Tag Archives: NFL playoffs

Same Old Steelers

We should be used to this by now.

To steal a phrase from Rex Ryan… same old Steelers.

 

While Ryan and his New York Jets have set their status quo at just making the AFC title game, the Pittsburgh Steelers status quo is winning it. Lets just say that they follow through on that more times than not.

 

The Steelers defeated the Jets 24-19 to move on to their 8th Super Bowl, tied for the most appearances ever with the Dallas Cowboys. They did so in the way that the Steelers always do things, run the football and hit you in the mouth.

 

They jumped on the Jets from the get go with a 15 play, 66 yard drive that was capped off by Rashard Mendenhall who was a horse in the early going. The nearly nine minute drive set the tone for the Steelers who dominated the first 30 minutes of play. Despite an early Ben Roethlisberger interception the offense was a well-oiled machine. Mendenhall led a rushing attack that went for 131 yards in the first half, 95 from him and had the Jets defense gasping for air.

 

Even without star rookie center Mike Pouncey the Steelers controlled the line of scrimmage and outgained the Jets 210-55.

 

Defensively… well… it was the Steelers come on what do you expect? They held the Jets to three 3 & out and shut down any glimmer of a run game that the Jets thought that they had. They shut down former pal Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards and created 6 points for themselves thanks to an Ike Taylor sack and forced fumble that William Gay scooped up and ran in to give them a 24-0 lead. Total dominance.

 

It was so dominant that the Steelers sort of checked out of the game in the third quarter and gave the Jets life. After a field goal late in the half the Jets showed signs by cutting the lead to 24-10 on a Sanchez to Holmes connection. It lasted until midway through the fourth quarter where the Steelers showed their muscle and held for a goal line stand to eventually end Jets chances.

 

The Steelers now head to Dallas with a chance to add to their record number of Super Bowls (6) and for a little bit more.

 

This is now the era of the black & gold (or black & yellow thanks to Wiz Khalifa). The Steelers have moved past the Patriots for the title of the Superior franchise in the new millennium and past the Cowboys as the NFL’s number one franchise.

Big Ben has a chance to add to his legacy.

 

A win in Dallas at Super Bowl 45 would further cement their legacy and move them to a higher plateau on the NFL legends tower leaving the 49ers and Cowboys in a cloud of dust.

 

For Ben Roethlisberger another ring would equal him with Tom Brady and would give him a claim to the decades best quarterback. Despite his high profile off the field issues Roethlisberger is one of the game’s elite quarterbacks and has a chance to equal Brady in championships before the age of 30. It would put him in the rare company as being one of a handful of QB’s with three titles (Montana, Bradshaw, Aikman and Brady).  Not bad for a guy who at the beginning of the year didn’t know when he was going to get on the field.

 

For coach Mike Tomlin it would put him in a class all by himself as well.

 

He would be the only coach to win two Super Bowls before the age of 40 and you could make a case that he could be the Steelers best coach in their history.

 

Tomlin is one of only 3 coaches whom the Steelers have hired in the last 41 years (Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher and Tomlin), yet his rate of success has been much higher than his two compatriots.

 

Tomlin won his first Super Bowl in his second year on the job; it took Noll 6 years and Cowher 14. Tomlin has six postseason wins through 3+ years when it took Cowher 11 years to reach that total and Noll 7 years. What Tomlin has done is take the Steelers brand of football and made it better. In the process he can put himself in a class all by his lonesome as the league’s number one coach elevating past Bill Belichick.

 

This is what the Steelers are and have been for the last 40 years. They are a model of consistency who just keep on winning no matter if Dennis Dixon is under center, an unproven Mike Wallace is their number one receiver or their head coach was non-existent when Noll lead the Steelers to their first playoff win in 1972.

 

They do it with little flash and lots of hard work, resembling the town in which they play. The end result is a franchise that teams like the Jets strive to be like at the end of the day, because while the Jets reached their level of normalcy, the Steelers are only at a level beneath what they’re used to.

 

Dallas, Texas in two weeks on the game’s biggest stage with the Vince Lombardi trophy hanging in the balance and the Steelers will be right there. Just like its always been, same old Steelers.

 

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Mike Martz “Genius” Costs The Bears

The Bears offensive game plan doomed them.

