Friday, January 30, 2009

Call it

The coin toss might be the least significant thing that happens in the game on Sunday. Then again, it could be the most.

If the Steelers win, they have shown throughout the season that they will defer and put their defense on the field first.

The Steelers were in coin tosses this season.

In the past 42 Super Bowls, the coin toss winner has won the Super Bowl 20 times, which is slightly less than half.

In the six Super Bowls the Steelers have appeared in, they are 1-5 in coin tosses, with the only toss win coming in Super Bowl IX against Minnesota. Since then, they are on a 5-game toss losing streak. But not to complain, as the Steelers are 4-1 in those games.

The Steelers, being the designated "away" team for the game, will get the opportunity to call the toss.

The Steelers were 4-0 in tosses in the preseason, 10-6 during the regular season, and 1-1 in the postseason. All these numbers really mean nothing though.

Interesting fact: All 42 coin toss winners in the Super Bowl have elected to recieve. This could be the first year a team elects to defer.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Clutch Performances

The Super Bowl is the biggest stage in the league. As the old adage goes, big players make big plays in big games. Well, we've compiled some big-time players to get you pumped up for the game. Here's our top 10 clutch performances of all time:

10. Ferris Bueller owns Ed Rooney

Normally we're not ones for seeing Rooney's get served. But this was a clutch performance by Bueller and company.

9. Wayne Campbell decides on Bohemian Rhapsody.

In a clutch move, Wayne opts for Queen, creating one of the most unforgettable sequences ever.

8. V wrecks people

If only Willie Parker could fly through defenders like this, we'd be unstoppable.

7. Don Corleone makes an offer

The Godfather has come up big-time for us this year, and this was about as clutch a move as he could make.

6. St. Crispin's Day

Rousing speech to get the troops motivated.

5. Bluto's Speech


4. Vintage Jules

Does he look like a bitch?

3. Luke Skywalker destroys the Death Star.

Big time move by Luke switching off his computer and still pulling it off. Han Solo throws the key block to spring him free.

2. William Wallace

Enough said.

1. Aragorn rallies the troops in front of the Black Gate

We've gone to the King of Gondor as our game-day performer a few times throughout the season, and he was undefeated on the road. If you want someone to lead your attack against a seemingly unbeatable foe, look no further than Aragorn. Solid.

Go Steelers!!

Scouting Report: Arizona Cardinals

On the Arizona side, all of the buzz has been focused on their offense, and for good reason. But let's give credit where credit is due. They only got this far because of their defensive performances against Atlanta, Carolina, and Philly.

The defense has been incredibly opportunistic, forcing turnovers and making big plays. The Cards defense has 7 sacks, 4 fumble recoveries, and 8 interceptions. The turning point for the Cardinals came in the Atlanta game when Antrel Rolle ripped the ball away from Matt Ryan and ran it in for a touchdown, giving Arizona the lead just after halftime. The Cardinals defense hasn't looked back since and has effectively blitzed, stunted, created pressure, and forced the issue with the opposing offense.

Possibly the biggest stat for the Arizona team is the difference in rushing margin. Arizona is not a running team, but in the playoffs when you need to kill clock, Arizona has been able to move the ball on the ground. Their opponents are averaging more yards per carry (4.1 to 3.3) but Arizona has almost twice the rushing attempts (100 to 57).

This stat directly correlates with the way Arizona's games have gone. They jumped out to leads in the Philadelphia and Carolina games, effectively negating the opposing teams run games, forcing them to put the ball in the air.

Arizona's secondary has playmakers in rookie corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, solid vet Roderick Hood. At the safety positions they boast the underrated (though he's getting more coverage as the playoffs go on) Adrian Wilson at strong safety and Antrel Rolle at free safety. In the last game the Steelers played the Cardinals, Wilson had a huge game by committing himself to the box to stop the run and coming up with an interception on a goal-line pass intended for Heath Miller. Note to Arians: don't use that play again.

Karlos Dansby anchors a solid linebacking corps that has been effective in blitz schemes throughout the playoffs. The big question in this game will be if an Arizona linebacker will be able to cover Heath Miller, who has already built four houses and a hotel between the hashes.

The Cardinals have a dangerous return tandem in Woodland Hills standout Steve Breaston and kick returner J.J. Arrington. Arrington has a return for a score this year and Breaston took a punt to the house against the Steelers in '07, which turned out to be the difference in the game.

This season, Arizona's special teams have been less than special. They were 30th in punt and kickoff coverage, giving up one touchdown in both areas. The Steelers return teams haven't been great, but they have turned it on in the post-season and this is an area that could be exploited.

On offense, the Cards boast one of the league's best passing games, with 3 recievers going over 1000 yards on the season. Pitt product Larry Fitzgerald, who finished second in the league in recieving yards during the regular season and has already broken Jerry Rice's postseason yardage record, is the go-to guy. Fitz catches everything around him and has a nose for the goal line. He has speed in space and can make defenders miss. This is going to be a tough draw for Ike Taylor, and Ryan Clark is going to have to be on his heels all game, as Fitz is always a threat over the top.

