelers/0ap2000000112195/Big-Ben-goes-yard

Unfortunately, the interception was the mistake he couldn’t afford to make.

Big Ben complained after the game about not going to the no-huddle more often. Because he took the blame for the interception, I don't have a problem with his complaint. He's the team leader and should be able to have a say in what they call. - http://tinyurl.com/c9lmnrh

Would the no-huddle have won it for them. Hard to say...it didn't in overtime. But maybe it keeps the defense on its heels.

The Steelers had the ball with 6:48 and 1:47 left in regulation and with three timeouts, so I'm sure those are situations to which Big Ben was referring. After keeping Ben upright most of the game, the offensive line allowed both of those drives to be killed by sacks.

Then the aforementioned miscues and final turnover were the proverbial nails. Not in the season, though. There is still time to salvage it. And like Steelers linebacker Larry Foote said, they just have to keep fighting "until they say, ‘don’t play no more.'"

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TIDBITS: STEELERS INJURIES: starting cornerback Keenan Lewis suffered a groin injury in the second half (how many of those this year???); backup cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke - separated shoulder early in the game; wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders - rib injury.

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Steelers average starting field position was last week was their own 19-yard line. Sunday it was their own 24-yard line. The best starting field position was at the 49-yard line.