Monday, December 23, 2013

Gift of the Magi

Plenty of people appeared to be in a giving mood yesterday in Green Bay.

Blowing a 10-point fourth-quarter lead, the Steelers were poised to gift-wrap the game for the Packers in a game that featured six lead changes.

But the Packers gave and gave and gave some more, starting with a Matt Flynn fumble inside the Packers’ 20, which set up the Steelers to line up for a 28-yard field goal that would have given them a 34-31 lead with 1:35 left.

Green Bay's Nick Perry promptly jumped offside for a six-six-six penalty, which gave the Steelers a first down at the five.

The gifting had only just begun.

With the Steelers at second -and-goal at the Green Bay one-yard line, the Packers burned their final timeout with 1:28 left. The Steelers' coaches, however, in a giving mood of their own, were not content to simply kneel on the ball twice to run the clock down and kick a game-winning field goal.

"I am not into that," said head coach Mike Tomlin afterward.

Instead, the Pittsburgh coaches had running back Le’Veon Bell run it in for the TD with 1:25 left, as the Packers waved him in to allow time for a desperation drive that might tie the score.

The Steelers then allowed Micah Hyde to return the ensuing kickoff 70 yards to set up the Packers with a short field at the Pittsburgh 30-yard line. Hyde would have gone all the way but for Shamarko Thomas, who closed an angle and tackled him at the 30.

The Packers moved the ball quickly to the one-yard line, but with second-and-goal with 20 seconds left, Green Bay guard Don Barclay jumped the snap. That false start cost the Packers five yards and a precious 10-second runoff. That may not have been the most costly miscue for the Packers on the day, but it was glaring considering the circumstances.

That wasn't the final gift Green Bay served up to the Steelers.

On the final desperation pass into the end zone, Matt Flynn attempted a throw to Jarret Boykin, who was covered, instead of to veteran Jordy Nelson, their go-to receiver, who had single coverage and was wide open in on a slant pattern across the mid-back of the end zone.

Nelson is a tall, rangy, fast guy with excellent hands. He tortured the Steelers in Super Bowl XLV, and Flynn gift-wrapped the Steelers a present by going to Boykin instead of Nelson, their top receiver. You'd think he would've targeted Nelson, but no ...

It was a Festivus for the rest of us!  Lots of gifts.

The Steelers, miraculously, remain alive with a marginal chance to make the playoffs if everything goes right next weekend.  That may or may not happen. For now, Steeler Nation can celebrate a cool yule with visions of sugar-plum playoff chances dancing in our heads.

No comments: