Game Recap: No Country for Old Men? (Colts at Steelers)
Because of the lateness of this game, and because I have the dress rehearsal for my Christmas concerts tomorrow night and can’t really stay up until all hours, I’m writing this up as the game goes along. It feels very odd to not know how the game will come out as I write.
The title comes from a comment before the game began by one of the broadcast crew, who was noting the age of Matt Hasselbeck. And of course Adam Vinatieri is even older. Mike Tomlin, who is 43, is three years older than Hasselbeck and only one year older than Vinatieri. The question is, can the old guys on the Colts’ side of the field outsmart the guys on the Steelers’ side? I await the answer with bated breath.
One thing is for sure—this isn’t a pretty game. Steelers’ opponents have recovered three fumbles all season. The Steelers gave up two more in the first three minutes of the game. Matt Hasselbeck had two interceptions all season. He gave up two within the first ten minutes or so of the game. One of those was to Jarvis Jones, who made a lovely leaping catch. The other was to Brandon Boykin, who hasn’t been able to get on the field all season except on special teams.
And speaking of fumbles, when, oh when, will the Jacoby Jones experiment end? It feels a bit like the whole Josh Scobee thing. At first you think he’s just having a little trouble settling in. You know, new holder, etc. Or in Jones’ case, new blockers, whatever. He actually played pretty well last week. But it is halftime as I write this and Jones has now fumbled twice, although a heads-up Darrius Heyward-Bey recovered the second one. So far the only yards Jones has “gained” for Pittsburgh have been on two touchbacks. I’m very curious to see whether they put Antonio Brown back on punts in the second half.
Did I mention this game wasn’t pretty? It began with the first three possessions resulting in no points. The Steelers gave up a fumble on the opening kickoff, but the defense saw that fumble and raised the Colts an interception. The Steelers offense got a first down, and then DeAngelo Williams, who if I recall correctly has not fumbled the ball all year, fumbled, and IND recovered. Finally someone managed to do something—the Colts, who got the ball on the PIT 25 yard line, went three-and-out, but Old Man Vinatieri kicked a field goal.
The Steelers then had a nice long drive resulting in—a field goal. Well, it’s better than the alternative of no points at all. A promising Indianapolis drive ended in another interception, this time a William Gay deflection caught by none other than Brandon Boykin.
The fact that Boykin was on the field at all made me look back at the film to see if I could figure out who the third back was. I wasn’t able to tell, but I saw both Ross Cockrell and Antwon Blake on the field at various points, so it looks as if the thing Mike Prisuta said wouldn’t happen (sort of a rotation of DBs) might in fact be exactly what we’re seeing.
The Steelers offense took this gift, in lovely field position (the IND 37) and turned it into—another field goal. To be fair, there was at least one, and possibly two, incomplete passes on the drive which could have been called as pass interference. But apparently the refs have decided that December football doesn’t require PI calls.
The Colts finally put together a nice long drive, culminating with Matt Hasselbeck taking the snap, ordering pizza, sitting down and eating a few refreshing slices, and then throwing the ball into the end zone to Frank Gore. Finally, a touchdown. Wrong colored jerseys, but still…
This apparently made Ben Roethlisberger mad. He had not been able to order pizza even once, (although the offensive line kept his jersey clean up to this point.) He put together a ten-play drive featuring a long completion to Antonio Brown, a touchdown pass, also to Brown, and a two-point conversion caught by Will Johnson.
After a three-and-out by the Colts, thanks to a Timmons tackle of Coby Fleener a half a yard short of the first down marker, the Steelers got the ball back, just. (I will add the interesting statistic that Lawrence Timmons is the only defensive player in the NFL this year to play every snap of every game. You go, LT!)
The Colt’s punt was supposed to be a fair catch, but Jones let it go right through his arms, and it squirted around for a while before Heyward-Bey came up with it. Fortunately the squirting around took Pittsburgh bounces, and they ended up with the ball at the 40. And may I say that DHB has totally earned his place on the roster this year with his excellent special teams play. I still find it very impressive that a guy who was a No. 7 overall pick in the draft would come to Pittsburgh after an undistinguished career for the team who took him way too high and reinvent himself.
Once again Ben matriculated the ball down the field, although a Cody Wallace personal foul penalty slowed down the momentum temporarily (as well as negated a 20+ yard catch by AB.) Like the Honey Badger, though, Ben don’t care, and a sweet pass to Markus Wheaton took them to the 5 yard line with 14 seconds left in the half. Two incompletions were followed by a touchdown pass to Wheaton, and suddenly the Steelers were up 21-10.
The second half began with a Colts three-and-out and a punt, this time to Antonio Brown. Thank you, Coach Tomlin. Brown only picked up three yards, but that’s considerably better than a fumble.