The rollercoaster season continues for Anquan Boldin, who started strong until he got knocked out of the game against the Jets by a vicious hit. Boldin was productive when he returned, but has recently drawn attention for being frustrated with not getting the ball enough. Boldin is a very good reciever who gets most of his yards via running after the catch on quick slant and flare routes. Some combination of Bryant McFadden, Willie Gay, and Deshea Townsend will likely be covering Boldin, leaving the slot reciever, the aforementioned Steve Breaston, in a favorable matchup.

Tight end Jerheme Urban is also a threat over the middle, and will demand the attention of the Steelers defense. Warner has 4 legit targets that can all take the Steelers apart, and the pass defense is going to have to play very well in space to shut them down.

In the backfield, Edgerrin James has been solid this playoff season, due to the fact that he hardly touched the ball during the regular season. Benched part way through the season in favor of the bruising rookie Tim Hightower. Hightower is a strong back, but if the Cardinals fall behind, this paragraph will become irrelevant.

The one flaw in Arizona's offensive armor is turnovers. As a team they were 7th in the league in giveaways with 30, an average of almost 2 per game. The Steelers were 18th with 25 giveaways. During the season Warner alone had 14 interceptions and 7 fumbles lost (11 total fumbles). In 2008, Warner's passer rating is 23 points better when his team is leading. Ironically, Roethlisberger's passer rating is 25 points better when the Steelers are trailing. However, this could just be a facet of how many close games we've been in.

Under pressure, Warner will turn the ball over, and we are going to have to get pressure with just bringing four or five. If we can get pressure with just the D-line + Harrison and/or Woodley as we have all year, we will be in for another great defensive performance. Warner is not a mobile quarterback, and this game matches up very similar to how the Colts game matched up (with 3 good recievers out the outside and an effecient but less-than-mobile quarterback).

Looking at the advantages:
Steelers defense vs. Arizona's rushing offense: Advantage Steelers
Steelers defense vs. Arizona's passing offense: Advantage Cardinals
Steelers coverage vs. Arizona's return teams: Advantage Cardinals
Steelers rushing offense vs. Arizona's run defense: Advantage Steelers
Steelers passing offense vs. Arizona's pass defense: Advantage Steelers
Steelers return teams vs. Arizona's coverage: Advantage Steelers

So there you have it: the Steelers have a slight advantage, but Arizona has the weapons on offense and playmakers on defense to keep them in the game. This game is going to be all about field position and turnovers. The key to defensive success will be to prevent Arizona from getting good starting field position and putting the defense in tight spots. If the Steelers jump out to an early lead, Arizona will abandon their running game, which is both dangerous and beneficial because it makes them one-dimensional and will allow LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison to just pin their ears back and go.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Gameday: Lost 5.3

In the heat of the Super Bowl buildup, we get the intensity of LOST.

Hurley looks to rebound from a rough week last week. Another performance like that could put him on the bench.

Coach Linus needs to bring the team together and get a score on the board, but he's running out of time. Should be good stuff.


Trust Jack.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Super Bowl Breakdown: Behind the Numbers

The following numbers are NFL Regular Season stats:

Total Offense:
Arizona: (4th) 365.8 ypg
Pittsburgh: (22nd) 311.8 ypg

Scoring Offense:
Arizona (4th) 26.7 ppg
Pittsburgh: (20th) 21.7 ppg

Total Defense:
Pittsburgh: (1st) 237.2 ypg
Arizona (19th) 331 ypg

Scoring Defense:
Pittsburgh: (1st) 13.9 ppg
Arizona (28th) 26.6 ppg

Now, the offensive numbers may seem to be a bit of a cause for alarm. But let's dig a little deeper.

The defenses the Steelers faced this year, when aggregated together, averaged giving up 310.41 ypg and 19.96 ppg. This means the Steelers offensive success rates (defined as Average Yards/Points per Game divided by the Average Yards/Points Against per Game of all your opponents) are: 1.01 ypg and 1.09 ppg

This means that, on average, the Steelers gained about 1% more yards than the typical yards allowed by the defense they were facing that game and scored 9% more points than their opponents were typically allowing.

Arizona, on the other hand, had offensive success rates of 1.12 ypg and 1.20 ppg.

If the offensive numbers are good indicators of the game, the game will turn out something like this:
For Pittsburgh:
Arizona allows 331 ypg --- 331 x 1.01 = 334 yds
Arizona allows 26.6 ppg --- 26.6 x 1.09 = 29 points

For Arizona:
Pittsburgh allows 237.2 ypg --- 237.2 x 1.12 = 266 yards
Pittsburgh allows 13.9 ppg --- 13.9 x 1.20 = 17 points

By the offensive numbers (remember we haven't factored defense into this), the final score would be Pittsburgh 29, Arizona 17 with Pittsburgh gaining 334 yards on offense to Arizona's 266.

I'm not going to go as far as to say this will be the result of the game, but statistically, things are looking encouraging.

Go Steelers!!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Under Pressure

We start off our Super Bowl preview rocking out with Freddy Mercury

To start our comparison of the two teams, we look at how they have performed....under pressure.

