Week 5 Game Recap: Pittsburgh Steelers 24, San Diego Chargers 22
What you need to know
Ben Roethlisberger raised his hands up in victory when Jeff Reed hit a game winning 40 yard field goal with :06 seconds on the clock. The problem for Roethlisberger owners, however, is that he wasn’t able to jump up and down with his teammates in celebration, due to his hyper-extended left knee and possible bone bruise he received while leading the Steelers into field goal range with 1:18 left in the game. The bright side is that early reports indicate Roethlisberger’s knee did not sustain any ligament damage and he was able to dress and leave with the team (on crutches), although he will receive an MRI today to determine the full extent of the injury.
Charlie Batch, third on the depth chart, but bumped to second this week after Tommy Maddox suffered a calf injury, handed off to Jerome Bettis three plays in a row before Jeff Reed made the field goal. Prior to the injury, Roethlisberger had another quality start completing 17 of 26 for 225 yards and a touchdown, a 16 yard pass to TE Heath Miller in the fourth quarter.
Roethlisberger also ran for a touchdown in the second quarter, as did Bettis, who was back in the lineup from a preseason calf strain. Bettis, who was listed as the backup to Willie Parker, showed no signs of slowing down at age 33 with his workmanlike 54 yards on 17 carries. Parker (10 carries for 26 yards) got the nod as the starter, and played throughout the game, but found it difficult to find holes, and wasn’t able to break outside against a fast and physical Chargers’ defense.
Hines Ward played with an aggravated hamstring injury and played well, catching six passes for 83 yards, including a few clutch receptions for first downs, and Heath Miller got on the map with four receptions (double his season output prior to Monday’s game) for 36 yards and a score.
The Steelers tried to contain both LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates, and while it wasn’t flawless, they didn’t allow either of them to take over the game. The Chargers were held to one touchdown in three tries after converting 12 of 15 through their first four games. Penalties were called at an alarming rate on both sides, as the Steelers racked up 104 yards on 11 infractions.
The Chargers found themselves in a second quarter hole down 14-0, but Drew Brees helped rally them back with 16 unanswered points and again in the fourth quarter to give them a 22-21 lead with 4:42 remaining in the game. Brees was 20 of 35 for 219 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He used LaDainian Tomlinson, Antonio Gates and Eric Parker almost exclusively hitting them with 17 passes and got himself out of trouble with his legs in completing a couple of first downs to Gates. But three San Diego drives ended in field goals rather than touchdowns, as Brees wasn’t consistent enough in moving the chains on third downs.
Tomlinson collected 130 total yards but had to settle for the majority of them in the passing game. He had 62 rushing yards on 18 carries, including a go ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter, and was very effective as an outlet for Brees catching seven passes for 68 yards with a long of 41. Gates started slow but picked up 60 yards on five receptions and a second quarter touchdown. He also let a pass slip through his hands for an interception, which led to a Pittsburgh touchdown. Eric Parker added another five receptions for 72 yards.
The Chargers’ defense was able to rattle Roethlisberger, but not enough when it counted. They had three sacks and forced a fumble in giving up 225 passing yards. They yielded just 3.3 yards a carry on the ground, but surrendered a lot of tough yards on third and shorts, especially on the game winning drive. San Diego committed nine penalties for 100 yards.
What you ought to know
Roethlisberger sustained a hyperextension and possible bone bruise to his left knee when defensive end Luis Castillo fell over his blocker and into Roethlisberger, whose leg was planted into the turf after completing a nine yard pass to Antwaan Randle El. His leg bent back in a way that it shouldn’t bend and he was helped off the field putting very little weight on the injury. It was immediately wrapped in ice, and he was carted into the locker room at the conclusion of the game. He was able to dress and leave with the team back to Pittsburgh and is scheduled to have an MRI today to determine the full extent of the injury. His status for next week is unknown officially. He had another successful night before the injury going 17 of 26 for 225 yards and a touchdown pass to Heath Miller. He also had his first rushing score of the year with a seven yard QB draw early in the second quarter.
Batch successfully handed the ball off to Bettis on the final three offensive plays of the game. Depending on Roethlisberger’s injury and how Tommy Maddox recovers from his calf strain suffered last Friday, Batch might make his first start in four years next week versus Jacksonville. Since coming to Pittsburgh, Batch has made three appearances and attempted just eight passes, completing three for 47 yards. His last regular season action was November 30, 2003. He earned a roster spot this year with two good outings in preseason, albeit against third stringers, and would benefit well from a team who ran the ball 61 percent last year and 58 percent this year. Questions obviously remain from his inactivity.
The Bus made his return in grand fashion with a typical blue collar performance of 54 yards and a touchdown. Bettis entered late in the first quarter to relieve a struggling Parker, and took a screen pass for 16 yards on his second play. He had 20 first half yards on eight carries, but also had an 11 yarder called back from a penalty. He did most of his damage in the fourth quarter, gaining 21 yards on seven carries and three huge first downs, all on the game winning drive. Bettis’ long of 11, in which he cut to the left sidelines and turned the corner past the linebackers, showed that he still has plenty of air left in his tires. Bettis came in on every goal line situation for the Steelers.
Parker started but outside of two carries for 21 yards, he was hardly the back who had gained 327 yards and averaged 5.2 yards per carry. He finished with 26 yards on 10 carries. He took a misdirection pitch left for seven yards in the first quarter, and shot through the middle for 14 yards in the second quarter that helped set up the Steelers’ second touchdown. Beyond that, however, Parker had trouble finding holes, bouncing outside, and breaking tackles. While the focus is on Roethlisberger’s knee, pay attention to any running back promotions or demotions in the next week or so if Parker continues to struggle, especially with the return of a healthy Jerome Bettis and the future return of Duce Staley.
