Sunday, January 23, 2011

Jets - Steelers First Half Diary -- Ground And Pound Is The Pittsburgh Sound

KR Antonio Scott to the Black 33, and RB Rashard Mendenhall gets a tough yard on first. Rollout by QB Ben Roethlisberger to WR Hines Ward for seven, as MLB David Harris saves the first. Third and two from an empty backfield isn't manly, and neither is a delay of game on the third play from scrimmage. Whoops. From the gun with two backs, WR Emannual Sanders can't catch the slant that would give the first down, but a hands to the face from CB Antonio Cromartie earlier in the play gives Black the first down. Roethlisberger takes too long, then misses TE Matt Spaeth on an awkward quail. A give to Mendenhall gets four; the back looks fast, but hasn't had a hole yet. Third and six from the gun sees a Green blitz, but the throw to WR Mike Wallace is made, and it's close to the sticks. An odd camera angle makes it look worse for the offense than it is, but the first is made, the Black has the ball in Green territory, albeit tentatively. Dangerous but creative play by Roethlisberger ends with a lateral to Mendenhall that gets eight yards, and the QB getting a leg injury from DE Calvin Pace. Mendenhall bounces it outside with nothing happening in the middle, and another clsoe spot gives Black the first. Mendenhall gets nine yards out of some borderline Barry Sanders elusiveness, and nearly took it to the house. The Jets DL is owning, but the RB Does Not Care. Short yardage RB Isaac Redman gets five, as the Green DL shows signs of discouragement. Six minute drive and counting. Deep ball to TE Heath Miller works for 21, and would have been six had the ball been more accurate. Great catch by the TE, and Jets coach Rex Ryan makes a terrible replay challenge that will take the refs no time at all to reject. I get the idea of calling a timeout to give your ragged defense a chance to catch its breath in the red zone, but this will leave them with just one challenge for the rest of the game... but what the hell do I know? Referee Ed Hochuli overturns the call, and it's second and 10 with the Green defense getting a major respite. Mendenhall makes two men miss and loses two yards, as patience with a weak line doesn't always work out. Roethlisberger in real pain from the Pace injury. From the gun on third and 12, the QB shrugs off the pain and scrambles, diving head first to make the sticks. Huge play for Black, and that's all kinds of gutty work from the reprobate. Mendenhall finds some actual room, and gets five yards up the gut. The QB pumps twice, buying time, and gets it to Ward for a first down, just in front of the goal line. C Maurice Pouncey is down now, just because this first drive has to become even more epic. The rookie leaves in a bad way, on one leg, and that's just an immense loss. First and goal from the one sees Mendenhall continue his outstanding first drive by working through the noted WWE imitating LB Bart Scott to break the plane. K Shaun Suisham connects on the PAT, and after a 9:06 drive that goes 67 yards, all of them contested, it's Steelers 7, Jets 0.

Pouncey leaves on a cart; hard to imagine seeing him coming back before next year. KR/WR Jericho Cotchery brings it back to the Jets 23, but not before another opportunity for commerce. Talk about taking a long time before you get to start the game; if I were Pittsburgh, I'd have been very tempted to try an onside kick there and really put the hammer down. QB Matt Sanchez tried a listless slant that's knocked down at the line. A give to RB LaDanian Tomlinson ends with LB James Harrison with definitive and beautiful violence. Third and 10 from the gun sees Sanchez gaining the first on his signature hard hook to Cotchery, and that's a big saving moment. From the Green 40, Sanchez tries for WR Braylon Edwards deep, and the ball flies into empty space in advance of an illegal contact call. With a new first on their own 45, a give to RB Shonn Greene gets two second-effort yards into the middle of the line. Multiple flags between the hand-check battle between WR Santonio Holmes and CB Ike Taylor ends in DPI and a 10-yard flag. Now in Black territory, it's Tomlinson for two with purpose. From the gun, Sanchez's pass is knocked down, but the play never happened due to a false start. Next play is another knockdown, a great play by DE Lawrence Timmons, and the Jets settle for a four yard out that Phil Simms feels is fellation-worthy, because drives that end in no points makes him wet, especially when they are on the verge of field goal range. P Steve Weatherford is already better than this week, in that this kick doesn't go into the end zone. Black starts at their 13 in a first quarter that would have finished in 25 minutes if it weren't a conference championship game with force-fed ads.

Mendenhall for 11 on a fake bubble screen draw that Simms feels could lead to peace in the Middle East. The RB's tenth carry of the quarter gets two to the left. A defensive offsides gives the offense a free play, and Mendenhall takes a check down for 17 yards, finishing it with inspiring violence against DB Eric Smith. The first quarter ends, and if the manliness displayed by the home team doesn't give Steeler Fan a stiffie, I don't know Steeler Fan.

From play action with a ton of time, Roethlisberger misses Miller deep. Cromartie limping, but not leaving. From the gun, Roethlisberger is nearly picked by Harris, and Smith nailed Sanders with a late hit that's borderline ejectable in this year's league... and just good football the year before. Whoops. From the Green 40, Mendenhall gets seven, and he's just dominating the Jets so far this game, Scott in particular. 66 yards on the ground already for Black. The RB falls forward for two on second down, setting up a short third down. The power give to Redman doesn't work at all. Black tries to quick snap on fourth down, but the refs foil the strategy by calling for a bizarre measurement, since it's more than a yard. Weird. The 50-yard figgie won't work in this yard, so Black goes for it, and a play action screen to Mendenhall bounces off the back's hands and to Harris for a pick, not that the turnover does more than change the field position by a few yards, and break a long streak for Ben taking care of the ball. Telling, on a lot of levels, that Black didn't just run it, or give Roethlisberger the chance to get it on a bootleg. Green is back in the game in a big way, especially on defense.