In games decided by less than 7 points:
Pittsburgh: 5-1 (0-0 postseason)
Arizona: 3-1 (1-0 postseason)

In games decided by 7-15 points (between 1 and 2 scores):
Pittsburgh: 1-2 (2-0 postseason)
Arizona: 2-2 (1-0 postseason)

In games decided by more than 2 scores (more than 15 points):
Pittsburgh: 6-1 (0-0 postseason)
Arizona: 5-4 (1-0 postseason)

From the way these numbers look, it appears Arizona's advantage, albeit a small one, lies in a margin between 7 and 15 points. Pittsburgh has more close victories than Arizona and a better record in "blowout" games.

The following are regular season numbers.

Ben Roethlisberger was out-passed in 6 games this season (including the Washington game which he left at halftime). In those 6 games the Steelers were 4-2. The Steelers were 8-2 in games where Ben out-passed the opposing quarterback.

Kurt Warner was out-passed 3 times, with the Cardinals going 1-2 in those games. The Cards were 8-5 in games where Warner out-passed the opposing quarterback.

No real advantages to speak of either way here. In spite of Arians and all he thinks (like 3rd and 2 being a passing down), the Steelers are not a pass-first team. Since they are a run-first team, it is not essential for Ben to have a big game for them to win. On the flip side, even when Warner has a big game, the Cards might not win, which is a trait of pass-first teams.

In games where a Steelers running back was the leading rusher, the Steelers are 9-2. In games when an opposing back was the leading rusher the Steelers were 3-2.

In games where a Cardinals back was the leading rusher, Arizona is 6-1. In games where an opposing back was the leading rusher, Arizona is 3-6.

The Steelers definitely have an advantage in the rushing department. Though Arizona is being hyped as a pass-first team with a wide open offense, the numbers don't lie. Controlling the ground game is crucial to their success.

This game is being hyped as the battle of a great offense against a great defense. We'll be looking at some more numbers throughout the week and comparing the two teams to see how they stack up on paper. But remember, the game isn't decided on paper. One thing both teams have done extremely well in the playoffs thus far is create turnovers. Turnovers are going to be the key to this game, one way or another. And I think we've seen many times this year a certain Troy Polamalu out-play one Ed Reed. Oh yeah, and James Harrison lead the league in forced fumbles...and Warner will put the ball on the turf. In 16 games this year he fumbled 11 times, losing 7 of those. Over the past two seasons Warner has played in 30 games and fumbled 23 times, with 13 of those ending up in the arms of the other team.

If we get pressure, he will cough it up.

And asking if a Dick LeBeau defense can get pressure is like asking if the Pope is Catholic.

Go Steelers!!

Mountain West Seeking BCS Bid

In response to this story today, I posted an idea that's been bouncing around in my head over on the message board at CBSSports (formerly Sportsline).

I figured it was worth cross-posting it here, particularly because I haven't given you all anything new this weekend....enjoy!

Rather than giving the Mountain West an automatic bid to the BCS (and making it even harder for schools from the WAC, MAC, Conf USA to get into the BCS) I think there should be a "Mid-Major Championship Game" (for lack of a better term).

The game could be played the same weekend as all the other conference championship games and would feature the top 2 schools (according to the BCS rankings) from non-BCS conferences. The winner would get an automatic bid to the BCS. The game could be played at a neutral site, and I'm sure some TV network would snatch it up. Dr. Pepper sponsors all the other Conference Championship games, so I would bet they'd be willing to sponsor this one too.

All rankings given hereafter are the BCS rankings of the teams at the time the game would have been played (BCS rankings as of the end of the regular season, prior to championship week).

Just for reference, this year's matchup would have been #6 Utah (12-0) v. #9 Boise State (12-0).

In 2007, the matchup would have been #12 Hawaii (12-0) v. #19 BYU (10-2)

In 2006, the matchup would have been #8 Boise St (12-0) v. #10 Notre Dame (10-2) or #21 BYU (10-2), depending on whether or not this play-in game would include Notre Dame (I think it should).

2005: #8 Notre Dame (9-2) v. #14 TCU (10-1) (once again, working under the assumption the play-in game applies to ND)

2004: #6 Utah (11-0) v. #8 Boise St (11-0)

Now for some points of reference. Let's look at the ACC Conference Championship Games. Years in bold are ones where the ACC Championship game matchup is better (higher ranked teams) than the Mid-Major Championship would have been.

2008: #17 Boston College v.#25 Virginia Tech
2007: #11 Boston College v. #6 Virginia Tech
2006: #17 Wake Forest v. #22 Georgia Tech
2005: unranked Florida State v. #5 Virginia Tech

Only 1 of the past 4 ACC Championships presented a better matchup, according to the BCS standings at the time, than the Mid-Major Championship would have.

Big XII Championships:

2008: #2 Oklahoma v. #20 Missouri
2007: #1 Missouri v. #9 Oklahoma
2006: #12 Oklahoma v. #20 Nebraska
2005: #2 Texas v. unranked Colorado
2004: #2 Oklahoma v. unranked Colorado

Only 1 of the past 5 Big 12 Championships presented a better matchup. This year's Oklahoma-Missou matchup was not considered "better" because the mid-major matchup would have featured two Top 10 teams with undefeated records.

