Who would have thought that a botched fake field goal would turn the tide of an entire game?
Okay, so that's oversimplifying it a little bit, but let's just go with it. It was definitely a tale of two halves during the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Detroit Lions matchup. The previously 3-6 Steelers (now 4-6) were facing a huge challenge against the previously 6-3 (now 6-4) Lions, with QB Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson looking to roll all over the Steelers' struggling secondary. But, shockingly, everything just seemed to come together after that fake field goal, even after the Steelers blew a huge lead.
The Lions were looking at a relatively easy 28-yard field goal two minutes into the fourth quarter. Detroit was enjoying a 27-23 lead. Coach Jim Schwartz called for a fake for the first time as Lions head coach. Kicker Sam Martin took the snap, ran for a little bit, then got hit and proceeded to fumble the ball. The Lions, having scored all 27 points in the second quarter, then allowed two Steelers touchdowns after the fake. And for whatever reason, Stafford's rhythm was completely off-kilter, going just 3-of-16 passes in the second half. He targeted Johnson only three times during the second half as well, even though Johnson caught all six of his passes for 179 yards in the first. What the heck happened? As a Steelers fan, it sure was fun to watch.
Meanwhile, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had a steady, productive day. He went 29 of 45 for 367, four touchdowns, and no interceptions. He was sacked once, which is kind of pretty great for the Steelers. His fourth touchdown pass was a gorgeous 20-yarder to Jerricho Cotchery, with 2:29 left in the game. Sadly, though, the Steelers were only able to rack up 40 yards rushing. That's kind of scary.
Things started out relatively well for the Steelers until the disastrous second quarter. Roethlisberger threw two quick touchdown passes to Antonio Brown for the Steelers' first two series of the game. Brown was able to convert those short passes into touchdowns of 37 and 47 yards. Dude was on fiyah. But of course, this is the Steelers, and what looked like an amazing lead got smaller and smaller, and soon enough, they were trailing. Fans in the pouring rain had even given up and left at this point.
By halftime, Johnson had 2 touchdowns as well as 179 yards. He began the inundation of points in the second quarter with a ridiculously easy 79-yard touchdown. Defensive back Ike Taylor was struggling, dropping easy interceptions and getting called for multiple penalties. Hell, holding was even called on him and Johnson still managed to catch the ball. Then, all of a sudden, the throws to Johnson stopped. Taylor was able to step it up and Johnson was no longer a threat.
Also, while the Lions were scoring their 27 points, the Steelers were having problems getting into the end zone. Shaun Suisham had to kick two field goals during the second quarter. They made a trip to the red zone three times and had to settle for field goals. That's pretty pathetic, especially because the Steelers were able to drive to the 1-yard line at one point and still walked away with 3. At least Suisham is still super dependable.
On the defensive side, they were actually able to create some key turnovers. During the second quarter, Reggie Bush fumbled after a hit by Will Allen, and the ball was recovered by Lawrence Timmons. The score at the time was 14-3 Steelers. Then, in the fourth quarter, Will Allen yet again came up big. Stafford threw a deep pass intended for Johnson, which Allen was able to intercept. That's when Roethlisberger was able to throw that 20-yard TD to Cotchery. Two touchdowns in the final five minutes? Not too shabby. And that was after Roethlisberger put together a 97-yard drive after that botched fake field goal. What a way to silence your critics. Can we please put all of those trade rumors to rest? Yeesh. Stafford ended the day going 19 for 46 for 362 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 interception.
Well, now that the Steelers pretty much defied a lot of odds by beating up on the Lions, next week they play a huge game against division rival the Cleveland Browns. With three AFC North teams boasting a rather hilarious 4-6 record, the division is kind of wide open, and the Steelers actually have a shot at redeeming what began as a truly horrific season. Remember though that the Steelers actually lost in Cleveland last season when they committed eight turnovers. Talk about a hell of a hangover the day after THAT game.
The inability to get into the endzone in the middle of the game, the defense's second quarter collapse, and the lack of running game are all issues the Steelers should be concerned with, but there's no doubt that this come-from-behind victory could represent a turning point for this much beleaguered team. Throw in all of the teams that are currently struggling in the AFC North, and the last half of the season could get mighty interesting. Wouldn't it be great if the Steelers were finally figuring it all out at exactly the right moment? I take that back, since this is the Steelers, and it will NEVER be that easy, but maybe they'll be able to take the momentum from this win as they travel to Cleveland next week. All we can hope is that they have another performance like this and take it one week at a time. Feels good to finally start winning though, doesn't it? Definitely calls for another Iron City beer.