18 Plays (sort of) from the Colts/Steelers game
We actually recorded this podcast, but the audio recording didn't come out right. This will have to do...
1. 3-2-IND 42 (11:41) 7-B.Roethlisberger pass deep right to 10-S.Holmes to IND 19 for 23 yards.Demond: The Steelers were already in four down territory, so throwing deep on third down was a smart play. Holmes made a nice move, and Jennings didn't really have a chance.
DZ: This was about the only thing Jennings did wrong all day. Holmes made a little side step and Jennings bit hard. He played so well the rest of the game that we'll forgive him.
2. 1-10-IND 35 (7:52) 18-P.Manning pass deep left to 87-R.Wayne for 65 yards, TOUCHDOWN.Demond: Great blitz pick up by Addai. Manning delivered a nice ball, and Taylor couldn't deflect it enough to alter its trajectory.
DZ: At first glance, this pass seemed short, but the replay shows it would have hit Wayne in the hands in stride. Taylor made an amazing play to even touch the ball, but it was so accurate that the tip didn't alter the ball flight much. Wayne showed great concentration to haul it in.
3. 1-10-IND 49 (3:35) 18-P.Manning sacked at IND 38 for -11 yards (91-Aa.Smith)
Demond: Great coverage downfield. Manning is clearly slower this season in his lateral movement. Smith came right at him which made it hard for him to get wide enough to throw the pass away.
DZ: Pollack and Diem had Smith double teamed. Pollack inexplicably leaves Smith to help Saturday (who didn't need the help). Diem couldn't handle Smith without the help. This was another play where you really see the high level of play from the Pittsburgh secondary who was great all day. Manning initially had time, but there was no one open.
4. 3-9-PIT 48 (15:00) (Shotgun) 7-B.Roethlisberger pass short left to 21-M.Moore to IND 42 for 10 yards (98-R.Mathis, 31-K.Ratliff).
Demond: Good pressure by Freeney forces Roethlisberger to check down. Bullitt takes a poor angle on Moore, but Bethea was in position to make a play. Two yards before the first down line, he is blocked in the back illegally, and Moore gets the first.
DZ: There is no excuse for the official to miss this call. Holmes clearly wipes out Bethea from behind, or the Steelers never convert. Freeney was a force all day, forcing check downs like this. When Moore catches the ball, there are two Colts between him and the first down marker, 7 yards away. Bullitt has help to the outside, but forces Moore inside, where Bethea still likely stops him if not for an egregious penalty that wasn't called. This play was devastating live, and seemed like sloppy tackling by the Colts. On replay, it's more infuriating because they mostly did everything right. Bad luck.
5. 1-10-IND 42 (14:14) 7-B.Roethlisberger pass deep right to 86-H.Ward to IND 1 for 41 yards (21-B.Sanders; 41-A.Bethea). flea-flicker play, #21 Moore tosses ball back to #7 Roethlisberger
Demond: A nice play by Roethlisberger to catch the poor pitch. Sessions just misses the sack, and Sanders comes sprinting over to make the play on the deep ball. I watched it several times and still can't figure out how he doesn't make that play.
DZ: Sanders bit on the fake, but closed quickly and just overran the play. I don't understand it either. Every time I watch it, I expect him to make the pick. These two plays back to back were demoralizing. Pittsburgh pounded it in for a 14-7 lead, and it felt like a loss was coming.
6. 3-5-IND 42 (6:33) (Shotgun) 7-B.Roethlisberger pass short middle to 89-M.Spaeth to IND 29 for 13 yards (41-A.Bethea, 58-G.Brackett).
Demond: This was just a good throw by Roethlisberger. Right between Brackett and Bethea.
DZ: And just over Brock who had dropped into coverage. The line rushed three, and the QB made a tight throw. Nice play by them, but was indicative of the third and medium plays that defined this game for good and for bad. Pittsburgh converted this into a field goal and a 17-7 lead.
7. 4-8-PIT 37 (1:52) (Punt formation) 17-H.Smith punts 29 yards to PIT 8, Center-48-J.Snow, downed by IND-85-P.Garcon.
DZ: We disagreed about this play at the time. I guess you were right. My thinking was for this to work the following things had to happen: 1. you needed a good punt/special teams play and 2. you needed a defense that had already allowed 17 points in less than a half to get a stop. I just figured the odds of both of those were nil.
