On Second Thought: Along Came Jones (Steelers/Cardinals Recap Part II)
Homer J. gives his thoughts on yesterday’s glorious victory,
If you were to put this game to music, the tune would certainly be the Lieber and Stoller 1959 hit “Along Came Jones,” a novelty tune about a western movie or serial in which a cowboy named Jones came in and rescued the heroine who had been tied to the railroad track, thereby saving the day.
Slow walkin’ Jones, slow talkin’ Jones. Lonely, lanky (Landry) Jones.
And, like last week, it was a game this team coulda/woulda/shoulda/ lost a year ago. But this year, they won it, and their defense – so much maligned at the beginning of the year – again exceeded expectations. This is a team that is maturing and gaining confidence, and the young guys and new guys are really, really stepping up.
Homer was not, shall we say, sanguine at the beginning of the game. Or, as his game notes state:
“Palmer throws long…John Brown steals ball from Cockrell…outfights him. Not a good start at all.
Homer also reported Ivan’s disappointment that Arians didn’t call for a bubble screen on the first series. This seems to be adding insult to injury.
The guys were pretty excited by Antonio Brown’s first punt return. He caught it at the 10, and, as they report, nearly broke it.
They noted that AB had badly beaten his defender during this series, but because Vick took so long to get the ball off the defenders had time to make a play. However, Vick took one for the team (a blow to the face for a 15-yard penalty. That’s one way to move the offense, although perhaps not the most pleasant for either the quarterback or the assembled masses.
One of the disquieting aspects of the game, at least for Steeler fans, was how thoroughly the Arizona defense dominated the line of scrimmage during the time Vick was quarterbacking. I think it is evident, if it wasn’t after last week, that until you have a credible passing threat your running game is going to get precisely nowhere. Homer notes:
“Bell sidesteps defender at line of scrimmage and gets a first down. Their first first down…16 minutes into the game!!!”
During the next Cardinals offensive series, on a 1st and 25 due to a Cardinals chop block on Arthur Moats, Palmer dumps a little pass off to Fitzgerald:
“Short pass to Larry Fitz, who weaves and threads for 40 plus yards…his 12th catch of more than 20 yards this year. He leads the NFL. He’s only 120 miles from Canton at Heinz Field. He’ll get there for sure.”
And rightly so IMO. Solid guy, spectacular, unselfish player—just the sort you want to see recognized.
“First half is extremely worrisome because of Arizona’s complete command of the line of scrimmage. Steelers down seven at the half, despite stinking up the city worse than Herr’s Island on a hot August afternoon. First downs: 11 to 4. Net passing yards: 233 to 1.”
After halftime Homer notes a Dri Archer sighting, justifying his place on the roster for another week. Then the freezing rain starts—as Homer says, Steeler weather! A couple of trick plays—a Bryant pitch reverse and a Bell flea flicker. Vick scrambles for six yards, but comes up gimpy. Then Homer notes:
“It’s either snowing out there or Tomlin’s got a really bad case of dandruff. If Troy was still on the team, he’d lend him some Head and Shoulders!!!” [Head and Shoulders execs, feel free to contact us to deliver product placement revenue…]
Then comes the real excitement:
“Boswell kicks from 48 yards in all that mess!!! It took a while, and some awful pain, but weee finally haaaave a kicker!!!!!!”
The defense takes over from there:
“Great defense—Blake holding receiver, Harrison knocks ball out, and knocks head off receiver. And then along came Jones….Landry Jones….Slow Walkin Jones….Slow Talkin Jones….Along came lonely Landry Jones!”
Unfortunately, this also happened:
“No one here [The Weiner’s Circle, I presume] can figure out why they went for two points here. Ouch!”
Next Cardinals possession, Homer notes:
“Tuitt was really, realllly held, and that could have saved Carson Palmer’s life…Cardinals seem to be having problems, now that the weather has turned icy and cold. Ball and field are slippery, and they are indoor cats.”
After a Harrison sack on 3rd and 18 the Cards are 4th and 36. Homer is not alone in enjoying seeing the other team in 4th and 36. The Steelers offense moves the ball, to a point, but the Cards defense force a field goal attempt from 51 yards. As Homer says:
“Boswell for 51 yards in the rain and sleet and muck and mire!!! Houston, we have a kicker!!!! God bless us one and all. And we’ll all have a Merry Christmas!!!”
