Sunday, January 23, 2011

Jets - Steelers Second Half Diary: Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Smith goes nowhere on the return, but Greene gets Green out of the hole with a 23-yard burst. Faint pulse for the New Yorkers, who needed that play something fierce. Tomlinson follows up with his first good moment of the day, 8 yards up the gut. It's stuffed on second, but on third and four, Sanchez connects with Holmes for 16 yards. On first down from play action, Taylor falls, Holmes waves for the ball, and Sanchez connects on a massive bomb for a clear air turbulence touchdown. Wow. Great adjustment on the ball by Holmes, and that's a 45-yard score, 10 unanswered points, and We Have Drama. Steelers 24, Jets 10.

Brown takes a short high kick back to the Black 28. Roethlisberger gets free for four yards on a first down scramble, but Steeler Fan is sounding unsettled now. Clock milk and Mendenhall for four. Third down is nearly picked on a ball off a DB's face mask... and then the Jets special teams blow the stop with a 15-yard flag as STer Jamaal Westerman misses the ball, but gets P Jason Kapinos. Wow. New set of downs on the Green side of the field, and it's Mendenhall cracking 100 yards on a center give, then another yard on second; Black might be getting a mite bit conservative. Third and six from the Green 45 is a gun throw to RB Mewelde Moore, who gets launched after the sticks, but holds on for the first. Green trying hard, but not getting the results. The new C/QB problem finally crops up for a fumble, but Black recovers for a loss of one. From the gun on second in an empty backfield, Roethlisberger avoids pressure, but forces a deep ball, and DB Rodney Poole brings in the second Ben pick of the day. Halfway through the third quarter, Green Is Alive And Kicking, Folks...

Greene for three, stopped by DT Ziggy Hood, having a nice day. Sanchez from gun is too high for Holmes, and the QB just got it off from the blitz, and was nearly picked to boot. Third and long is a Big Damn Deal, and from the gun, Sanchez floats an odd ball to Edwards where the WR can't stay in. As it's a three and out, it's time for Simms to fellate Sanchez; nothing impresses him like failure. Weatherford finally hits a good punt, and Randle-El muffs it, but out of bounds and for no real damage. Big series for the Black D.

Mendenhall, two carries for six yards. Third and four from the gun sees Ben run for another first down, and Rex Ryan is failing to adjust for the difference between him and Tom Brady. That's a paddlin'. Mendenhall eaten for a loss of two, then gets the corner and nine. Black just trying to shorten the game, though another score would be a big deal. Third down gun work is another first down scramble, and a defensive holding to boot. Finally, the pressure gets to the QB for a 7-yard sack, and the ball nearly came loose, along with the name tag on the back of his shirt. Never seen that before. Mendenhall wiped out again, and had this Green defense showed up in the first half, this game would be a hell of a lot closer. Third and 20 sees the QB go down again, and the only thing good for Black at the end of that series is the clock kept running. Kapinos gets it to the 19, and Cotchery has recovered enough for a fair catch. A little more than a quarter left for Green, who need to make plays, but look a lot more lively than the first half.

Sanchez to Edwards on that slant they love from play action gets 18. S Ryan Clark is down on the play, and that's a big deal, especially considering how he has been playing recently. Green starting to find the range, especially on the line. Tomlinson for four ends the quarter, and it's 24-10 after three. Drama Continues!

Play action from Sanchez, and the QB holds in the fire to hold Keller for another big chunk of 18. From the Black 39, he tries Edwards in the end zone, but Gay has it locked down. 98 to -3 on yards for NYJ in the second half. Cotchery is slammed by Polamalu after a six yard bubble. From the 33 in the gun, Sanchez finds Keller to convert as the blitz doesn't get there. Nice work by the QB and TE. From the Black 27, Greene is stuffed at the line by Harrison. From the gun, Sanchez scrambles for seven, and almost coaxes a flag from Harrison's elbow to the back of the head. On the Black 20 on third and 3, it's a toss to Greene, who gets 2.5 before LB James Farrior arrives with hatred. That hurt just to hear it. Fourth and one sees Green go for it with 11:34 left, though the figgie would have some marginal value. Pretty much a killshot opportunity for Black. Greene gets the ball and the first with Much Manliness; that's a yard with purpose. You kind of know that Polamalu is doing it with mirrors on a play like that. From the gun, Sanchez fumbles the snap and loses eight; nearly a colossal mistake by the QB, rather than just a very bad one. A draw to Greene shows the RB run through a man on a Whoa moment, and it gets 16 massive yards. Bubble screen to Cotchery with fantastic Green blocking converts the first down; kudos to Edwards and Holmes. Play #14 of the drive is Greene on a quick hitter to the one. 8:30 left and clock burning. 181 to 29 in second half yards; mirror opposite of the first half. Sanchez to Keller doesn't connect, and Green burns way too much clock before it happens. Do or die down here is a mind-boggingly bad play call where Sanchez tries to force a slant into three men to Holmes. It's as if the QB did that blind. No reason to it. Fourth down is Tomlinson, and in a career defining moment, he's stopped short. That's a really long drive to nowhere, and while it's still possible for Green to win this game, it just went from hard to nearly impossible. Boy, it's not easy to be a Jets Fan... but hope springs eternal, as right after the commerce, the Steelers fumble the snap and take a safety. That could have even been seven, but Green will get the ball back right away, with the Black defense becomingly increasingly gassed, and 7:38 still to go. Wow. Steelers 24, Jets 12.