SEC Championships:

2008: #1 Alabama v. #4 Florida
2007: #7 LSU v. #14 Tennessee
2006: #4 Florida v. #9 Arkansas
2005: #4 LSU v. #13 Georgia
2004: #3 Auburn v. #15 Tennessee

The SEC is the only conference of the 3 major conferences with championship games that can consistently boast a "better" matchup in their championship game (4 of 5).

Therefore, it can be concluded that in 4 of the past 5 years (2007 being the only exception), the "Mid-Major Championship Game" would have presented a better matchup than at least one conference championship game that year. In fact, besides 2007, the Mid-Major Game was better than 2 of the 3 conference championships.

Now, I realize this presents a problem for the MAC and Conf USA that have their own conference championship games. However, as we can see, neither the MAC nor Conf USA would have been represented in the Game. If I were making the policy, I would say that if a MAC or Conf USA team was one of the top 2 Mid-Major teams in the BCS, they would go to the Mid-Major Championship Game and their place in their own conference championship game would be taken by the next best team in their conference. This is the one shaky area of the policy, but from a competitive standpoint, I think it is pretty clear that awarding the winner of a "Play-in" or "Mid-Major Championship Game" an automatic bid to the BCS would not be a bad idea. In fact, the Play-in Game would likely generate a better matchup than some of the major conference title games.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Back to the Future: LOST style

If you don't watch LOST, or have never watched LOST, then this probably isn't for you. If you love LOST as much as we do...enjoy the read.

If you haven't seen last night's episodes, you can watch them here for free. >

In a clutch move by ABC, there's a bracket to vote for your favorite LOST moment.


Warning: Spoilers Ahead

First Half (Episode 1)

They come out in a new formation and show us something we haven't seen before on offense. The drive almost runs into disaster when a man goes down, but they counter back with the ol' end-around to Faraday to get on the board early.


After the kickoff, Ben and Jack go to work. Ben lays out the gameplan for how to get the team together to make a move, and Jack makes a clutch play getting rid of his beard.


Flashback to Ben moving the island and what happened to the people still there. Faraday comes up with an answer that the island is moving through time, but they can't convert it into a first down and are forced to punt.

Team Oceanic Six comes back on the field with Kate under center. She is immediately faced with a blitz, but rolls out and does what she does best: runs.

Sun takes over the team, but Widmore's opportunistic defense is strong and almost forces a turnover.

Sayid and Hurley take control of the offense for the Six, and move the ball impressively, including Sayid knocking off two defenders. They look poised to take it in for six, but Sayid goes down just short of the goal line, putting Hurley back on defense.

Back on the island, Sawyer and company reach the hatch and Richard patches up Locke and gives him some instructions for the second half.

Faraday comes up with a solid gameplan and executes it single-handedly after a jump back in time. He contacts Desmond and gives him instructions on what to do next game. Desmond wakes up with Penny and remembers what Faraday told him. Solid execution of the playbook by Daniel before the end of the half to get points on the board.



After watching LOST on DVD, having to watch it with commercials really takes away some of the drama of the show because of the happy-go-lucky nature of the ads.

Second Half (Episode 2)

Hurley comes out with some strong words for Sayid, but then doesn't back them up on the field as he proves to be a team player (for now), trying to get help for Sayid. Hurley, playing some solid defense but showing some holes in the secondary, eventually takes Sayid to his house for protection.

Coach Linus gets in touch with one of his assistants to give them an update on the gameplan.

Back on the island, Bernard and Rose are trying to get a fire going and some little bitch named Neil is complaining about it. Neil gets his due Arzt-style with a flaming arrow through the chest, which arguably prevented a big turnover at a key point in the game, but it does put the Islanders on defense. They retreat under the arial assault as we go back to Hurley.

Mr. Reyes comes through in a big way getting Sayid through the defense of police cars, but Hurley's defense is showing signs of self-destructing.

Sun and Kate have some tense words on the sidelines, but our attention is drawn back to the field before anything develops.

Mr. Reyes gets Sayid to Jack, who radios the coach upstairs to let him know. Jack comes through in the clutch and is able to resusitate Sayid, putting some much needed points on the board to tie it up late.


Right when the Six look like they're about to take the lead, Hurley makes a gamechanging fumble, spilling the beans to his mother. When Ben tries to fall on the ball, Hurley knocks him out of the way then surrenders, giving the opposition an open path to the end zone.


Things look dire for Sawyer and Juliet on the defensive end...they are just getting slaughtered by the aerial attack. When it looks like the opposition is about to build an insurmountable lead with the shotgun, Locke comes through in the clutch with a big sack, forcing a turnover right before the two-minute warning.

Coach Linus, who apparently doesn't have much of a sense of time after losing a year, gets the Warning that the game will be ending soon. Time to bring out the big guns and try to force overtime...unless he's gutsy enough to go for 2 at the end to try and win it.....

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Gameday: LOST Season 5

Big time matchup on ABC tonight. The LOST recap show starts at 8 with new episodes starting at 9.