I’ll never understand the silliness of NFL “gurus.” You know, the guys that are supposed to know more than you and I and anyone else involved in the game?

 

They’re the guys who get jobs based on their brilliance in their designed field of offense or defense because they seem to make the right calls with the right personnel and everything seems to work.

 

Think about all of the “geniuses” that have gotten head coaching jobs based on their repertoire; Bill Belichick, defensive guru, Brian Billick, QB guru, Mike Shanahan, QB genius and last but not least Mike Martz, offensive genius. Have these men had success? Absolutely. However, more times than not their success at the head coaching position is due to players on the other side of the ball and in recent years their genius has come into question, especially Martz.

 

After the Bears loss to the Packers on Sunday you may see why.

 

The Bears looked dreadful on offense through three quarters unable to move the ball past Green Bay’s defense. There was no flow, no ability to move the ball especially through the air. Martz had changed his philosophy on offense with this team because midway through the season it was apparent that their line couldn’t protect Jay Cutler and that they didn’t have the receivers to run his vertical attack.

 

(And all it took was a nine sack first-half against the New York Giants that concussed QB Jay Cutler and cost them a game to figure it out. Just saying.)

 

Martz stuck with the ground game and the short passing game because Matt Forte was his most reliable playmaker and it worked.

 

The Bears were a much different team relying on controlling the line of scrimmage and their defense to win games while limiting their mistakes.

 

This philosophy carried the Bears to a NFC North title and a number two seed in the playoffs and to the NFC title game. So with it working so well and the Bears winning ball games why did Martz go back to his old “Greatest show on Turf” days and go vertical again today against the Packers dominant pass rush? I’m sure the Bear faithful and Lovie Smith would like to know as well.

 

The run game disappeared as the Bears decided to test the Packers stellar secondary and it failed. The Bears were blanked through three quarters, had less than 150 yards of total offense and Forte had little impact on the ground. Sure you could blame some of their woes on the fact that Cutler was injured before the end of the first half and didn’t return, but before he left the Bears looked clueless on offense.

 

Speaking of the quarterback play give third-stringer Caleb Hanie credit for the way he played under duress and to Smith for putting him in their under the circumstances of the game (Cutler’s injury and Todd Collins looking like Phil Collins) and trusting him. Hanie showed great poise late in the game giving the Bears a shot to win in the end even though he finished with two picks.

 

Hanie’s play mixed with the fact that the Bears finally went back to the run game got them back into the game late and set up their final drive with under three minutes left.

Martz's ridiculous call late in the game doomed the Bears.

 

Hanie used Forte throughout his fourth quarter stint as his favorite weapon checking down three of four times for large gains including twice on this drive. Then on a third & three with close to a minute left the Bears called timeout to setup a play and the result left me wondering why in the world would that have been called in any situation anywhere.

 

They called an end around on third & 3 with one minute left deep in Green Bay territory… I’m not a Bears fan but I was mad as hell.

 

A reverse, with your season on the line and two downs left was about as idiotic a play as you can call. It was worse than the Forte halfback pass last week against Seattle. The play lost two yards and forced a bad fourth down throw from Hanie, which was then intercepted. Game over, have a good night.

 

After Chicago fought back from such a poor start and whose defense played so well and kept them in it with two picks of Aaron Rodgers, that was the sequence that ended their season. I would be ticked.

 

Martz’s genius and gimmick play calling cost the Bears a shot at playing in the Super Bowl. Not Jay Cutler, not their backup quarterback, not Aaron Rodgers, the brain child of the vertical passing game that took St. Louis to the top but has bottomed out since.

 

His game plan put them in a hole and his play calling killed them.

 

Don’t get me wrong, Green Bay won this game and deserved to play in the Super Bowl. They just got one big assist from one of those great NFL gurus.

 


The Jets Can Keep On Talking

The Jets talked all week. Sunday they proved it wasn't just all talk.

Talk is cheap… unless you can actually back it up. To say that The Jets backed it up would be selling them short. They put their collective foot in the New England Patriots… um… you know.

 

The Jets 28-21 win wasn’t just a statement game that may turn the tide in the AFC East over the next year; it may have knocked the swagger out of the Patriots for some time to come.