More to the point, the score is now 15-10 Steelers, and they would never relinquish the lead, despite Homer’s skepticism:
“How are we winning this Game??? I didn’t know that smoke and mirrors worked in rain and sleet.”
Third quarter ends—Steelers still leading 15-10.
There was a great deal of wonder and excitement from Homer about the simple things in life—back shoulder passes to Antonio Brown, Heath catch for first down, Bell with some actual running room. As Homer said:
“Landry Jones seems to be able to run more of the offense than Vick because he’s been around that much longer.”
However, the offense was stymied on third down, leading to another Boswell field goal. Homer celebrates with another song:
“The scoring hero of the day is Chris Boswell of Rice Institute. Let’s have that famous Rice cheer:
‘ROOTY TOOT TOOT! ROOTY TOOT TOOT!
WE’RE THE BOYS FROM THE INSTITUTE!
WE DON’T SMOKE AND WE DON’T CHEW
AND WE DON’T GO WITH GIRLS WHO DO!’
Cardinals get the ball back, down 5 points, with seven minutes left. They quickly move it wayyy too close for comfort. And then:
“Huuuge interception in the end zone by Mike Mitchell, who collides with Cockrell but holds on to the ball.”
Personally, I was praying the defense wouldn’t have to go back on the field again, because neither Cockrell nor Mitchell looked good, and I wondered who the Steelers had left. Of course, there was a big personal foul call on Harrison, who swooped in like an avenging angel as the receiver Mitchell picked headed over to hit Mitchell as he was planted head-first into the turf. I don’t think that receiver will ever be the same.
The Steelers only had to run out 2:20 on the clock. Martavis Bryant didn’t get the memo, as he took a little pass from Jones and ran it back for an 88-yard touchdown. Calais Campbell, who had been a pest all day, smashed into Landry Jones for yet another roughing the passer penalty, but Jones looked like he couldn’t care less. The defense trotted back out with 1:58 left on the clock and made a goal line stand on 4th and 3, PIT 9 yard line, to end the game.
Here’s Homer’s report card:
OFFENSIVE LINE: C
Didn’t control line of scrimmage, but did manage some decent blocks in the second half. Bell got good yardage.
WIDE RECEIVERS: A
Martavis Bryant got the First A++++++++ since Ralphie in A Christmas Story. Missed you, guy, stay clean.
RUNNING BACKS: B
As in Bell. Did a good job, got good numbers, even though he was often hit in the backfield immediately upon getting the ball.
DEFENSIVE LINE: B
Heyward and Tuitt were beasts. They also made it possible for the linebackers to make the splash plays. The only reason they didn’t get an A is they didn’t get a sack.
The two biggest plays of the year were James Harrison’s hit that led to the fumble that changed the course of the game, and Vince Williams’ deflection that led to Lawrence Timmons’ interception.
They made big plays on a slippery field, especially Mitchell’s huge interception in the 4th quarter. Holding Arizona’s high-octane offense to one touchdown and 13 points is a real accomplishment.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A
Boswell, Boswell, Boswell. Boswell. We have a kicker, at long last! And Dri Archer actually returned a kickoff to the 40 yard line.
I’ve seldom seen a game where the second half was the exact opposite of the first half. The second half adjustments were perfect. Any time you are so completely outplayed in the first half of a game and yet you hold it together and win in the second half, that’s outstanding coaching.
Landry Jones—’nuff said. (Cue video.)
Chris Boswell—again, ’nuff said. Great to have a kicker who can win games for you once again.
Bryant—Wow. Didn’t we miss this guy! If only he can vanquish his demons and stay clean.
James Harrison—the two biggest hits of the game. At a time when the Steelers were reeling, he kept them in it. With all that happened in the second half, don’t forget that Harrison made it all possible. Like Old Man River, he just keeps rollin’…
Mike Mitchell—interception to seal it.
Alejandro Villanueva—when Beachum went out, he held it all together, and the offense did much better in the 2nd half.
Pittsburgh Weather—when the skies of October turned gloomy and snowy, those Arizona Cardinals got ice on their wings and the game turned around as they crash landed. “Momma, it’s cold here! Why is the rain so hard? And why is the ground so slippy?”
Michael Vick—couldn’t move the team. Poor timing. Injury opened way to Steeler Nation’s newest darling, Landry Jones. [Words I personally never thought I would be typing…]
Kelvin Beachum—got hurt. [Real hurt. As in ACL, out for the season.]