Drunken Ramblings: Patriots edge out Steelers for AFC driver's seat
What a win. What a savage loss that was about to be. But what a win in the end. I want to start with the fact that the Steelers lost AB, one of the most elite play makers in the league, very early in this one. It looked like he broke his leg, which I legit still believe is what happened, but they are now reporting partially torn calf. He should return for the playoffs. Damn. I'm never rooting for injuries that threaten a career or quality of life. But a little broken fibula and out for 6 weeks around the playoffs?? I'm a huge fan of that.
I think it's important to note that the last three times these two teams have clashed the Steelers have been down a huge piece. Last year regular season was no Big Ben, playoffs was no Bell, and this time we had no Brown. If we see Pitt again this year, which is a major if because I think they get their doors blown off by the Jags, I fear we might have used all our injury tokens. Eventually we will have to beat the killer Bs at full strength.
But to say we aren't injured as well is unfair. Obviously we're without huge players like Jules and High, but we were down a good chunk on Sunday as well. Van Noy out, Rex went down, Hoags out. I wan to take them one at a time.
Rex was a bummer. I love Sexy Rexy. Even though he is a tuddie hawk for DIDI, we had our fair share of struggles in short yardage this year. If Burk is working, then I don't want to change it. Now that doesn't appear to be an option. The way the Steelers defensive players were screaming for our sideline the second Burk went down I was fully expecting the worst. Knowing our training staff, his leg would need to be amputated before the 4th quarter started. But the reports are that it's not major and he could return for the playoffs. This dude has been so valuable catching and running, I really hope he returns. His temporary absence will mean the return of Gilly. Samwell Tarley's around the world rejoice. I don't know, I feel weirdly ok about this? I had such big plans for Gilly this year that certainly didn't come to fruition, but this feels destined to be the way he saves this season. He will run all over the Bills, his former team, this Sunday and lock up a first round bye and all will be forgiven. This might be the definition of insanity, but this time it will be different for Gilly!
Linebacker is our weakest position group right now IMHFO. I know I've made this joke before, but the Van Noy situation is mind blowing. We need him. We need him like I need my Pepto Bismol at lunch time on Mondays. Otherwise the BL Smooths catch up to me and the stomach starts bubbling and you do NOT want to go into the office bathroom after I've had my way with it. That's what happens when KVN is gone. The shit starts running down our legs. Roberts is firing gaps and tackling no one. Eric Lee attempting to set the edge goes about as well as my LSAT did. MY BOY Trey Flowers (more on him later) is forced to cover Bell in pass coverage, which is PSYCHO SHIT. It's a whole trickle down effect. We need Van Noy if we are doing anything this season, and I hope that calf is healing up. We look pretty stupid playing him 15 snaps 2 weeks ago if this thing lingers.
Speaking of looking pretty fucking stupid, way to go on Hoags boys. So glad he was rushed back last week so we could lose to the Dolphins anyway and knock Hoags out of the Steelers game. I kind of blame Gronk, because if he wasn't suspended we wouldn't have felt like there was no one to throw to unless we put Hoags in. Either way, I'm livid that his shoulder is re-dinged up. At this point I just need him ready for the playoffs, but actually ready, because whatever he was against the Fins is not him.
I was really glad to see David Harris back. I don't know why, other than I will go to my grave saying he helps this team. After being inactive last week, which Reiss eventually said was injury related, Harris played 31 snaps at the expense of Marquis Flowers. That's the way it should be. He finished with 4 tackles and honestly I can't remember a single one. But he's a guy that knows what he is doing out there, which shockingly I can't say about half our defensive starters.
We also saw the return of MY BOY Trey Flowers. 5 tackles, half a sack, 3 QB hits, and 2 times being torched for first downs by Bell on a wheel and stop route. He was also the only, literally the ONLY, defensive guy in the front seven who was still playing on the last play of the game. People will remember the Bell plays, and a few missed sacks, and say Trey didn't do much. But he's the best Anne Frankly the one relevant pass rusher we have. I was thrilled it didn't look like he missed a beat after a few weeks out. We are gonna need him in a big way going forward.
Eric Rowe returned last week but barely played. This week he leap frogged Jones as that third corner in the nickle package. He obviously had that massive tip on the last play of the game, but it felt like he was burnt toast all day before that. It's kind of true, people were catching passes around him, but I gotta say, to me he looked competitive in coverage all night. I've never seen anyone get hands closer to balls without touching them than this dude. Remember the Julio catch in the bowl last year?? Perfect defense. Ball grazes his finger nail. Julio shits down his throat. He was big for us last year, and if he falls into form again I think he will be a massive contributor down the stretch. His injury has kept him out most of the year, so I think he's finally getting his feet under him again. I hope his snap count keeps going up and you will see more plays like the one that saved this game.
I was really disappointed with Gilmore on Sunday. I said to anyone who would listen this game wasn't about Malcolm. Everyone was hyping the Malcolm/AB matchup, I wrote a few blogs about it, but this was a Gilmore game. Malcolm was going to have safety help all night. Gilmore was going to be on an island. This is where he was going to earn every cent we paid him. A few times they showed an overhead shot of our pre snap alignment and Dev wasn't even close to Gilmore. He's standing on AB's side of the field, a good 40 yards from the other sideline. Now, I'm not saying that's an easy job. Gilmore can't bite anything too hard because he knows if he gives up the big play over the top Bill will rip his intestines out through his mouth on national television. That means the slants and the outs and the stops are all there if Ben wants to hit them. Those I'm ok with giving up. It's bend don't break mentality. But the shallow crosses right in front of his face and more importantly the Martavis Bryant play for 39 up the sideline, which made Gilmore look like he was running in cement, are not ok. I don't know what to do other than ask Gilmore to be better. I believe he can. But we're going to find ourselves in a defensive game plan like this again and I have some simple instructions for him. DO YOUR JOB.
I'm not worried. I repeat. I'm not worried about Stevie G. Pitt is one of the hardest places to kick in the league. He hit his field goals. That snap was a disaster on the extra point miss, and the hold wasn't much better. Laces out Dan! But my god did that feel like the Denver AFCCG loss all over again. A missed extra point was going to undue all the fighting in the end. And it would have, had Gronk not entered a non human form during the final drive. So again, me and Stevie are still cool, it wasn't his fault, but what do I have to do to get this guy to yank one when we are beating the Raiders by a billion? He misses the most impactful extra points of all time. My heart medicine can barely hold up.
I guess this is as good a time as any to talk about Bell real quick. That dude might be the best non qb in the league. It's mesmerizing to watch him play. I'm not saying anything you guys don't already know, but he shouldn't be able to run like he does. It's everything everyone has said you can't do, ever. Yet he makes it work. He had 5 catches for 48 yards, and 24 carries for 117 yards and a tuddy. And most importantly he helped the Steelers DOMINATE time of possession. That's actually why I thought we were going to lose. 35 minutes to 24 minutes, leading to Tom playing only 60, his second lowest total of the year. I thought we would do everything we could to contain AB, dare Pitt to run it with Bell, and hope to stop him. Tall task with no KVN and Branch, but that was the plan. Once Brown went down, I thought we'd, I don't know, adjust? Maybe focus on Bell since he is the only good player left on the field. Maybe we did, and just didn't have the personel on Sunday. Maybe we did and he's just that good. Either way, that dude was balling and it was not fun to watch.
Cookie had 4 for 60 and a tuddy. Should I be happy? Yes. Am I happy? No. I don't know why. That's pretty close to the weekly numbers I demand of him all the time. But he just vanishes. I don't get it. 43 of those came off a sweet play action on our first drive. And the tuddy catch was some great improv by Tom and a good catch in traffic. But these are the games I need you dude! Why does it feel like he's a non factor?? We brought this dude in to be a game changer. Hoags is out. DOLA had 2 grabs. I know Gronk was eating all night, and Cookie was second on the team in receptions, but I need more. We can't be completely dependent on tight ends and running backs catching the football. Give me a 10 catch outing against a shitty secondary for the love of god. Maybe we wouldn't have rushed Hoags back last week if we thought the chef could take over a game. Spoiler alert: he can't.
