Monday, January 12, 2009

Steelers beat Chargers to advance to AFC Championship Game

(Robin Rombach/Post-Gazette)

Steelers win! Can we say wooooooooooooooo?! The Steelers looked good yesterday as they beat the San Diego Chargers 35-24. The score makes the game look closer than it was. The defense was big and Fast Willie Parker was back. Big Ben had no turnovers and only one sack. The offensive line did a good job. Even special teams helped out. We might actually have a coherent recap for you because we took notes. Yes!

San Diego had possession first and it only took a few plays for them to score a touchdown and be up seven to nada early. Ike Taylor allowed a 41-yard touchdown to Vincent Jackson after only three plays. We were thinking, wow what a great way to start the game, we're in trouble. The Steelers got the ball but eventually failed to convert on third down. It was fourth down and the Steelers looked like they were going for it but then Big Ben backed up, took the snap, and punted for 25 yards to pin the Chargers at the nine yard line. Who knew Big Ben had punting skills? Especially left footed. 

The Steelers refused to be down for long though when Santonio Holmes returned a punt 67 yards for a touchdown. And there were no penalties! Woo. Score 7-7. To round out the first quarter, LaMarr Woodley sacked Philip Rivers and has a nice little kick to celebrate, to which Phil Simms had to say, "What a kick!" What a call Phil!

The second quarter wasn't too exciting, including a ball fake punt call that ended up giving the Chargers good field position, which led to a field goal to put them up 10-7. We like Mike Tomlin, but sometimes those aggressive calls scare us a bit. Especially so early in game with the score tied. But nonetheless, the Steelers would answer. Before the half the Steelers put together a drive with a nice catch by Hines Ward with 45-seconds left. Willie Parker capped off that drive with a touchdown to put the Steelers up 14-10 with 40-seconds left on the clock.

The Steelers would keep the momentum going in the second half by scoring a touchdown on their first possession to start the half. Heath Miller had a nice third down catch to keep a drive alive that would result in a touchdown to none other than Heath himself. This made the score 21-10. The Chargers would look like they had some life after Darren Sproles returned the kickoff 63 yards to give the Chargers good field position. But that wouldn't last long when Rivers' first pass was tipped by Brett Keisel and intercepted by Larry Foote. Or James Harrison and taken away by Foote, whatever happened there. Either way, the Steelers stopped the Chargers from getting any points. Big Ben did something else in this quarter to add to his resume along with his left-footed punt. On a Santonio Holmes reverse, Big Ben took out a guy for a key block. Nicely done. To end the third quarter, the Steelers punted but it was a bit short and ended up hitting a Charger in the head. William Gay was the first man to it to recover it for the Steelers. He looked like he had himself a touchdown, but in that situation the team can't advance the ball, so the Steelers ended up with the ball on the 23-yard line. The Chargers had the ball for a whole 17-seconds in the third and had technically two plays, the punt return by Sproles and Rivers' interception.

The beginning of the fourth quarter led to the Steelers being stopped on fourth-and-goal, but we thought it looked like Davis was breaking the goal line. But it turned out things weren't so bad. The Chargers got the ball at their own one and ended up advancing out of danger, or so they thought, before Woodley had his second sack to push them back to their own two-yard line. San Diego had to punt from the back of their own endzone. On the Steelers next drive Big Ben threw a pass to Nate Washington in the endzone that was incomplete, but the defender was called for pass interference. That meant the ball at the one-yard line and a first down. Gary Russell would score that touchdown to put the Steelers up 28-10. Somewhere throughout the fourth quarter Brett Keisel got a sack to add to his good day so far, while James Harrison was continuing to be held on basically every play, including a down-right tackle with no-call. BS! Troy Polamalu was called for roughing the passer. The ref said it was a hit to head. What?! He barely touched him. And this is why Troy calls the game a pansy game... 

San Diego would eventually score another touchdown to make the score 28-17. The Steelers would also add a touchdown on a 16-yard touchdown run with 4:11 to go to make the score 35-17. James Harrison would get his first sack of the game, which was about time considering all the holding that was being done on him. Byron Leftwich would come in with a little over three minutes left in the game. Leftwich threw a heck of a pass to Limas Sweed, on we believe third down, that he dropped. He definitely should have caught that ball. We'd really like to see Sweed succeed, but at this rate, it's not looking good.

Ike Taylor looked like he had an interception with 2:03 left in the game, but it was determined to be an incomplete pass. It wasn't explained by the ref, but it must have been because he was out of bounds. San Diego and Sproles would add another touchdown with 1:53 left to make the score 35-24. Granted it was a meaningless touchdown, but Clark and Polamalu basically watched him score. 

The Chargers would try an onside kick, twice actually because of a penalty on William Gay, but the Steelers would get the ball and GAME OVER!

Now it's on to the Ravens, who will come to Heinz Field for the AFC Championship game next Sunday at 6:30 p.m. Should be quite the slug fest.

It's now 3 a.m. so we're going to get some sleep. The Post-Gazette, as you know, is our favorite source of information and good articles, so feel free to head over there and check out their great coverage. We'll post any good links we may find later. In the meantime, enjoy the win and get ready for the Ravens.

Quote of the day:

"There's a big, black, ugly bird standing between us and Tampa," said offensive tackle Max Starks. "It's the only obstacle in our way before we can go."

Penguins info later today/tomorrow.