Coming off the strike-shortened season of Season 4, we're looking for a strong performance from our main man Jack tonight. If he falters under the blitz, he's got a perfectly capable ground attack anchored by Sayid and Hurley.

On the other side of the ball, head coach Ben Linus and his staff are ready to send the troops into battle against Team Widmore.

The game starts at 9. Be ready.

If you're as into LOST as we are, you'll enjoy this one: Sawyer Nickname Generator

AFC Championship Wrap-Up

I just finished the recap for the Championship game and it has been posted. You can get to it either by following the link in this post, scrolling down the page, or clicking the link in the "Schedule" section over on the right. Enjoy!

Okay, so this might be a bit of a pain for everyone, but it's the best way I could think to do it. Here are the 3 posts from the AFC Championship game. The game recap is long, but trust me, it's worth it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Is the excitement wearing off yet? Not around here

The game recap for the Championship game is >HERE<.

In other good news, we got our first comment since September 8! Additionally, we have had 28 people vote in the poll over there on the right! Exciting stuff is happening around here.

And now a little self-congratulation.

Things I'm good at:
Analyzing Steelers Opponents

Here are a few snippits from my scouting report of the Ravens last week:
  • It wouldn't be a total shock to seem them try to air it out (particulalry on first and second down when the Steelers are looking run)...One reason for the Ravens to air it out is their ailing backfield.
  • The Steelers have had the most success against Baltimore when they have thrown short crossing routes and enabled their recievers to run in space.
  • The Ravens, possibly more than any other team, exposed flaws in the Steelers kick return units...The Ravens are solid in the return department and could give the Steelers problems here.
  • Game Breakdown:
    Baltimore's run game vs. Steelers Defense: Advantage Steelers
    Baltimore's pass game vs. Steelers Defense: Advantage Steelers
    Baltimore's return teams vs. Steelers coverage: Advantage Ravens
    Steelers run game vs. Ravens Defense: Advantage Ravens
    Steelers pass game vs. Ravens Defense: Advantage Steelers
    Steelers return teams vs. Ravens coverage: Advantage Ravens
  • Look for both teams to have limited success running the ball. A few big plays through the air or on defense will likely be the difference in this game. It will be low-scoring and bloody. The team that wins the turnover battle will win this game.

Things I suck at:
Predicting Playoff games

Wild Card Games: Ian 2-2, John 3-1
Divisional Games: Ian 2-2, John 3-1
Championship: Ian 1-1, John: 2-0

Overall: Ian 5-5 (.500), John 8-2 (.800)

John just wiped the floor with me in the playoff prediction department, and I have to give credit where credit is due. I guess the moral here is that if you're a gambler (which I am obviously not), don't come to me for game predictions. You're much better off trusting John.

Finally, we added a Super Bowl countdown at the top of the page. We might tweak the layout a little bit so that there's not so much stuff at the top of the page, so bear with us. If anyone has any suggestions or anything, feel free to e-mail us!

LOST Season 5 tomorrow. We'll be all over it.


Monday, January 19, 2009

AFC Championship: Post-Game Edition

So here's the deal. Because of the large numbers of pictures we have accumulated from this game, we're going to be making 3 posts. One post will have the game recap (it will appear further down the page, we'll link to it in a new post once it's up so people don't have to search for it). The second post is the one below this one, featuring the Ravens star players crying. If anyone has any pictures of Ravens crying or of post-game events, feel free to send them our way (we'll credit you if we post them). Finally, this post will feature pictures from the post-game celebration and ceremonies. Enjoy!

Trophy Presentation

Coach says we still have some work to do.

Offensive Player of the Game: Santonio Holmes

Ben gives a shout-out to the fans and troops overseas.

Deshea living it up


Linebackers celebrate

Hines does laps around the field

Woodley is a beast. Look at the size of his arms. Wow.

Bring it home Coach

No words needed for the last few.


Beating the Ravens is great.

What's even better?

Well, going to the Super Bowl obviously.

And furthermore, for that contingent of people out there (mainly from Baltimore) who question James Harrison's selection as AP Defensive Player of the year, we have this little treat.

Did Ed Reed even play in this game? He was a non-factor.

Oh yeah, and Polamalu had an interception return for a touchdown. Suck on that ESPN.


I've Got A Feeling: Steelers WIN

A record crowd at Heinz Field came out for this one, and they weren't disappointed. Hank Williams Jr got the show going by singing some song of his and flashing a Steelers shirt.

The Steelers have a thing for country singers apparently. Martina McBride sang the national anthem. There were a few shouts of "bring back Styx!"

Steelers fans weren't disappointed though, as we got another full serving of Renegade before the introductions.

The Ravens won the toss and deferred, giving us the opportunity to get on the board first.

The Steelers come out running, but get set back on a Colon false start, but Hines comes through in a big way, taking a short pass and turning it upfield for a big 45-yard gain to get the Steelers all the way into field goal territory.

The big catch by Hines sparked the offense, as Holmes pulled in a slant, then Willie ground out a few to get to 3rd and 3. Ben looks for Heath heading for the front corner of the end zone, but overthrows the ball. Super-Sayian Reed comes out to put us on the board.