The Steelers also had a three-and-out, you might say. 1st and 10—dump off to DeAngelo Williams for three yards. 2nd and 7—DeWill run, four yard gain. 3rd and 3—long pass to Martavis Bryant, and as Tunch Ilkin says, if he’s even he’s leavin’. Touchdown. The score is now 28-10.
The Colts converted one first down on their ensuing possession, and then didn’t manage another on that drive. Arthur Moats, however, managed to get a pretty vicious hit on Hasselbeck, who was checked out by the trainers for a neck injury. The Colts punted again and this time pinned the Steelers deep.
Ben took his first (and last) sack of the night on the next possession, and came up rubbing his leg, which made a whole lot of people nervous. He apparently decided this would be a good time to run the ball for a while, and another one of the old men, DeAngelo Williams, used the occasion to show what real running looks like. Michelle Tafoya, the sideline reporter, said Williams had told her “Whoever said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks has never been an old dog.”
Williams ran so much they gave him an occasional rest by sending in the newly promoted Fitzgerald Toussaint, who picked up a few yards here and there the rest of the evening.
The Steelers eventually settled for a field goal attempt, and our lovely young kicker, who had just nailed the previous 51 yard attempt, missed the 47 yarder. Matt Hasselbeck came back on the field, and thanks to a little dump off pass to Frank Gore which gained about a billion yards before Cameron Heyward chased him down, made it all the way down to inside the 10 before turning it over on downs, thanks to a Ross Cockrell tipped pass.
The Steelers decided to quit messing around. The Colts were managing to get more pressure, and at one point Ben ran and converted a 3rd and 7. He actually kept going, and the announcers noted that 70,000 people were yelling “Get Down!!!” He did, and ended the drive by throwing a touchdown to Antonio Brown. Vontae Davis, who was in charge of Brown all night, didn’t give up a single touchdown all last year. He gave up two to AB tonight.
Well, you get the idea. The Colts, who were now forced to run out Charlie Whitehurst because Hasselbeck took another shot, continued to play valiantly but futilely. The next kickoff, which featured a 59 yard runback, with the runner being tackled rather viciously by Chris Boswell, who took a personal foul, placed the Colts at the PIT 32. Another old man, James Harrison, who appeared to be on a personal crusade, strip-sacked Whitehurst and Vince Williams recovered the ball.
For what it’s worth, the Steelers defense have recovered an inordinate amount of fumbles. The general wisdom is that this will revert to the mean, but so far so good.
Another field goal, a punt returned for a touchdown by Antonio Brown, and the Colts turned it over on downs—that’s the short version of the rest of the game. The Colts never managed a single point after halftime. DeAngelo Williams was amazing. Antonio Brown must have a death wish, what with his “celebration” of the punt return in which he ran leaping into the goalpost. This one wasn’t cute or entertaining. He was lucky to not be hurt. Besides, he was slapped with a 15 yard penalty for “using the goal post as a prop.” C’mon, AB. You stuck the landing. Please, please consider honor satisfied and stop with the celebrations. Go back to dancing. It looked silly but at least you weren’t putting the remainder of the season in jeopardy.
In the end, it would appear this game was “No Country for Old Men” wearing white jerseys. The old men in the Black and Gold did their team proud. James Harrison, age 37, ended up with three sacks and almost had an interception. (He was pretty cross about missing that.) DeAngelo Williams, the oldest starting running back in the league, (he is about a month older than Frank Gore, the 2nd oldest starter) had 134 yards rushing, over five yards per carry, as well as 31 yards receiving. Ben Roethlisberger is no spring chicken, for that matter, and threw for 364 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions. Perhaps the only exception on the Steelers’ side of the field was the 31-year-old Jacoby Jones, who definitely did not have a good night. But was he ever REALLY a Steeler? It’s hard to imagine he will still be one tomorrow.
As usual, I will leave the harsh assessments (if such can be found in regards to this game) to the guys. Check around noon and the “Second Thoughts” should be up. But I really need to go to bed. I will just end with:
Momma’s Kind and Caring Report Card:
Effort: Effort badges all around! Two interceptions! Not that many big plays given up by the defense! Lots of touchdowns from the offense! Sweet…
Citizenship: Definitely NOT won by AB, who endangered himself and was slapped with a big penalty. Not to the defense, who harassed that nice man Matt Hassebeck all evening. How about giving it to Alejandro Villanueva (who by the way was called for a personal foul, but wasn’t the perpetrator.) After all, he prevented another tired old man, Robert Mathis, from hurting himself running into Ben Roethlisberger, time and time again.
Work Ethic: This surely should go to DeAngelo Williams, who blocked, ran, caught passes, and generally put in a night of work which would have tired out a man ten years younger. Honorable Mention: Cameron Heyward, who was actually in the backfield next to the quarterback when he noticed Frank Gore had gotten loose. He managed to outrun him and tackle him, something which a number of his teammates had neglected to do…