Packers @ Steelers: Homer J’s Patented Game Recap and Report Card

Photo via Steelers.com. I think a lot of us felt the way Shazier’s face looks…

As usual my comments will be in italics… Ed.

UPSIDE DOWN DEFENSE RIGHTS ITSELF JUST IN TIME, STEELERS LOSE TURNOVER BATTLE, BUT AVOID GETTING LIT UP ON LIGHT UP NIGHT IN THE ‘BURGH.

It’s a beautiful night for football in the City of Champions. All of downtown is lit up for Christmas. The Hall of Famers are there. It’s the nationally televised Sunday Night Football Super-Extravaganza. What could possibly go wrong?  Well, all of us, including the Yinzer Cult of Doom, know all too well. So buckle up your seatbelt and let’s see where this ride will take us…….

No Juju. No Gilbert. No VanceMac. You forgot “No Haden.” No problem??? We’ll see.

No Aaron Rodgers. No Clay Matthews. Hmm. Welcome to “The Replacements.” This is the time of the year when the bottom half of the roster becomes all-important.

First Steelers drive, which gives a foretaste of the Steelers’ night, in many ways:

Hypocycloids right. Bryant wide left. Bryant drops pass at 5 yard line. 3rd and 6. Ben throws delayed screen to Outlaw, who follows blocks by DeCastro and Pouncey to the 4 yard line. First down

Ben gets time. Hits Bell high at 2 yard line. Slammed to the ground. 2nd and goal. Ben hits Hunter on fade, but Hunter drops pass. 3rd and goal. Double reverse to MB who is tripped up after AB misses block. 4th and 1.

Ben throws shovel pass to Grimble for TD. DeCastro block breaks him free. X-man is the 6th receiver to catch a pass on that 59 yard drive. BOZ wide left on PAT.  6-0.

First Green Bay drive, which gives a foretaste of the Steelers’ night from the other perspective:

Boz  for Touchback.  VW called for unnecessary roughness. GB will start from their own 40.

Two runs get a first down. GB taking advantage of early Xmas gift.

Hundley sacked by Dupree at or near midfield, but Burns is called for hands to the face, for an automatic first down. Huge mistake by Burns. Ball on PIT 38. Jamaal Williams stopped cold by Dupree. 2nd and 11.

Steelers secondary has complete breakdown. 39 yard TD. Looks like Burns missed coverage. PAT good.  GB 7-6.

Two penalties and a brain freeze lead to GB TD. Not a good look by the D. Not good at all.  Funnily enough, this is more or less exactly what I wrote in my game notes. And the madness continues:

Ben throws lollypop to Outlaw, who is wide open, but inexplicably drops it. 3rd and 5.

Offsetting penalties. Illegal shift by PIT, 12 men on field for GB. Ben throws pick to Randall, who gets up off the ground and returns it to the house, but the play is reviewed. Rogers touched him while he was on the ground at the GB 45.

2:04 to play in the quarter. Not good so far for the Steelers.

Hundley gives to Williams for one yard. Hundley rolls out, hits Jordy Nelson, but he’s out of bounds. 3rd and 8. Hundley throws screen to Williams, who evades Shazier, and gets great blocking to go 55 yards for the TD. 14-6.  1:22 to go in the first quarter.

It’s light up night in Pittsburgh, but so far, the Pack offense has been lights out, and the Steelers have gone dark. Do you hear the Yinzer Cult of Doom howling about how the Steelers get beat by bad teams?  Of course you do.

End of a deeply unsettling first quarter. GB 14, PIT 6.

SECOND QUARTER

Ben hits AB underneath for first down. Ben looks for Rogers, who drops his second pass. We miss Juju…

Berry punt downed by DHB on GB 5. The D pitches a three and out, finally, and…

Punt returned by Brown, but there’s a whole bunch of flags. So instead of returning deep in GB territory, they start at the PIT 35. Yet another costly penalty.

Hawkins sighting on offensive line at RT. Good spot, Homer, I missed that.

Bell up left side for 4. Bell up the middle, gets very little. 3rd and 5 On 3rd and 5, Ben hits AB down the middle, and he breaks free and is dragged down at the GB 20.   He was in between 4 defenders.

Bell stutter steps his way to the GB 17. Ben hits Bryant on a fade to the left corner for TD. 14-12 Two point conversion: Ben hits Brown over the middle GOOD. 14-14 with 7:20 to go in 2nd quarter. And Steeler Nation begins to breathe again. And after a longer-than-necessary Green Bay series that ends with a punt, finally:

Punt taken by Brown at 16. Returned up the middle to the PIT 23. 3:46 to go in the half, and three time outs remaining.

Ben safety valve pass to Bell is dropped. 3rd and 7. Ben’s pass to AB, who is grabbed. No call???   4th and 7. Berry’s punt almost blocked. Fair catch around the 10 yard line.  1:06 remaining.

