Monday, November 5, 2012

Week Nine: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New York Giants Reaction

Do you know what the worst thing is about games in which officials royally mess things up? It isn't that it can potentially effect the outcome of the game. It's that you have idiots all over the place screaming that the fix was in because of the natural disaster that the other team's city just went through. Give me a break. Maybe I'm naive but unless a significant amount of money is changing hands somewhere, I doubt an official is going to make a call just because he "feels bad." Well that's one thing the Steelers had to deal with on Sunday against the New York Giants. There were plenty of bad calls in the game, most of which going against the Steelers that kept the Giants in the game.


Steelers Offense vs. Giants Defense: A couple of different contributors had to step up big for the offense in this game. The running backs were already short because of the injuries to Rashard Mendenhall and Jonathan Dwyer. That meant that Isaac Redman would be forced to carry the load. That became even more important when Chris Rainey got hurt during the game. But that was no problem. Redman was outstanding, toting the rock for 147 yards including the would be game winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter. The offensive line deserves a lot of credit for the resurgence of the run game. Mike Adams has had his hiccups in the pass game but ever since coming in for the injured Marcus Gilbert, he has been a dominant force in the run game and is a huge reason for the success over the past three games.

Emmanuel Sanders was another guy lower on the depth chart that had to step up to the plate in this game. Antonio Brown was injured relatively early in the game and never returned. That forced Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery into increased roles and both responded well. Sanders made the biggest impact though. He caught the first touchdown of the game which is the only lead the Steelers would have until the final score of the game. He had a long punt return later in the game where the punter ended up bringing him down. The only bad thing about that was the Steelers came up with no points on the drive after failing on a fake field goal near the goal line. Sanders also had a big catch on a third down on the final drive of the game to essentially ice it.

Ben Roethlisberger went into Eli Manning's house and out Eli-ed him. By no means did either quarterback play great, especially Manning, but Roethlisberger did enough to get his team a win. The only big mistake he made was a bad interception on his own side of the field that led to a Giants field goal. He also fumbled that was returned for a touchdown to give the Giants their first lead of the game but that wasn't a mistake by Roethlisberger. It was an awful call that they still got wrong after a review. No matter who you are or how you try to spin it, that is not a fumble. Never has been, never will be.

Steelers Defense vs. Giants Offense: Despite all that was said about the Steelers' defense earlier in the season, they have stepped up in the biggest way over the past three games. However, this one was the real test. The Bengals and Redskins did not have the type of wide receiver corps that could exploit the secondary which is presumed to be the weak link of this defense. The Giants do have that kind of group but they were never able to get anything going.

There are plenty of excuses to be made for why the Giants' receivers were not effective on Sunday. Manning was clearly not at his best. He was off target with more throws than not. Victor Cruz wasn't really himself after the first quarter when he took a shot to the ribs by Ryan Clark who was the victim of another bad call. He was called for making helmet to helmet contact on the play. However, Cruz ended up with bruised ribs. How does that work? Lastly, the excuse could also be made that Hakeem Nicks hasn't been healthy all season.

With all of those excuses being out of the way, the fact is that the secondary played outstanding. The most noticeable player back there was Keenan Lewis. He defended three passes in the first quarter before most players even broke a sweat. The only thing that didn't go his way was a pass interference call on the Giants' first touchdown drive that was nowhere close to pass interference. Throw in the fact that the touchdown they scored on the drive wasn't really a touchdown and you have a perfect trifecta of poor calls during that possession.

Reaction: I can not really understate how big of a win this is for confidence reasons. It really doesn't matter much in the standings. The Steelers are still a game back of the Ravens and it was a non conference win so it isn't going to change too much. That being said, I think it is the turning point of the season. This team flew to New York the morning of the game. They sustained two big injuries during the game and the replacements came in and not only played well, but made big plays and were arguably the best players on the field at times. Roethlisberger came in and led a fourth quarter comeback against a guy that people were beginning to call the best fourth quarter quarterback in the league. The defense shut down an elite quarterback and are finding their stride despite still playing without their best player in Troy Polamalu. All cylinders are beginning to click at the same time which is big with two game coming up against the Ravens in the next four weeks.

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