The Ravens come out trying to throw, but 3 incompletions later the punt team is on the field. The Steelers did a great job keying on Mason and keeping the ball away from him.

The Ravens defense steps it up and shuts the Steelers down on two running plays, then sacks Ben on 3rd down, bringing out the Lob Wedge. Leonhard muffs the catch, but is able to fall on it and the Ravens retain the ball.

The Ravens come out with the run, but get forced into a 3rd and long again, and Deshea steps in front of a pass intended for Mason.

Big play by Deshea to get us up in the turnover battle early and give us solid field position.

After two incompletions (one of which was a short-arm by Parker on a flare down the sidelines which was a touchdown if he caught it), Ben hits Hines on an out-route for a big first down to get down to the 24. Hines was injured on the play, which was a setback to the offense. On first down, Ben goes down the middle to Holmes on a post and he makes the grab, takes 3 steps and gets pulled down. On the replays, it looked like it should have been a touchdown, but he was called down at the 1. Both coaches throw the challenge flag, but Harbaugh gets it out first, challenging the catch. Somehow the call is overturned, much to the chagrin of the fans. After two failed deep balls, the Super Sayian comes out again.


After a short run on first down, Keisel and Woodley get pressure, forcing incompletions and another 3-and-out.

With Ward out, the Steelers go to the motif offense, but are able to convert on a 3rd down completion to Heath. Nate Washington reels one in on first down to keep things rolling, but then disaster strikes on second down.

Parker goes left and loses the ball, which falls right into the hands of Leonhard.

McGahee picks up 7 on first down then 2 more to get to 3rd and short. Woodley and Farrior come up with a huge stop to keep McGahee short of the sticks and bring up a 4th and short from the 34. In no-man's land, the Ravens elect to go for it. They try to spread the Steelers out by emptying the backfield, but Polamalu reads the QB-sneak and flies over the line and decapitates Flacco.


Parker carries once and the quarter runs out to end one of the longest first quarters in memory.

Second Quarter

Hines comes back after the break to test his banged up knee on a quick out, but he goes nowhere, setting up 3rd and 9. Ben rolls out under pressure and heaves one up for Santonio down the right side of the field...this one was too pretty for words, let's go to the tape:

In something new, here's a breakdown of the play:

The Ravens are bringing 7 on the blitz. You'll notice Ed Reed backs out of the play and is playing deep centerfield on the play, leaving the corners in man coverage on the outside.

Baltimore's two blitzing safeties are going to converge on the Steelers left guard (Kemoeatu). Heath Miller steps up and takes care of one of them, while Kemoeatu gets the other after throwing an initial block on Ray Lewis. The Ravens right end (Pryce I think) blitzes wide around the outside, pulling Starks out of his stance and giving Ben a hole to step up in. Moore moves over to seal the block on Pryce and Ben steps up and to the left (shown in orange), buying himself some time.

The Ravens corner (I believe Fabian Washington) gets caught looking into the backfield. Ben throws it long so that Washington is stuck on his heels and Holmes is able to make the catch over his head.

The rest of the play was made by Santonio cutting it back up the field (you can see that on the video clip). But something that jumped out at me was Heath Miller, who was in the backfield picking up the blitz, was able to run downfield and throw a key block to lead Holmes down the sidelines. Watch the video again. Heck of an effort by Heath.

Holmes made a heck of a dive past Ed Reed to get inside the pylon, then does a little birdie dance.

Did anyone else notice the disappointment in Jim Nantz' voice after the play? It certainly comes through on the YouTube video.


Okay, that was probably the longest TD recap all year.

After the touchdown, the Ravens went back to the ground, and McGahee came through in a big way, running 3 times and picking up a first down. After a first down penalty, Woodley flies in and disrupts Flacco's pass.

Look at the elevation by Woodley. What an athlete.
The Ravens are able to convert on second and long on a little dump-off to Ray Rice that he turns upfield for big yards. The Ravens get themselves into another 3rd and long on the next set, but Flacco hooks up with Clayton for 15 to keep the drive alive and move into Pittsburgh territory. The Ravens try to go run-run-pass, but Aaron Smith destroys the 3rd down play by pulling Flacco down for the sack. Punt team.

Playing from deep in their own territory, the Steelers came back with their motif offense, giving it to Parker twice before going to the air. Baltimore challenged the 3rd down completion to Nasty Nate, but the completion was upheld, giving Pittsburgh teh first down and taking Baltimore's last challenge away. Parker got two more totes, but a personal foul on Kemoeatu pushed them into 3rd and long, where we ran a safe draw play and punted.

Unfortunately for us, the Lob Wedge made a poor kick and Leonhard was able to split a seam in the coverage and get some open field. Berger makes a touchdown-saving tackle, but the Ravens get great field position.

The Steelers defense comes up big and forces a 3rd and long, but McFadden gets called for a terrible pass interference penalty in the end zone, giving the Ravens new life at the 1. McGahee cashes it in to make it a game.