 

Say what you will about Rex Ryan, he’s loud, begs for attention and sometimes crosses the line with his tactics. However, he’s not the type of guy that bails out on a plan when it’s not working well.

 

After the 45-3 beat down in Foxboro two months ago Ryan could’ve, and should’ve, kept his yap shut and stopped throwing rocks at everyone’s throne. Yet here was Ryan talking about how “personal” it was between him and Peyton Manning and Bill Belichick. Encouraging Antonio Cromartie to draw the ire of Tom Brady by calling him an @$$#ole and saying “F*** Tom Brady”. He even continued his talk about how the Jets are still Super Bowl contenders. Meanwhile everyone from sports radio broadcasters to anchors called him crazy. Now what do we call him?

 

Ryan, dare I say it, outcoached “The Hoodie” and turned the tide in the rematch of the Monday Night Massacre.

 

The Jets were able to do the one main thing it takes to win a football game; they controlled the line of scrimmage. On offense the Jets ran the ball much better than the Pats and the offensive line kept Mark Sanchez off of his rear end all day long as the Pats couldn’t produce any pressure and Sanchez was able to step into his throws. On defense Shaun Ellis and company sacked Tom Brady five times and the Pats never got into any rhythm until late in the game when the Jets were in control. Ryan rarely called blitzes instead allowing his down linemen to get pressure on Brady and it worked perfectly.

 

Brady couldn’t make the proper adjustments and it showed, as he couldn’t get the ball downfield at all as Jets defenders blanketed his receivers. The Pats were given a taste of their own medicine as the Jets played a more physical brand of football and left the Patriots shaking their heads.

 

The MVP though was Sanchez. The much-maligned QB shook off a shaky performance against the Indianapolis Colts and looked like the highly touted kid from USC that was so hyped upon his NFL arrival.

 

Sanchez threw three scores including two beauties to Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards. He sailed a few balls but for the most part he was on point and did the things that the Jets offense needed to win the game.  Rex Ryan deserves credit for that as well by simplifying the offense, which allowed Sanchez to make the proper plays.

Mark Sanchez is now 4-1 in the playoffs, all on the road.

 

As much as critics like to get on Sanchez for his spotty accuracy in key moments, the guy is 4-1 in the playoffs, all on the road and in tough places to play like Indy, New England and San Diego. That’s impressive no matter who you are and he deserves a lot of credit for guiding the Jets to those victories.

 

As for the Patriots the question is now what? The Pats were a juggernaut rolling into this week, bringing up memories of their near perfect season during that stretch. Yet they never resembled that team today as the Jets beat them at every angle and though they outgained them it wasn’t indicative of how the game was played.

 

Belichick’s defense needs to improve in two ways, pass coverage and pass rush. They couldn’t touch Sanchez because they don’t have the guys to get it done besides Vince Wilfork and he’s more of a run stopper. The secondary need more depth because besides Brandon Merriweather and Devin McCourtey there’s not much there as the Jets proved.

 

There’s also the fact that maybe no one truly is afraid of the Patriots. Think about the last two times the Pats got called out in the media. The first was Super Bowl 42 when Plaxico Burress guaranteed a victory and this past week when every Jet except Ken O’Brien called them out. What happened? They got beat up.

 

The luster from those three championships has all but faded. They’re no longer the front-runners in the NFL and it’s starting to show. When someone trash talks you all week then comes into your house and beats you down there is a problem. Maybe the Belichick way isn’t working anymore, maybe they need a new approach. Whatever it is they need to figure it out quick because they’re losing ground by the minute.

 

Maybe they should try the Rex Ryan way because it looks like it works. Will things be personal when the Jets go to Pittsburgh next week (maybe for Holmes.)? Will Darrelle Revis call out Ben Roethlisberger? If they do, we shouldn’t stress about it, that’s who the Jets are. The Jets talk win, lose or draw. After today in Foxboro we also know they can back it up in impressive fashion.

 

Wes Welker tried the passive-aggressive Ryan way this week with his foot comments. Maybe Welker can help remove the Jets foot from the Pats backend. Learn from Ryan Wes, if you’re going to talk, make sure we can hear you. Also make sure you can back it up, that’s the Rex Ryan way.

 


Ravens Let It Slip Away

Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense are at fault for losing this game.

