Sunday, January 15, 2006

No Joy

The Pittsburgh Steelers have just defeated the Indianapolis Colts and thus have earned the opportunity to play the Denver Broncos in the conference final.

The Steelers took over at the two-yard line, and the unthinkable happened. Bettis was stopped for a two-yard loss and Gary Brackett got a helmet on the ball, forcing the fumble that Nick Harper recovered. Harper picked it up and broke away, looking like he was going to head to the end zone. But Roethlisberger made the best stop of the day when he tackled Harper, saving the touchdown.

The final score is 21-18. With just over a minute left, the Colts caused and recovered a fumble. Jerome Bettis was on the two-yard line when a defender, I'm not sure who yet, pounded the ball out of his hands with a direct hit with his helmet. The ball fell to the ground where it was plucked by a Colt who promptly ran perhaps 30 yards down the field before being tackled by the Pittsburgh quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, who made an exceptional play, turning and twisting as he tracked the ball carrier.

The Colts didn't give up, though, and Manning going them into position for a Vanderjagt field goal, but the 46-yard attempt sailed wide right, securing the win.

The Colts marched down to the Pittsburgh 30 where the offence finally stalled.

Their kicker came out on the field to tie the game. Mike Vanderjagt is the most reliable kicker in NFL history. He's also a former Toronto Argonaut.

However, in his first year in the NFL, the Colts' season ended on a missed field goal at the end of a playoff game. Does that situation exceed his ability to screen out the pressure? The Steelers did their part by calling a time-out at the last second, delaying the play and presumably forcing the kicker out of his psychological comfort zone.

The kick was missed. The Steelers ran out the clock.

What I found most peculiar is that other than Bettis, redeemed by fate and a resilient defence, there was no wild celebration to follow. The Steelers seemed to feel deeply that they had dodged a bullet. Happy but not joyous in their victory.

Notes:

The fumble recovery was run back to the Indianapolis 43 yard line. It's remarkable that the QB was back far enough to make a play. I want to see the play again to watch when and how Roethlisberger made his move back.

Also, I'm trying to access the Steelers and Colts web sites but they appear to be overloaded. The NFL.COM site is also sluggish.

The Colts just updated their site — An Unfortunate End.

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