GB runs out the clock. 14-14 at the half.  Steelers have played Santa Claus on Light Up Night, with key penalties and a huge defensive lapse literally giving the Packers two scores.

Hundley has been able to avoid the Steeler rush, while Cobb and Nelson have kept the Steeler secondary busy and Williams has been excellent as both a runner and receiver. Green Bay’s offensive line has held together very well.

Not a single splash play by the Steeler defense in the first half. Second quarter was better than the first, but the first half was completely unsatisfying.

Steelers introduced all time greats from HOF into new Hall of Honor. Steelers of today haven’t put on much of a show for the stars of yesteryear.

SECOND HALF —

Green Bay deferred in the first half and will receive the second half kickoff.

Hundley scrambles right, throws back left to Williams who outjukes Burns again for 7. Bad night for Burns so far. Really bad night. Hundley rolls right, chased by Hilton and Heyward. Throws it away.

3rd and 3. DeVonte Adams runs a stop and go, Sensabaugh bites on the stop and is dead meat. He’s one on one. He’s toast. Adams goes 55 yards for the score. Another big play given up by the secondary. PAT good. 21-14 GB.

Drive: 6 plays, 76 yards. 2:54 seconds. Helluva way to start the second half — again. This is NOT a good habit.

The next Steelers drive ends in an INT. At this point I suspect most of Steeler Nation has turned to their anesthetic of choice…

Williams off the right side for 6. Williams stopped by VW after 3. 3rd and 1. Williams powers off the right side for the first down. Green Bay’s offense is controlling this game.  PIT 31. But fortunately we hear the far-off notes of the cavalry:

Hunley sacked by Walton for 5 yard loss. 2nd and 15, Hundley to Nelson, who is covered by Watt, who knocks it away. 3rd and 15. Hundley sacked at 38 by Heyward.  Big defensive stand, at long last.

57 yard FGA by Crosby is not even close. PIT gets great field position. Looks like McCarthy is not living in his fears either, with a gamble like that.

From PIT 47, Ben hits Bell underneath, and he goes for 13 to GB 40. Bell stutter steps and heads up the left side for 4. Ben play fake, nobody open, Ben scrambles up the middle for first down to GB 29.

Ben hits Bell underneath, and there’s a great juke to get away from HaHa to get 14 yards. Ben hits Brown who climbs the ladder and makes an incredible catch at the 3 yard line for a first down. Ben to Bryant. Incomplete. Flag down. Pass interference on GB. 1st and 1.

Ben hits AB on the fade for the TD. PAT Good. 21-21  :50 left in 3rd Qtr. That’s better…

After touchback, Hilton and Heyward dump Williams for two yard loss. On 2nd and 12, Hundley had nobody. Throws incomplete. 3rd and 12. On 3rd and 12, Hundley sacked by Heyward.

Punt formation. Quarter ends tied, 21-21, but the momentum has clearly swung to PIT as the defense has finally come alive. The front seven has taken over this game.

FOURTH QUARTER

VOGEL kicks to Brown. Fair catch. Holding by GB, Pit takes penalty after the kick, PIT takes over at the PIT 45.

Bell lowers the boom and powers his way forward for 14 yards. 1st down at GB 46. Bell forward for one yard. 2nd and 9 at GB 45. Bell fights forward and fumbles. GB recovers at the GB 34. Three Steeler turnovers, and zero by Green Bay. Feel the momentum switch. But the cavalry hasn’t left the building:

Hundley play fake, incomplete. 2nd and 10 at GB 34. Hundley quick pass up the middle, deflected by Shazier. 3rd and 10. Hundley throws it away, 4th and 10. Quick 3 and out. Vogel in punt formation.

AB fair catch at PIT 23. Flag on play. 15 yard face mask on GB. Let’s do it again and let AB have another chance to break loose. Vogel with a boomer, fair catch by AB at PIT 32.

Ben has all day, but nobody is open, except Ben. Ben sacked for loss of 10. Ben hits Bell in left flat, for 14 yards — dragging defenders for 7 of those yards. 3rd and 6. Ben hits Eli on a crossing pattern for the first down at the PIT 47.  They went from 2nd and 20 to a first down.

Bell on deep handoff, can’t find a gap, loses three. On 2nd and 13, Ben throws short to Bell who powers his way for 12 behind blocks by Hubbard and DeCastro. 3rd and 1. Bell goes off the left side, outjukes King, gets 11 for first down.

Ben its AB down the right sideline on a go pattern, 33 yards for the TD to give the Steelers the lead. PAT good PIT 21-14.  8:42 remaining. Great time for another defensive stand, except apparently they’ve left the building:

Hundley fires to tight end against slot blitz to Richard Rogers for 24 yards. Great adjustment. Hundley on play action, scrambles, hits Cobb at PIT 40. Another excellent play by Hundley. Green Bay sees Hilton about to blitz unprotected. Calls second time out.