Demond: I usually always favor going for it, but not this time. Because the Colts would get the ball to start the second half, it didn't make sense to risk giving Pittsburgh one more scoring chance (which they would have if the conversion failed). Something about the way this game was going screamed for a conservative call. The Colts were struggling to complete throws on offense at the time as well. Even if the Colts never got the ball back that half, the Steelers would likely not score either leaving open the opportunity for a second half comeback.
8. 3-2-PIT 16 (1:30) 7-B.Roethlisberger pass deep left intended for 10-S.Holmes INTERCEPTED by 31-K.Ratliff at PIT 32. 31-K.Ratliff to PIT 30 for 2 yards (49-S.McHugh).
Demond: Roethlisberger feels heat from Freeney that isn't really there, and makes a really poor throw. Sometimes the hyperactivity of Freeney and Mathis can make the QB feel like there's more pressure than there really is.
DZ: They are so fast that if the QB doesn't trust his protection, it can be scary. Freeney was a beast this game, forcing not only two sacks, but this pick, a holding call, and several check down throws. Brackett does a nice job in the 'spy' roll checking Moore out of the backfield, leaving only one (poor option). Ratliff makes the play here, but really made plays all day long. He was very strong tackling, and played a textbook cover-2 corner all day. Roethlisberger simply CAN'T make this throw.
9. 3-2-PIT 2 (:09) 18-P.Manning pass short middle to 44-D.Clark for 2 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
Demond: This was the play that saved the season. I loved the run on 2nd down to set this up. Clark lines up right and sits right down in the space vacated by Farrior.
DZ: This was a veteran route by Clark. If he runs it too deep, the LBs break up the pass. Instead he stays shallow, right on the goal line and catches a tough ball that is hot and little bit behind him. Nice play by everyone, and even trailing 17-14, it felt like Indy was in the game to stay.
10. 3-1-IND 35 (13:44) (Shotgun) 18-P.Manning pass short left to 11-A.Gonzalez to IND 47 for 12 yards (24-I.Taylor).
Demond: Receivers stacked right and left. Wayne stays shallow; AG fakes deep, comes back...easy completion.
DZ: The defensive holding on this play was hilarious. The penalty was declined, but the DB grabbed Wayne by the shoulder pads and mugged him. Tomlin was complaining about it after the fact, but it was mugging.
11. 3-3-PIT 18 (8:23) (Shotgun) 18-P.Manning pass incomplete deep right to 88-M.Harrison. IND-88-M.Harrison was injured during the play. Coverage by #22 Gay, #23 Carter
Demond: Marvin didn't have much separation from the CB Gay. Peyton put it right on the money, but Gay got a finger tip on the ball. Most commentators called it 'alligator arms', but the pass was actually slightly deflected. Honestly, Manning threw a lot of incomplete passes that day. Four were to Marvin...four to Wayne (including a 'drop' on the first drive)...AG dropped a pass. Clark had a ball hit off his hands. Marvin is getting more heat than the others, but they all missed plays too.
DZ: I saw alligator arms. Honestly, the creepy thing about this play was the weird look Freeney gave Marvin when he finally came back to the bench (Demond called it almost an 'eye roll'). It certainly wasn't a look of concern for a potentially injured teammate. It was a "whatever, dude" kind of glance. This is was really weird. The dropped pass resulted in a FG to tie the game instead of a go ahead TD.
12. 3-5-IND 43 (5:25) (Shotgun) 7-B.Roethlisberger pass incomplete short right to 86-H.Ward (21-B.Sanders).
Demond: Great defensive play by Bob to make up for the missed play earlier. Quick reaction time.
DZ: This play probably saves 3 points. The completed pass would have been inside the 35, and set the Steelers up near FG range. The Zombie closed incredibly fast and swatted away the pass ala the AFC Championship game. This down and distance (3rd and 5) was the story all night. This time the Colts made the play and got the ball back with a chance to take the lead.
13. 3-11-IND 42 (1:47) (Shotgun) 18-P.Manning pass incomplete deep left to 11-A.Gonzalez (23-T.Carter)
Demond: AG is in the slot; Manning lofts one up, but AG is wide open. He gets rocked and dropped the pass. If this was Marvin, everyone would be saying he was a washed up bitch. This was a big moment in the game, and you have to secure the ball before glancing upfield.
DZ: Even though this drive stalled here, it was still fairly successful. The crowd was very loud, and the Colts had been pinned deep after the stop of the Steelers by Bob. By getting out to the 42 (thanks to another tip to Wayne), the Colts managed to back the Steelers up and momentarily kept momentum out of their hands. AG has dropped about 5 huge third down passes this year. It's troubling. He did get CRUSHED on this one though.
14. 3-1-IND 1 (9:04) 21-M.Moore up the middle to IND 1 for no gain (68-E.Foster).
Demond: Foster goes down to the ground to avoid the block, comes back up and drills the ball carrier. One of the reasons this win was so satisfying was because it took so many clutch plays by so many guys to pull it off. This might have been the biggest.
DZ: (doing a 'faith healer' voice) It was as if he PLUNGED beneath the WATERS OF BAPTISM and emerged REBORN! as an honest to God NFL caliber defensive tackle. Absolutely amazing play. He had made the stop on second down as well. Even though Pitt drilled the FG to take the lead, after this play, we all felt like this was the Colts' day.
15. 3-4-PIT 34 (4:51) (Shotgun) 7-B.Roethlisberger pass short middle intended for 10-S.Holmes INTERCEPTED by 23-T.Jennings at PIT 38. 23-T.Jennings to PIT 32 for 6 yards (7-B.Roethlisberger).
Demond: Even though the blitz by Sanders was picked up, it helped (along with pressure from Freeney) force and early throw. Jennings just wanted the throw more. Early in the season, he would have been flagged for breathing wrong on Holmes, but this time they let him fight for the ball. It was as impressive as anything you'll see from a Colts' DB.
DZ: Jennings was solid all day long. He made several key tackles in the run game and on those crappy short screens the Steelers kept running. He looked like a legit Colts cover 2 corner in the vein of Harper, David, Jackson, and Hayden. Once he picked this ball off, you knew the Colts would score.
16. 3-1-PIT 23 (3:43) 38-D.Rhodes right guard to PIT 17 for 6 yards (92-J.Harrison, 93-N.Eason).
Demond:Good vision by Dom to find the hole. He gained all the yards on the winning drive.
DZ: Again, the Colts run game is brutally efficient in third and short. CJ pulls and seals the right edge, Saturday sort of falls and knocks someone down, and Dom cuts back for the first. As dicey as the run game has been all year, it's been great on short yardage (unless it's a fourth down at midfield. Yeesh)
17. 1-10-PIT 17 (3:10) 18-P.Manning pass short right to 38-D.Rhodes for 17 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
Demond: Everyone is covered as Manning looks down the middle. He spots Dom, and throws a perfect pass just over an out of position Polamalu. Dom grabs it and walks in.
DZ: This was only Dom's second TD catch ever. The throw was amazing. All Dom had to do was not drop it.
18. 1-10-IND 32 (:48) (Shotgun) 7-B.Roethlisberger pass incomplete short left to 21-M.Moore. PENALTY on PIT-78-M.Starks, Offensive Holding, 10 yards, enforced at IND 32 - No Play. AND 1-20-IND 42 (:43) (Shotgun) 7-B.Roethlisberger sacked at IND 49 for -7 yards (93-D.Freeney).
Demond:The Colts do a nice job on the drive forcing the Steelers to use a ton of time to gain very little actual yardage. The Steelers used 12 plays on this drive (really 14 with penalties which still used time). Freeney was great all day, and finally got a holding call, and then followed it up with the loop around sack. This essentially won the game.
DZ: Freeney did a great job tackling Roethlisberger on the play given the fact that they are about the same weight. Freeney was huge all day. I can't tell you how glad I am that we didn't have use the Hail Mary as one of the 18 Plays. That would have been heart breaking.
Everyone on the O-line except for Saturday did something stupid, but at the same time, there is no debate that the line has gotten dramatically better since the return of Ugoh. I don't know if he's the answer for 15 years at LT, but moving CJ inside has helped so much. As a unit they are playing much better even though everyone is still making mistakes. Pollack is the weak link right now by a lot.
It was great to see the Colts blitz effectively. On one hand, blitzing in a cover-2 is an admission of defeat. It means you either can't get pressure with the front four, or you can't cover long enough to let the line get there. The Colts have decided that as long as they can't cover, they might as well blitz and try to force a bad decision. It worked well on Sunday. They tried to balance it out with some three man rushes. That didn't work as well.
We said last week that we couldn't imagine a scenario where the Colts won this game. But it happened. If you had told us that all that had to happen was:
Indy would out rush Pittsburgh, holding them under 60 yards. Eric Foster would make a huge goal-line stand. Jennings and Ratliff would both pick off huge passes. The O-line would only give up 2 sacks and keep a clean pocket.
We would have said...exactly. That's why we won't win this game. It was a stunning victory.