Loved the Kenny Britt sighting. He's trying to Floyd himself. I say he's good for a tuddy against the Bills this week, and then if he decapitates a Dolphins safety on NYE the transformation will be complete.
Tom was good for another pick. His fourth game in a row. I'm done getting worked up about this. I don't have the energy. If Tom is going to betray me there is nothing I can do to stop him. I've begged. I've pleaded. I've prayed to his effigy. I don't have anything left. Stop throwing fucking picks. It's making me physically ill. If we win out I still think we cling to the MVP, even though we barely deserve it at this point. It's appalling that he has 7 interceptions. This one (he did get hit as he threw it) came on our side of the field, horrible, when we finally got a stop. It looked like the game was about to turn and we could run away with it. Instead, the Steelers nearly had a dagger. I know Tom has been nails against these guys, and a pick was eventually coming, but holy shit Tommy. He usually saves his "I will throw a pick every week!" routine for the playoffs. My least favorite of all his traditions. Seems like he's getting an early jump on the holidays this year.
This was truly vintage Gronk. I don't know what demon force was possessing him during that final drive but I hope Bill has Link on his coaching staff somewhere to lock that spirit in a bottle, throw it in our backpack next to the bombs, grappling hook, and Hyrule shield, so we can unleash it during the yoffs. The big tight end had a career day, going for 9, 168, and a 2pt conversion. But when we got the ball down 5 with 2 minutes left we went like this: Gronk for 26, Gronk for 26, Gronk for 17, DIDI 6 yard tuddy run, Gronk 2pt conversion. That's not even exaggerated. The only play I left out was the near game ending pick on the first throw of the series. It was tipped at the line and yes Gronk was open. And yes a little pee came of out my linus.
When Gronk started flexing I knew he was on one. Had to give him the rock no matter what. The 2pt conversion route made Sean Davis look worse than Jerry Richardson.. He bit the slant so hard I thought he was just going to keep running towards the tunnel like he picked it off. Which in hindsight, he probably should have done, because the actual crazy person laugh/spike that Gronk put on his dead body after the catch will be seared into Davis' brain for all eternity.
Gronk was definitely trying to make up for essentially costing us the Dolphins game and he did in a big way. I am legit TERRIFIED of him playing against the Bills this week. It sucks because we have to win so he has to play, but if he runs a single seam route I am going to get in my car, drive to Gillette, and go Gillooly on Josh McDaniels. Play him only in the read area if we have to. Nothing that makes his knees vulnerable. Come backs and fades only, Josh. Gronk's fate is on you this week, and he's a weapon we are going to need. Please.
Before I get to the ending I want to touch on one last thing. Third downs. Last week we go 0fer against the Fins. Needless to say, that's unacceptable. This week the Steelers are 10 for13. That is equally unacceptable. If we lost that was going to be the reason. It was never worse than the last drive of the first half. We scored to make it 10-10, and gave them the ball with about 9 minutes left. I thought, get a stop, get the ball back with 4/5 min left, and horse shoe their ass. Game over. We get our traditional 10 or 14 out of that exchange and its ball game. Instead, the Steelers rip off a 9 minute drive, get their tuddy, and we don't even see the ball again. And they did it by going 6 of 8 on third down!! That means we were getting what we wanted. It's not like they were chunk yarding us. We were putting them in do or die situations, which is the rock our church of defense was built upon, and we couldn't finish. It was excruciating to watch. Third downs simply have to be cleaned up, because they are a small thing that will straight up cost you a game on their own. Getting off the field and getting the ball back in Tom's hands, similar to pumpkin spiced lattes, is everything.
But the D did have one big third down stop and it came on the last play of the night. So lets talk about the whole ending. After the Gronk shoe string catch I would have loved DIDI going down on the 1 yard line after his run. It would have forced the Steelers to stop the clock with their final time out with 55 seconds left, and we would be looking at second and goal from the 1, down 5 points. That's three shots to win the game. We had two time outs left so run and pass were at our disposal. It's risky as hell. Just last week we made it to the inch yard line against Miami and then went backwards. You're not in til you're in. Ask Seattle. But I wanted no part of giving the Steelers the ball back, especially since the 2pt conversion wasn't a guarantee. DIDI, of course, made the smarter play and just scored. We hit the 2 pointer, and now have to play D.