Here comes the biggest play of the game.

Hundley hits Adams over the middle against Gay. First down at PIT 5. Ouch. And double ouch! McCarthy’s time out may have been the biggest call of the game. Williams up the middle for the touchdown. 28-28. 2:02 remaining.

Oh, Mama!  Forget the Tums. Pass the nitroglycerine.

Ben hits AB who jukes his way for 13 yards to the PIT 44. 1:50  GB called for holding, which saves PIT a time out. With double coverage on AB, Ben hits Bell for 10 to GB 46. Ben throws behind Bryant, incomplete. 2nd and 10 1:38 left.

Ben down and out to AB, just off his fingertips. 3rd and 10 1:34 left.

Ben gets plenty of time. GB plays 7 back. Ben tries Rogers, and it’s knocked away. Punt taken by Trevor Davis at GB 18.

1:20 left and one time out for GB.

Hundley sacked by Watt at GB 12. Hundley short pass to Williams, out to GB 15. 3rd and 13 with 32 second left. Thank you for going out of bounds to stop the clock!!!

Draw to Williams, far short of first down. Punt formation.

Brown receives punt. Tackled on PIT 30. 17 seconds left. Two time outs.

Ben hits AB who toe-taps at the GB 47. Phenomenal catch. 13 seconds to go. Ben hits AB for 14 at 33 :09 left.

Ben hits Bell, who loses 2. He goes down to stop clock. There’s four seconds left.

Boz trying a 53 yarder, No one has ever hit one this long at Heinz Field. Boz nails longest field goal in Heinz Field history as time runs out to win the game, 31-28. OMG.

REPORT CARD:

QUARTERBACK: A-.  33-45, 351 yards, 4 TD but 2 picks. Terrific in the 4th quarter. As good as AB was, Ben was the best player on the field.

RUNNING BACK: A-. Bell had 95 yards rushing, 88 yards receiving, but he lost a fumble.

WIDE RECEIVER: A-. AB was A+++. Bryant played well. Rogers had a couple of drops.

TIGHT ENDS: B+. Outlaw had four catches, and Grimble at TD. Outlaw dropped one.

OFFENSIVE LINE: A. They were solid in protecting Ben, and did a decent job opening holes for Bell.

DEFENSIVE LINE: B. Couldn’t get to Hundley in the first half, but stepped it up somewhat after the intermission. Green Bay’s offensive line opened up some serious holes for their running game.

LINEBACKERS: C. Shazier’s freelancing cost a TD on the screen pass. Dupree was also caught out of position a number of times. The linebackers didn’t put a ton of pressure on Hundley, who moved freely in the pocket.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: F. They stunk up the joint. Helluva time for them to all go into a slump. Burns had a bad game, from the opening whistle to the final gun. Sensabaugh cost them a TD, biting on a stop and go on third and three. No picks, but several huge failures. Get well, Joe Haden. And hurry.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C+. Boz missed a PAT, but tied the mark for the longest made field goal in Heinz Field history. Berry was fine. Coverage was decent. Bryant had the longest kickoff return of the season, taking the opening kickoff 38 yards.

COACHING: B. The coaches didn’t commit three costly turnovers, but they played it great with clock management at the end. The offensive game plan was excellent. The defensive adjustments in the second half turned the game around, but can you really blame the coaches for Artie Burns’ terrible night or Sensabaugh getting burned?

How did the Steelers win this game?  They gave up three turnovers, and lost the turnover battle 3-0. They gave up three long touchdowns. They made Hundley look like the second coming of Aaron Rodgers. And yet they’ve gone 18-3 in their last 21 regular season and playoff games.

The lack of style points is killing us.

A FINAL THOUGHT

We seriously need to consider the possibility that the Steelers Defense is living in the NFL’s version of the Upside Down. They make rookie QB’s and second raters look like All-Pros and future Hall of Famers.

First game of the year, they make Kizer look like a legit candidate for Rookie of the Year. Against da Bears, that bum Glennon picked them apart. And last night Hundley – who was shut out and looked totally inept one week earlier against the Ravens – looked every bit like Bart F. Starr or Bret F. Favre. What’s going on here?

And it’s not like this has never happened before, ladies and gentlemen. It wasn’t that far back when Johnny Football picked them apart in the best game of his NFL career. Hell, his QB rating for that game was in three figures, and higher than the proof of the stuff he’s been drinking.

Homer was fooled in the opener, and wrote that the Browns were vastly improved and Kizer was the real deal. (D’oh!) He’s not going that route again. Hundley looked very good last night against the Upside Down Defense.

The STEELERS may win the game, but they are in the habit of making bad or inexperienced QB’s look good.

Hopefully, if they are truly in the Upside Down, they will make Tom Brady look like Joe F. Pisarcik or Dirty Butt Fumble Sanchez.

There’s always that hope, even for the Yinzer Cult of Doom.

Fire everybody.

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