Haynes retained his role as the third down back, mainly for his pass protection, and had one reception for four yards.
Duce Staley was not on the active player list.
Ward tweaked a hamstring injury earlier in the week but had it taped up and ready for the game. He maybe looked about a half step slower than usual, but had no difficulties getting open and caught six balls for 83 yards. He had a 47 yard touchdown catch (very questionably) reversed when it was ruled that he was touched on the ground after the initial catch, but it still went for 14 yards. Ward also caught a 33 yard pass in a trips right formation where he slipped wide open down the right sidelines, and immediately followed that with a 13 yard reception that set up Heath Miller’s touchdown.
Randle El didn’t light up the stat sheet, but he was also interfered with twice on plays that could have totaled an additional 36 yards. His longest catch went for 21 yards and he attempted two end arounds for seven yards, with a long of six. Most importantly, he didn’t offer up any misguided lateral attempts.
Wilson had just one reception for 22 yards, but was a late addition to the kick return game when Ricardo Colclough went down with an injured shoulder. He had two returns for 45 yards, including one for 29, which put the Steelers on their own 38 yard line to begin the winning drive.
Morgan dropped a perfect pass from Roethlisberger on a fly pattern but made up for it with a 37 yard kick return to the Steelers’ 38 to begin their third scoring drive.
Miller doubled his reception total in one game increasing his total to 6 for the season. The rookie made the best of his size advantage over safety Terrence Kiel and was in good position on all his mid range receptions. Miller split zone coverage between the linebackers and Kiel on his 16 yard touchdown reception to give the Steelers a two touchdown lead.
Reed nailed a game winning 40 yard field goal with :06 seconds left in regulation. He also converted all three extra point attempts.
The Steelers held San Diego to 18 first half rushing yards and 66 overall. Tomlinson finished with 62 yards with a long of 14. He did score late in the game to put the Chargers ahead by one, but most of the damage was done in the air. In what turned out to a pivotal play, the defense stuffed Tomlinson on the two point conversion attempt that would have put the Chargers ahead 24-21 with 4:42 left in the game. James Farrior clogged up the middle getting eight tackles.
The Steelers gave up 219 yards in the air, but did not give up a deep ball. The Chargers’ longest gain was on a 41 yard dump pass to Tomlinson on a blitz read, but were otherwise contained most of the game. Troy Polamalu (nine tackles) drew the Antonio Gates’ assignment and made his presence felt with jarring hits. James Harrison, subbing for injured Clark Haggans, had an interception and returned it for 25 yards.
|QB Drew Brees, Pass: 20 - 35 - 219 - 1 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 2 - 3 - 0|
Brees started off slowly, completing one of four, but managed the game well from that point on. He used Tomlinson, Gates and Parker on short and medium range routes often in taking whatever the Steelers gave him. He got in a groove in the second quarter completing five of six before Antonio Gates let a pass slip through his hands for an interception. Down 14, Brees then led San Diego to 16 unanswered points. He tossed an 11 yard touchdown pass to Gates in the second quarter and then helped the Chargers get in field goal range on three consecutive drives in the second half. It is within those field goal drives that might raise an eyebrow as two ended with incomplete passes and the other on a completion short of the first down. Even so, Brees was effective and helped put up 22 points against a top defense.
The Chargers inexplicably called three straight passing plays on their first possession and went three and out. Tomlinson responded with 16 yards on his first two carries of their second possession but was kept quiet in the rest of the first half gaining a total of 20 yards on eight carries. He was most successful on the Chargers’ second touchdown drive, where he picked up 25 yards on five carries including the go ahead touchdown with over four minutes left in the game. The Chargers found a way to get him in the open field with screens and check downs as he added 68 receiving yards giving him 130 total yards, but he lacked that game breaking ability against a tough run defense.
Sproles did not register a carry, but he showed no lingering effects from an ankle injury that forced him to leave early last week. He did well on kick returns with 157 yards on five attempts and added 11 punt return yards on two tries.
Parker elevated his game with 72 yards including a 23 yarder which, after drawing a face mask penalty, helped set up the Chargers’ first touchdown. Parker benefited from McCardell’s absence from the stat sheet and gave Brees a good target throughout the game.
McCardell was virtually invisible with only one reception for five yards. He had trouble breaking away from blanket coverage by Deshea Townsend, and dropped the only other pass he got his hands on, a third and two attempt that he dropped upon contact.
Osgood had one reception for six yards.
Caldwell caught one pass for seven yards.
Gates proved once again to be San Diego’s best asset in the passing game, tallying 60 yards on five receptions, including an 11 yard touchdown in the second quarter. His best catch came when a scrambling Brees tossed up a jump ball and he essentially rebounded it over James Farrior for 14 yards. He took numerous blows from safety Troy Polamalu and kept coming back for more tough yards. His low point came just as ABC broadcaster John Madden finished complimenting Gates for his hands and body positioning and he let a very catchable ball go through his hands and into a Steelers’ defender for an interception.
Kaeding was perfect on all three field goal attempts from 34, 32 and 41 respectively. He also hit both of his extra points.
The Chargers held starter Willie Parker in check and yielded just 3.3 yards a carry to the Steelers, but they let Jerome Bettis get the best of them on short yardage opportunities, and appeared to wear down in the fourth quarter. Donnie Edwards was a beast in collecting 15 tackles (13 solo).
The Chargers allowed Roethlisberger to complete 65% of his passes for 225 yards and committed a few pass interferences and personal fouls along the way. They couldn’t find an answer for Hines Ward, nor could they rattle the QB despite their best efforts (three sacks). Shawne Merriman had a sack and a forced fumble.