Tricksy to Cotchery loses four and fools no Steeler. False start makes things worse for them. Sanchez with time takes TE Dustin Keller on a center check down for six yards. Third and 13 is a loud crowd moment, and from the gun, Cotchery drops Sanchez's cross that might have made the sticks. Green barely got the snap off, and have already had two false starts. Weatherford's punt is 29 yards of embarassment, and Black will start at their own 38.

Roethlisberger goes for it all with Wallace deep, but the ball hangs, and CB Darrelle Revis had a better shot at the ball, but can't bring it in. On second, Mendenhall has room and a burst, and the back gallops for 35 yards; he now has 85 in 20 minutes. Hard to see how that situation is going to get better for Green, or won't be fatal if it continues. Black calls time, probably to sop up the drool from the running game yards. Redman has room for eight on a nice cutback, and the play shoes G Chris Kimoeatu just looking for people to crush. Redman gets another 13 of pure balls nasty, as Black runs right into the teeth of a run defense and does not care. Wow, this is just unseemly, especially in a first half. Mendenall for another two, and the Steelers have already passed their season average on the ground. Mendenhall to the one, and the run is punctuated by Miller launching a linebacker into the goalposts. Ye gads. Another Black timeout -- what the hell, does it take a lot to just call the same play over and over? -- and from the gun after the break, it's the first and only throw of the drive, with Roethlisberger throwing pointlessly into coverage. Could have easily been a Revis pick, but Smith knocks it down early. Suisham somehow navigates the insanely difficult Heinz Field wind conditions from 20 yards out, that's just your average 58-yard drive, every inch of it on the ground. If you like your football from the watermelon ball era, this game is yours.

Suisham's kick goes out of bounds, rather than gives KR/WILD!cat operator Brad Smith a shot. Greene for 3 on first on just their 11th play of the evening. Miscommunication throw to Edwards from a second down gun. Third and seven is just huge, given how gassed the Green defense is, and after pressure and a tip by DL Brett Keisel in coverage, it's a three and out. The Jets have ran 14 offensive plays in 21 minutes, and that ratio is about to get worse. Another terrible Weatherford punt is taken by KR Antwan Randle-El to the Black 34.

Dumb side screen to Wallace misses, and is nearly a lateral. Sandlot scramble and connection with Miller works for 23, not that Jim Nantz cares enough to do the math for us. Mendenhall for a couple in middle traffic. From the gun with the clock milked, Roethlisberger connects with Sanders for 20 yards to the left, and Green looks like they are, to use the words of the late great Gorilla Monsoon, on dream street. Mendenhall for three on backfield trickery. Roethlisberger finds Mendenhall in the flat, and the back nearly gets in; on the next play, the QB keeps it for the score, and it's Party Time in Pittsburgh. So much for the QB being gimpy from an injury, or the idea that the Jets didn't play their Super Bowl last week. With two minutes left in the half, it's Steelers 17, Jets 0, and Green more or less has to score before the half, and again with the second half kickoff, to keep this game from getting into A Lack Of Drama.

Smith to the 32, as CBS decides we need to see their obese celebrities waving Steeler flags. Eek. Sanchez from play action fools no one, and he's sacked in a jailhouse rush as the clock burns. A pump and miss to Cotchery had killshot TAInt written all over it, but falls to the turf. From the gun on third and 17, it's Wilding Time, and Sanchez is destroyed by CB Ike Taylor in mid-motion. The play is ruled a fumble on the field, recovered by DB William Gay, and ran in for an apparent touchdown. I'm not sure that Sanchez will be able to play again after that hit, and even if the arm is moving forward, the pass might be ruled a lateral... not that Simms and Nantz notice this, of course. You have to love professional media coverage, you really do. Referee Ed Hochuli saves us from this inanity by upholding the ruling on the field, and the Steelers are now 31:13 away from going to Dallas. Suisham's PAT makes it 24-0, and honestly, it hasn't been that close. Sanchez warming on the sidelines will keep the world from seeing Mark Brunell.

The Jets desperately need something, anything, good to happen for them. The squib kick isn't that play, and goes to the Green 30. 68 seconds left in the half, and just to add injury to injury, Cotchery is down and looks absolutely mangled. The Jets have 12 yards tonight to date, and it's hard to remember any of them, really.

Sanchzez from the gun gets it to Keller for four yards as the defense looks sharkish. Hurry up on second to Smith works, and he gets 16 yards to midfield. Jets have all three timeouts and 39 seconds left. Smith for nine, and that's the first Sanchez timeout, as Simms fellates the QB for not having a TAInt, as if that fumble wasn't a score. Honestly, Simms fellates QBs like breathing. From the gun,Sanchez is nearly picked as Green picks up a blitz. A defensive holding call on CB Bryant McFadden gives them five and a first. From the Black 35 in the gun, Sanchez takes Keller for nine, and that's their second timeout. Green now in range for a K Nick Folk miss, because field goal kicking in Heinz Field is only slightly less difficult than trigonometry. From the gun, Sanchez tries Holmes in the end zone, but Taylor is only man that could have caught that. Third and one with 22 seconds left from the 25 is a back leg gun throw to Edwards that never has a chance. Folk from 43 with 14 seconds left fades it from left to right, and misses the upright on the happy side by about a foot. Green Scores! Well, that gets us closer to the over, at least. Steelers 24, Jets 3.

Wow, the Steelers PA guy really likes that Caddyshack CD. That's the most national attention that Loverboy has had in, like, forever, and tells you more than you need to know about Pittsburgh. Spaeth falls on the squib, Roethlisberger takes a knee, and that's the half. See you in a bit.

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