We get the ball back with 2 1/2 minutes left and a timeout, plenty of time to put moer points on the board. A second down completion to Sweed sets up 3rd and manageable, but Ben throws it behind Holmes on a slant route, bringing on the punt team.

The Ravens take over with just under 2 minutes to go, in a situation that would seem to necessitate running out the clock. They look as though they're going to on first down after a McGahee run, but they go no-huddle and throw on second down. Pressure by Timmons forces an incompletion, stopping the clock and setting up 3rd down. Another incompletion on 3rd down stops the clock again and forces the Ravens to punt. Holmes breaks out a big return to get the ball to the 50, giving the Steelers a shot with a minute to play.

On first down, Ben goes deep for Sweed down the left side. Sweed is wiiiiide open and Ben throws a perfect pass...

...but Sweed forgets how to use his hands.
To make matters worse, Sweed was "injured" on the play, costing the Steelers their final timeout. After two more incompletions, the Steelers have to punt, but Baltimore gets flagged for roughing the kicker, giving the Steelers another gasp of life.

Ben hits Heath down the left side, and he turns it upfield. Sweed peels back and does his best Hines Ward impression, throwing a monster block on Corey Ivy to spring Heath.

Left side of the picture is Sweed's block. WOOOOOOOOO

Heath goes out of bounds to stop the clock with 23 seconds to go. Ben is forced to throw the ball away on the next play, leaving the Steelers with 16 seconds and no timeouts. With coverage downfield, Ben dumps one off to Moore, who charges upfield rather than just going down. The Steelers hustle to the line but can't get the spike off before halftime and they fail to put points on the board at a key juncture in the game.


The stadium was more or less silent at halftime because of what had transpired right before the half. A field goal there would have made it a two-possession game, and 6 points was still too close for comfort.

Third Quarter

The Ravens come out strong and move the chains on a completion to Mason. On first down Flacco tries to run a zone read, but Polamalu blows it up in the backfield.

The Ravens can't recover and wind up punting.

The Steelers respond by getting into positive down and distance (3rd and 3), but a sack forces them to punt.

Harrison gets pressure twice in 3 plays, leading to another 3 and out by the Ravens. Exciting stuff at the beginning of the 3rd quarter.

The Steelers look poised to go 3-and-out once more, but Ben hits Carey Davis in the middle of the field and Davis turns upfield and is able to gain 20 yards for the first down. The Steelers really seem to want to shoot themselves in the foot on this drive, as Ben gets sacked again, but a 30-yard catch and run to Heath down the sidelines picks up the first down and more. With the ball in Ravens territory, Parker rips off 11 yards in 2 carries, getting another key first down. The Steelers do nothing on 3 plays and Jeff Reed comes out for a 46-yarder.

Nailed it.


McGahee busts off the biggest run of the game with a 14-yard dash to start off the next drive. Harrison stops McGahee in his tracks on first down, and Woodley buries Flacco on second down. Todd Heap of Sh*t pulls one in for a short gain, but Polamalu pulls him down for a short gain, and it's punt city for Baltimore again.

Parker gets a short gain on first down, then the Steelers roll the dice a bit on 2nd down with an end-around to Nate to end the quarter.

Fourth Quarter

The Steelers were 15 minutes from glory, but a 3rd and 8 awaited after the break. In a shocking moment, Ben hits Sweed across the middle for the conversion.

Sweed drops the ball when he's wide open, but catches it when he's in coverage.

Two Parker runs get the Steelers to 3rd and 1, and Arians (in a move that should be at the top of the list for reasons he should be fired) puts Ben in the shotgun and goes 5-wide on 3rd and 1. This might have been the singular dumbest play call of the year, and an incompletion brought out the punt team. Berger makes a terrible punt, and the Ravens get the ball at their own 42.

The Ravens come out and run a double-reverse to Clayton for 16 yards to get into Steelers territory. The Ravens get called for a hold against Harrison, setting them back, but two passes to Mason for 14 and 11 gets them down to the Steelers 24. Two plays later, Flacco goes for the end zone and Ike gets flagged for another terrible pass interference call, giving the Ravens another shot from point blank. McGahee finds paydirt again, drawing the Ravens within 2.


With 9 1/2 to go, the Steelers run twice to take time off the clock, but the proctologist calls for a Colonoscopy, and a false start puts the Steelers into 3rd and 14. Ben is sacked by Suggs, bringing out the punt team with 7 minutes to play. The Ravens get flagged for blocking out of bounds during the punt, and the 15-yarder sets the Ravens back inside the 15 to start their drive.

After a failed run on first down, Flacco hits Heap-of-sh*t for 20 yards to drive some doubt into the hearts of Steelers nation. After a short run, LaMarr Woodley comes up with a HUUUGE sack, digging a grave and throwing Flacco in back at the 29 yard line.

And if you thought that play was big, the next one was even bigger. On 3rd and 13, you knew Flacco was going to be looking for Mason. Harrison applies the heat and Polamalu reads the route perfectly and jumps in front for the interception. He charges to his left and takes a look back to the right...

...dodges Clayton moving back to his right...

...brings it all the way across the field and turns it up the sidelines...