The Ravens had them. They were up 21-7 in the third quarter with the ball. Terrell Suggs owned the Pittsburgh offensive line; the Ravens defense was causing turnovers and controlling the line of scrimmage. Momentum was on their side… and they let it all slip away.

 

After Ray Rice fumbled for the first time in over 400 touches, Baltimore melted down and lost 31-24 to the Pittsburgh Steelers in a game that lived up to the hype.

 

It was a 12 round match that featured very few haymakers but several knockdowns. The Steelers delivered the hardest blows when it counted.

 

The first half belonged to the Ravens as they forced two turnovers, which led to 14 points and seemed to stagger the Steelers. Suggs was unstoppable. He swarmed Ben Roethlisberger all afternoon for three sacks and it should’ve been five if not for Ben’s athletic ability, which helps him avoid sacks. At the half and early into the third quarter it looked as if Baltimore could all but punch their ticket to New England next week… then the fumble happened.

 

Ray Rice never fumbles, never, 404 touches since his last one to be exact. However on a check down from Joe Flacco (one of the many from him today) Rice didn’t protect the ball and it slipped out of his hands and into the Pittsburgh defense’s. A few plays later Ben found Heath Miller for a 9 yard score and the Steelers were back in business.

 

On the next possession Flacco threw a terrible pass in the direction of Todd Heap, who was double covered, and it landed right in the hands of Ryan Clark for another turnover and the Raven meltdown continued once the Steelers turned it into more points and tied the game at 21.

 

Then after they got the ball back Flacco mishandled a snap and, yep another turnover that led to more points. The Steelers were now up 24-21 and the Ravens were in a full freefall.

 

(Side note: Joe Flacco is a bum. I understand the Steelers defense is tough, but man did he look scared of, well, everything. He checked down to Ray Rice more than Trent Edwards, he was afraid to throw the ball downfield more than six yards and when he did he routinely under and overthrew his receivers. His performance was dreadful. He couldn’t move the ball unless he had a short field and looked shaky from start to finish.

Terrell Suggs dominated the game early, but Ben Roethlisberger got the last laugh.

 

Is it a problem in the future? What do you think? I wouldn’t trust this guy making me a turkey sandwich let alone try to lead my team to a Super Bowl. He’s got great receivers and one of the game’s best backs and cant seem to get the offense to move. The Ravens should take a look at bringing in a solid back-up QB just in case.)

 

So here we are in the fourth quarter and the game has totally changed. Now James Harrison is the one bringing the heat and the Steelers were pushing around the Ravens offensive line. The Ravens offense was obscenely inept. They couldn’t gain ground at all thanks to the Steelers d-line and Flacco’s shaky hand. If not for the Ravens defense the Steelers might have completely destroyed the Ravens.

 

Thanks to that defense the Ravens had one last shot to take control of the game thanks to a great stand with less than 5 minutes left and a great punt return, which was a touchdown but was called back thanks to a hold. Yet once again the Ravens offense failed to produce. They had scored touchdowns when working with a short field in the first half, but on this possession they were denied and held to a field goal.

 

So what happens next? Let’s see; fourth quarter, game on the line, Roethlisberger behind center… yeah you know. Roethlisberger did what neither offense could do in the first 56 minutes of the game, he moved the ball efficiently down the field thanks to a big pass play to Emmanuel Sanders and the Steelers scored another touchdown to take a 31-24 lead.

 

Could the Ravens answer? Of course not. Flacco was sacked, overthrew Anquan Boldin and on their last play actually threw a dart to T.J. Houshmanzadeh, which he let slip through his hands ending their season. Very fitting for the game that they played in the second half.

 

As much as the Steelers won the game, the Ravens lost it. Their meltdown was all mental mistakes. Every turnover could’ve been avoided by the offense and each turnover killed a defense that despite allowing 31 points was absolutely dominate.

 

This loss is squarely on the offense. The drop, the turnovers that put the defense in bad spots and the inability to control the line all led to the Ravens demise (hasn’t that been the case since the team’s inception?).

 

So as the Steelers move on and somehow try to heal up from this epically physical game, the Ravens head back to Charm City hanging their heads. They know this game was there’s and it was well in their grasp. However, like the Houshmenzadeh dropped pass they let it slip away and cant blame anyone but themselves.