Week 12 Recap: Seriously Lucky

ORCHARD PARK, NY - NOVEMBER 28: Steve Johnson of the Buffalo Bills reacts after dropping a pass in the end zone during overtime against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Ralph Wilson Stadium on November 28, 2010 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Karl Walter/Getty Images)

I don’t know how anyone can be a Buffalo Bills fan and keep their sanity…

A week after turning in their finest performance of the season, the Pittsburgh Steelers stunk out Ralph Wilson Stadium but somehow managed to walk away with a 19-16 overtime win.  The Steelers lost the game on about three different occasions yet the Bills kept snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

I had a feeling it was going to be one of those days when the Steelers dominated the first two quarters yet held only a 13 point lead.  The Bills had the ball for only six minutes and amassed a tad over 50 yards of total offense THE ENTIRE HALF.  When you dominate that completely and hold less than a two touchdown lead, you just know that’s asking for trouble.

The first half was back to the future.  Between passing the mashed potatoes and cutting the pumpkin pie, somebody at Bruce Arians’ table must have clued him in to the fact the Bills have the worst run defense in the NFL.  He actually called running plays, a lot of them, 21 in the first half alone.  Rashard Mendenhall would eventually finish with 36 rushes for 151 yards, the most carries by a Steeler back in three years.

A return to Steeler Football led to an opening drive which lasted thirteen plays and eight minutes, finishing with a one yard touchdown run by Mendy.  Pittsburgh’s next two drives were six and eight minutes, respectively, ending in FGs.   It’s pretty clear the Steelers are going to have to be more of a running team the rest of the year if they want to succeed.  The offensive line is far far better at run blocking than pass blocking.  Those long drives only stalled when Arians would dial up pass plays which resulted in a sack or a holding penalty.

Despite dominating action, the Steelers only had one TD to show for it.  As if that wasn’t ominous enough, Ben Roethlisberger was shown limping badly with some sort of foot/tendon injury.  Still, I don’t think anybody expected what we saw in the second half.

Ryan Fitzpatrick came out firing and our lousy secondary could do little to stop him.  Dick LeBeau finally made a defensive adjustment, going with a dime package (inserting Anthony Madison along with our regular three CBs) on obvious passing downs.  It didn’t help.  Buffalo controlled the ball for six minutes until James Harrison said “Enough of this nonsense” and blasted Lee Evans from behind, causing a fumble.

The Steelers drive stalled at the Buffalo 35.  They lined up as if to go for it but Ben went for a surprise punt.  Even though he punted with his good foot, this was an idiotic call.  Either go for it or give Shaun Suisham a chance at a long field goal.

The nightmare began with the following sentence:  “Bryant McFadden is injured.  He is being replaced by William Gay.”  It continued on second down, when Fitzpatrick was sacked by Harrison.  Wait for it…

PENALTY FLAG!   ROUGHING THE PASSER!   This week’s crime?  Leading with the crown of the helmet.  Of course, Silverback drilled Fitzy dead center in the chest with a form perfect hit but why let logic or fairness interfere with the persecution of James Harrison?  At this point, James should just bear hug the QB and hold him until he hears a whistle because he’s getting flagged every time they hit the turf.

With 15 free and totally undeserved yards gift-wrapped to Buffalo, you could see the iceberg about to hit the Titanic.  Sure enough, three plays later RB Fred Jackson took a little three yard screen pass, broke two or three tackles, and then outraced the rest of the defense for a 65 yard touchdown.  Just like that it was 13-7.

A three and out later and Buffalo was back in business.  Pass, pass, and more passing (Fitzy threw 45 times) with Madison being abused like Tom Cable’s wife.  At the start of the dreaded 4th quarter, the Bills found themselves on the Pittsburgh 28.  Since B-Mac was injured, Keenan Lewis had to play in the dime.  For those of you who wondered why he hasn’t seen playing time, here was your answer.  Lewis was completely turned around at the snap, then mugged the receiver who was about to blow by him for a nifty pass interference.  Luckily, the Steelers D stiffened and his ineptitude only cost them a shorter FG.

On the Steelers very first play of the 4th, Mendy tried his patented spinerooni and would up with his patented fumble.  His fumblitis seems to have flared up with his second miscue in two weeks.  Please get this under control, Rashard.   Last thing we need is to give BA an excuse not to run the ball.  The D held yet again but the FG was good.

So the game which the Steelers had once dominated was now tied at 13.

