Gerry Dulac's Two-Minute Drill: Game Three vs. Eagles
Monday, September 22, 2008
Game ball goes to: Bryant McFadden
He started his second game in a row at left cornerback for injured Deshea Townsend (bruised heel), and for the second game in a row, made a number of big plays. He recovered a fumble at the Steelers' 19 in the first quarter, intercepted a Donovan McNabb pass at the Steelers' 36 in the second quarter and broke up a pass in which he deflected the ball in the air and safety Troy Polamalu made a diving one-handed interception. Both takeaways led to the only points the Steelers managed -- two Jeff Reed field goals.
A quick look at the top performances from the loss yesterday:
1. EIGHT SACKS AGAINST BEN ROETHLISBERGER: Go ahead, pick an offensive lineman and point a finger. Chances are they gave up a sack or two to the Eagles. It wasn't just Willie Colon, who have up 2 1/2 sacks to DE Juqua Parker, who also had four quarterback hurries. It was Kendall Simmons, Justin Hartwig, Chris Kemoeatu and Marvel Smith. It was even tight end Heath Miller, who was used in the second half to pass protect. The number of sacks would have been a dozen if Roethlisberger didn't drag players across the line of scrimmage on four other occasions.
2. MCFADDEN'S INTERCEPTION ON THIRD DOWN: It came on a play in which Donovan McNabb was under heavy pressure from LB Lawrence Timmons and tried to jam a pass into rookie DeSean Jackson, McFadden intercepted at the Eagles' 36 with 1:37 remaining, leading to Jeff Reed's 53-yard field goal.
3. DARREN HOWARD'S SACK ON ROETHLISBERGER: Of all the sacks registered by the Eagles, maybe the biggest came on the first play of the fourth quarter when Howard ran around Willie Colon and sacked Ben Roethlisberger on third down at the Eagles' 39, knocking them out of field-goal range.
4. DONOVAN McNABB STARTS THE GAME WITH 15 CONSECUTIVE COMPLETIONS: The Eagles scored 10 points on two of their three first possessions to take a 10-3 lead because McNabb didn't miss a pass until he threw low into the end zone to tight end L.J. Smith in the second quarter.
5. JEFF REED KICKS CAREER-BEST 53-YARD FIELD GOAL: No matter how bad it looked, and it looked atrocious, the Steelers trailed only 10-6 at halftime thanks to Reed's field goal with 13 seconds remaining. Six sacks, one first down, only 66 yards offense and they only trailed by four.
Inside the numbers
That's the number of times quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was sacked against the Eagles, the third time in his career he has been sacked seven or more times in a game. It was one short of his all-time worst (nine), set two years ago in a loss in Baltimore.
What was he thinking?
When a quarterback struggles, he gets yanked. When a running back fails to gain yards, he gets replaced. But what happens when an offensive line gives up nine sacks? In this instance, nothing. Coach Mike Tomlin didn't make any personnel changes on the offensive line, not even after Roethlisberger got mauled in the end zone or had his hand stepped on after a lost fumble. Coaches always talk about continuity on the offensive line, but even Hines Ward admitted there was none of that, saying the line looked confused. Anybody remember Max Starks?
"When you put on a display like that out there, you're going to see that again and again and again. It's a problem we have. That's obvious." -- Coach Mike Tomlin, on the Steelers' sacks
VS. BALTIMORE RAVENS, 8:30 P.M. NEXT MONDAY
The Ravens, believe it or not, are in first place in the AFC North Division after a 28-10 victory vs. the Browns. They have lost six of the past seven meetings at Heinz Field, but are 4-1 in the past five.
X's and O's
How bad was the offense and, in particular, the offensive line? Look no further than an eight-play stretch in the second quarter that might be among the most futile in recent memory. In those eight plays, QB Ben Roethlisberger was sacked five times, lost a fumble and threw an interception. On top of that, RT Willie Colon was called for a false-start penalty. Curiously, the longest gain in that stretch was an 8-yard run by RB Willie Parker, which also happened to be Parker's longest play of the game.
Gerry Dulac can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
First published on September 22, 2008 at 12:00 am