...picks up a block from Aaron Smith and does a little bob and weave with the ball as he crosses the goal line...

...for the gamechanging TOUCHDOWN

The nail is in the coffin.


The Ravens got the ball back and on the second play from scrimage, Flacco flung one out to McGahee in the flat who turned it upfield but didn't see the hangman coming down from the gallows...

Ryan Clark lays a vicious hit (ruled as a legal hit by the league) on McGahee.
The ball came out and the Steelers recovered, but both players went down after the play. Clark eventually walked off, but McGahee was carted off the field. In a scary moment, they brought the cart out right away for him, taking no chances. Word is he's going to be okay, which is good. We may not like the Ravens, but we don't wish harm upon their players (or any players for that matter).

The Steelers got the ball back and ran two plays to run the clock down to almost two minutes. They took a timeout rather than a delay of game with 2:01 to go. An incompletion on 3rd down used up the 2 minute warning, and the Steelers punted it away with a safe lead.

With 1:48 to play, it was all about the clock. Ray Rice pulled in a pass, but Lawrence Timmons kept him in bounds to keep it ticking.
Tick tick tick tiiiick tick TICK
Flacco went for Clayton on the sidelines, but Clayton was out of bounds, and replay confirmed the call on the field. On second down with 1:20 left, Flacco looked over the middle again, but Tyrone Carter was there to pick off the pass, sealing the deal once and for all.

Victory formation.



Players of the Game:
Offensive Game Ball: Santonio Holmes
- He had the one big touchdown catch and more importantly, after Hines went out, the Raves shaded Reed to his side to take him out of the game, which effectively took Ed Reed out of the game as well.
Defensive Game Ball: Troy Polamalu- Does this one even need explained? He stuffed Flacco on the 4th and 1, pulled Flacco down for a loss on the QB Wrap play, and had an interception return for a touchdown.

Honorable Mentions:
LaMarr Woodley
Ben Roethlisberger
Heath Miller
James Farrior
Deshea Townsend
Max Starks
Justin Hartwig
Darnell Stapleton

Mr. Yuck Sticker of the Game
The officiating.
Really, we're going to the Super Bowl, so there's not much to make a yucky face over, but the officials in this game were awful.

Final Thoughts
  • SUPER BOWL!!!!!!
  • Ben was sacked 4 times, but on the whole the Offensive Line did a fantastic job in blitz recognition and blitz pickup
  • LaMarr Woodley is the real deal. Every tackle he faces he just bull-rushes out of their shoes.
  • Woodley should have made the Pro Bowl. The fact that he didn't is a crime.
  • Tampa baby!!!!!
  • I was spot-on with my scouting report of the Ravens
  • Hopefully McGahee is okay, that was probably the worst hit I've ever seen, they were both going full-speed and their heads just collided.
  • What a game. Everyone is talking about exorcising the demons of Heinz Field, so I think they're officially exorcised.
  • Hines will play in the Super Bowl.

Sunday, January 18, 2009



Wow. What a game. I just got home from the stadium. What an incredible atmosphere. Amazing game. I'll have the recap up later in the week. Wayyyy to much excitement now to recap the game.

We've been saying it all year: OFFENSE WINS GAMES....


Gameday: Championship Edition

3:00 EST

In one of the dumbest scheduling moves by the NFL in recent history, the Eagles and Cardinals take the field in the first of two championship games at precisely 3:00 EST, or noon Arizona time. The NFL should leave the game times a flex options so that a team like Arizona wouldn't have to play a championship game at noon when there is another game in Pittsburgh that is starting 3 hours later. Hobbled headliners Brian Westbrook of Philadelphia and Anquan Boldin of Arizona are both expected to play, though their effectiveness will be in question. The story of this game will be the ability of quarterbacks to overcome the opposing defense. Philly's blitz-happy scheme will give Arizona's recievers single-coverage down the field, so if Warner has the time and composure to find them, it could be a big day for the Arizona passing attack. Even though Philly's run defense is stout, it will be important for Arizona to attempt to establish the run early so they do not become one-dimensional. On the other side of the ball, Arizona's defense has been great at forcing turnovers. Will Donovan McNabb revert to pre-benching form or will he continue his high level of play? The key will be Philadelphia's receivers being able to come up with big catches at big points in the game. Arizona's run defense has been solid in the playoffs, but Westbrook, when healthy, has gamebreaking ability.

Ian's Prediction: Eagles 27-23

John's Prediction: Cardinals 21-14


This game needs no introduction. The league's top two defenses face off in an all-out bloodbath. These teams know each other very well. Baltimore hasn't had a bye since Week 2, and Pittsburgh looked sharp last week. Baltimore's key to the game will be their ability to establish run in order to set up the pass. Keeping the game out of Flacco's hands will be key. Pittsburgh needs to exploit Baltimore's depleated secondary, but not take too many chances that will allow Ed Reed and the Baltimore defense to make game-changing plays. This game will be all about big plays, turnovers, and converting in the Red Zone. Whoever can get touchdowns instead of field goals will come out on top.

Ian's Prediction: Steelers 17-9

John's Prediction: Steelers 21-13