Time for a Big Ben comeback.  Although his final numbers weren’t horrible (20/33 for 246 yards 0/0), our passing game was various shades of terrible all afternoon.  The offensive line, LT Jonathan Scott in particular, couldn’t pass protect at all.  When he or the equally wretched Chris Kemoteau weren’t getting flagged for holding, Ben was dancing around in the pocket.  Even reliable Maurkice Pouncey had a rough game as NT Kyle Williams owned him, collecting two of the Bills five sacks.  When Ben had time and decided to throw, receivers were dropping passes.

However, with time ticking down in the 4th, Big Ben rose to the occasion.  On 3rd and 17, he scrambled for 18 yards despite the gimpy foot.  It was a heroic effort by Ben, one which exemplifies why he’s an idol to Steeler fans the world over.  Mendy added a 22 yard run to get the team into FG range.  Can Suisham pull off a clutch 48 yard kick?

He can!  Suisham was gold yesterday.  The knock on him was he choked under pressure but there was precious little evidence of that yesterday.  As painful as it is to admit, he was our most consistent offensive weapon.  Suisham was a perfect 4 for 4 and they were hardly gimmes, drilling kicks of 45, 46, 48, and 41 yards.

On the ensuing kickoff, Leodis McKelvin was pushed out of bounds after a 26 yard return.  Keyaron Fox decided to pull a few punk cards and was flagged for another personal foul.  So tack 15 more yards on to that.  The penalties were once again out of control, costing the Black and Gold a cool 107 yards on 10 hankies.  Unlike last week when the Oakland based referee was clearly corrupt, the Silverback PF was really the only one I felt undeserved.

Anyway, gifted with great field position, the Bills passed their way to the Pittsburgh 26.   Willie Gay finally made a play, stripping the ball on away from Jackson but the Steelers couldn’t pounce on it.  Two plays later, Steve Johnson batted a pass up in the air and Troy Polamalu, who played his second fantastic game in a row, came down with the INT.

The Steelers managed a couple first downs, forcing Buffalo to burn through all their time outs and the two minute warning.  On third down, Emmanuel Sanders caught a 17 yard pass for the game sealing first down.  Wait for it…

FLAG ON THE PLAY!  Kemo nabbed for holding, one of the four penalties he committed yesterday, almost every one of which wiped out a big play.  Instead of first down on our 39, we’re third and long from the 10.  Naturally, the Steelers don’t convert on the re-do and are forced to punt.

With the penalty switching field position in Buffalo’s favor, setting up a FG in 46 seconds with no time outs suddenly became very realistic.  Two big passes and the Bills drilled home a 49 yarder to send the game into overtime.  An overtime which will long be remembered by Bills fans as one of the most painful experiences since the Music City Miracle.

Buffalo won the toss so the Steelers kicked off.   McKelvin blew by our coverage and was gone had he not tripped over his own man.  HIS OWN MAN!  That’s Dodged Bullet #1.

Starting at the Pittsburgh 48, our D manned up and forced a punt.  The ball was downed at the 4.  Two runs by Mendy netted short gains.  On third down, Ben dropped back and looked and looked and YOU’RE IN YOUR OWN END ZONE, YOU IDIOT!   He was sacked about four inches away from a safety.  Dodged Bullet #2.

Standing in his end zone, Danny Sepulveda uncorked a rocket which McKelvin fumbled backwards.  Even though four Steelers swarmed to the ball, a Bill somehow managed to come out with it.  While recovering the fumble would’ve been nice, the big punt along with the muff turned what would have been excellent field position at mid-field into a Buffalo drive beginning at their own 35.  Dodged Bullet #3.

A pass and a draw by Jackson netted 26 total yards.   From the 50, Fitzpatrick went for broke with a bomb in the end zone to the speedy Johnson.   Johnson torched Ryan Clark and Ike Taylor as Fitzy lofted a perfect pass right into his waiting arms.

And he dropped it.  Just flat out dropped it.  Dodged Bullet #4.

The deflated Bills punted two plays later.  Ben converted a huge 3rd and 8 with a 17 yard strike to Mike Wallace.  Then Mendy and Issac Redman (who also ran well yesterday) took turns slicing through the Buffalo defense.  A  draw play to Redzone on 3rd down netted 7 yards to the Bills 22.  Suisham banged home a 41 yarder and the Steelers won a game they had no right winning.

Poor poor Buffalo…

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