The Steelers had one time out and 55 seconds. That's plenty of time. I kind of expected the FG to be honest with you, but I just wanted them to have no chance at a tuddy. Keep everything in front of you and tackle in bounds. It's pretty simple. Well Ben throws a 2 yard shallow cross to JuJu on the first play. Everything I could have wanted. But Eric Rowe and Gilmore (I really don't know whose fault it is, but I lean Rowe) run into each other. Gilmore had his guy locked up. I view it like basketball when you have to go under a screen. You're beat, but fighting through the screen gives up an easy dunk. Going under concedes a long two, but at least you're back in position. When Rowe sees Gilmore in his way I need him to run over it. Give up the catch, and get on the right angle to make a tackle after a 7 yard gain. Instead he trips and JuJu turns the corner.
Which leads me to my next asshole, Jordan Richards. Don't think I didn't notice Dev take a shitty angle and blow that play too. He isn't off the hook either. But Jordan Richards is a pile of shit. He was sitting right there. JuJu had to graze his shoulder to continue up the sideline. If Jordan Richards had breathed on him JuJu would have been knocked out of bounds but Jordan couldn't be bothered to do that. This kid STINKS! I've given him a lot of free passes. Apparently he's smart. Bill seems to like him. But holy shit do we need a new safety. Where's Brandon King at? He can't be worse, can he? How can someone play so little and do so much damage. The missed Cutler sack last week. Missed tackle this week. It's a nightmare watching him play. Depth safety is major priority for me in the upcoming draft. I can't wait to use the Niners second round pick on a reach from Rutgers who should have been undrafted.
Anyway, the next play Jesse James scores a tuddy. Or does he? I don't have much to add to this discussion because it isn't a discussion. He dropped it. The ball is lying on the ground plain as day. Easiest call I've ever seen. I'm not even being hyperbolic. The ball is lying. On. The. Ground. You want to argue about the rule? Fine. I don't love it either. To say Dez Bryant didn't catch that ball last year was insulting to football fans everywhere. But if you start calling all of these catches, that means every slant that gets knocked out of people's hands in the middle of the field are now fumbles. I could live with that, but it changes a lot. So be careful what you wish for. Also, here's a thought. HOLD ON TO THE FUCKING BALL. If you are going to reach for the end zone make sure you don't drop the football on the way and we wont have this problem.
Here's where it really gets nuts. After the overturn, Steelers have second a goal from the 10 with 34 seconds left and no time outs. Sack is devastating here, and we actually got some pressure. Because of that, Ben was forced into a check down. Huge, huge, huge, game altering tackle by Malcolm in bounds to keep the clock moving. Now the Steelers start to scramble, but they had time. To me it was so obvious. Easy to say from my couch but still. You race to the line, call a play no huddle, and take a shot at the end zone. There was 34 seconds left in the previous play!! They easily get this snap off with 9 seconds left. No sacks, if nothing is there you throw it away, and now there's plenty of time for a 4th down FG. Ben is saying the coaches told him to take a shot in his helmet. NO SHIT IDIOT. There is 9 seconds left. But Ben pulled out a fake spike, which I thought was stupid anyway. Why would you spike it there instead of taking a shot? 9 second is waaay too much time to kill it. And then its fourth down and you're forced to kick. The fact that our entire dline bought the fake spike enraged me. OBVIOUSLY they aren't spiking the ball there.
The way it went down was so weird. Only Ben, Trey Flowers, Rowe, and Eli Rodgers were playing football of the 22 people on the field. Never seen anything like it. It looked like my Saturday morning flag games when everyone is hung over except for 3 hardos out there thinking they can still get dat scholarship. You know the rest. Rowe got a hand on it. Duron Harmon pulled off his game ending pick, trademark and all rights reserved, and the Steelers walk off losers, trademark and all rights reserved.
What a fun regular season game. We get so few of them. Take care of business and lock up this one seed and I can keep my hotel reservation in Minnesota.
Hey Dwayne Allen, nice 26 snaps, 1 catch for 10 yards and a smothering block to spring DIDI on the game winning tuddy. Fuck yea.