Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Pittsburgh Steelers Advance to the AFC Championship Game

I thought this game would be of the low scoring affair. The #1 defense in the Steelers would be able to frustrate the Pro Bowl-snubbed Phillip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers defense has been playing at an elite level during the latter portion of the season including their playoff game against the Colts. Well, I was wrong on both accounts.

The score in this game ended up being 35-24. This could've been a loss for the Steelers if their offense didn't dominate the time of possession. On the Chargers first possession, after three plays, Rivers throws a deep pass to Vincent Jackson for a touchdown. Jackson dove for the football in the endzone while the defender had a hold of Jackson's left arm. It was a great pass and an even better catch. From that point on in the first half, the Chargers managed to score only a field goal. Their other drives were killed by penalties, bad execution and good defense from the Steelers.

In the second half, the Chargers only ran one play in the 3rd quarter. That is not a misprint. The Charger's offense only ran one play in the 3rd quarter and that play result in an interception by Larry Foote because the pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage by one of the defensive linemen. The worse part is that the Chargers had excellent field position as a result of Darren Sproles huge kick off return of 64 yards. Talk about depressing. The Chargers only had the ball in the third quarter for about two seconds. They were going to get another possession after Chargers defense made the Steelers punt but the Chargers muffed the punt. The football bounced off the head of Eric Weddle who had no clue that the ball was coming. William Gay of the Steelers recovered the ball. That was the last chance for the Chargers to have a drive in the 3rd quarter.

In the 4th quarter, Chargers managed to score two touchdowns threw the air. Actually, Phillip Rivers ended up with great game. Here is his statline: 21/35 for 308 yards with three touchdowns and 1 interception. I'm sure Jake Delhomme would love to have that statline. The Chargers didn't play that bad, at least offensively.

Defense is another story. The Chargers defense had no answer for the running of Willie Parker. The Steelers star running back dominated the game on the ground. Here is his statline: 27 rushes for 146 yards and two touchdowns. He was back to his old self after suffering through injuries in the regular season. His running helped the Steelers take over the game in the second half. The Steelers offense dominated the second time of possession, especially in the third quarter. They had a TD drive with the time of 7:04. That was their first possession of the second half. After getting intercepting Rivers pass, the Steelers had a time of possession that lasted longer than 4 minutes, even though the drive ended in a punt. After the muffed punt by the Chargers, the Steelers had a TD drive with the time of possession of 12:52. Now that is how you keep the opposing team's offense on the sidelines. The amazing thing is that the Steelers got touchdowns instead of field goals on those long drives. The Chargers just couldn't stop the run or stop the pass in obvious passing situations.

Ben Rothlisberger did what he was suppose to do in this game. He took care of the football. Rothlisberger was 17/26 for 181 yards and one touchdown and no interceptions. He managed the game and completed passes when he had to do it. It helps to have a star running back in Willie Parker healthy and dominating on the ground. Running backs make the game a whole lot easier for quarterbacks.

The Steelers defense did what they had to do in the first half. In the second half, they barely take the field in the third quarter as the offense dominated the time of possession. In the fourth quarter though, Steelers defense didn't look great as Rivers was able to drop back and pass with relative ease. He threw a 62 yard pass Sproles who ran a slant route and just ran away from the defense. The Chargers touchdown scoring drives in the fourth quarter saw little resistance. However, the Steelers defense play well enough to get the win, thanks to the offense.

The Steelers move on to the AFC Championship game to face the Ravens. These two teams don't like each other. It should be a slugfest between the two defense, but somehow, I think the offenses will shine as these two teams know each really well. If it is high scoring, that game would not favor the Ravens. Go Ravens!

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