Cotchery returns the free kick to the Green 42. Play action fools no one, but Sanchez avoids pressure to hit Edwards for 22 yards, as the WR gets the knee down. From the Black 36, the Jets waste a play on a blown carry, and C Nick Mangold is felled by Sanchez from behind. Just as the Pouncy injury, that's a massive loss, and the longer this game goes, the more I like the Packers in the Super Bowl. Keller for nine as Green makes do for Mangold with reserve utility knife Robert Turner. Third and one sees Tomlinson stuffed again; the field goal is no value to Green, so they go for it with 5:30 left and the clock running. Another kill shot opportunity for Black, and Sanchez hits Edward on the slant to prolong things. Shotgun draw to Tomlinson for three, and I'm not sure why they are still trying him now, especially with Greene making plays. Short gain to Keller, clock still burning, burning. From the Black 11, Mangold returns for third and three, and Keller converts the first on an out. Less than four minutes now. From the gun, draw to Tomlinson for a couple; every time the Jets use him, it seems to help Pittsburgh. 3:30 left and Green huddling; ouch. Sanchez from the gun changing pre-snap, and Cotchery gets free for the score on a simple left out. Taylor makes the pick for Green, and that's just a massive mistake. Steeelers 24, Jets 19, and 19 unanswered points for Green. What a game.

Nice return for Brown helps Black loads. From their own 39, Mendenhall gets two, and that's the first Jet timeout. 99 yards for the RB in the first, just 23 in the second; that tells you everything there is to know about this game. 2:50 left. Play action to Miller is absolutely immense, a 14-yard gain, a first down, and the clock still running. Second Green timeout, and Poole just missed knocking that ball down and making this a dramatically more difficult game to close for Black. From the Green 44, Mendenhall for two, and he goes down in bounds without fumbling, the whole dream of what was necessary there. Final Green timeout with 2:38 left. Mendenhall manages two yards and staying in bounds, and the clock run off will get us to the 2-minute warning. Assuming a run, a stop, and a suitable punt, this is going to be on Sanchez to score a touchdown from 80 to 90 yards away in 80 seconds, with no timeouts, on the road. And if he does that, he'll have truly earned the crown of Most Road Playoff Wins Ever.

From the Green 40 in the gun, Black refuses to play conservative. Roethlisberger instead scrambles around, and finds Brown on a cross for 14 yards and the kill shot. Just pure balls, and all credit to Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, Roethlisberger and Brown for executing the biggest play of the year to perfection. Ryan throws his headset to the ground in frustration, and I think I just heard America, or at the very least New England, have a collective Nelson Muntz moment. Amazing year for them, and you have to think they can get back here again... and maybe even win, assuming they don't employ Tomlinson. (Sorry, LT. It's you.)

The Steelers advance in as manly a fashion as is humanly possible for a team that nearly blew a 24-point lead at home, and I go 2-0 in my playoff picks. Not sure what's the bigger story, really. Congrats to the champs, my friends who are their fans, and to all of those Jet Fans out there... honestly, try not to be bitter. Your team fought like hell, and gave you more moments of joy than just about any year in their history. But beating the best three QBs of the era, all on the road, was just too much to ask of any team, really.

A final moment for Steeler Fan... I don't think this is one of your best teams. Wallace is still too young to be a consistent game breaker, the line has troublesome moments, and the defense is more erratic than any in recent memory. But they are good in close games, don't beat themselves with coaching moments, and get the plays they need to advance. And in some ways, the teams that have to struggle to seal the deal are just more lovable... but only if they do it. You folks win too often to settle for nice tries.

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