Disclaimer: I know many of you have found this entry under the pretense that I think the positives I go on to mention below somehow outweigh the negatives. Just so there's no misunderstanding, it's actually the exact opposite. While I list 5 positives and 3 negatives, the negatives are definitely way more troubling than the positives are encouraging. So get it right...just trying to find SOME silver lining...
In a word - Awful. To be fair, when I started writing this post it was just about 12:30AM and I'd only had a solid hour to digest what happened on the field last night, but at the risk of sounding bitter - I mean, what the? Another loss predicated on turnovers. BIG BEN TURNOVERS, which are getting pretty damn old. Let's face it, we were lucky to get back into that game.
I'm going to try and keep my post game thoughts "brief" here, because games like that tell the story well enough on their own without me throwing my two cents around. Keep your fingers crossed.
I'll start with the positive, because I'd like to think about something that isn't going to make me feel like punching myself in the face. Plus, even though we lost, I can actually think of more positives (sheer quantity that is) than negatives. So here you go:
- Character: We all know this team has enough of it to choke a horse. But I'm talking about the kind of character that allows them to locate their balls and mount a second half assault after being down 2 scores going into the half. Down 2 scores as the result of QB turnovers I might add. And yes, most of this is Ben. But frankly, it's the least he could do after getting us into the situation. I'm getting really tired of interceptions and fumbles. If there's one thing I hate to see it's giving away points. Case closed.
- Sir Fast William Everette Parker: The man continues to impress. It's just too bad we put ourselves in a situation where we could not utilize him to the fullest. Still, even on 21 carries, he gained a solid 93 yards on the ground. Had we run him 5, 6, 7 more times I'm pretty confident that number would have been somewhere near 150 yards. I say it all the time, it's not mind blowing. The more chances you give him, the more he is able to help you. The Steelers talked all week about how we were going to use the run to wear them down and how bad Denver's rush defense is...and yet, we came out throwing. I can understand the idea of deception, but when you're up against a team whose rush defense isn't stopping anyone, let alone one of the league's top rushers, you probably don't need to be too deceptive. This game was primed for Willie to shine, and shine he did. But 5 more carries and who knows...anyways, bravo Willie. You're money my friend.
- Baltimore lost: Sure, this also means we squandered a chance to put some distance between ourselves and the Ravens, but at least they didn't win when we lost. So our lead in the AFC North is safe for another week. Thank god for Buffalo coming up big. Consequently I am now a Trent Edwards fan.
- Tight End Touchdowns: A whopping 3 scores registered by Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth! Now that's what I like to see. At least we exploited one Denver weakness! Heath Miller had 5 catches for 50 yards and 2 TDs and Matt Spaeth had 1 lonely catch for a 13 yard TD. I see Tomlin subscribes to the patented "when in doubt throw it to your tight end" theory. Keep that up. I'm gonna make my new motto - More Heath Miller = More fun for everyone.
- Distributing the ball: Last but definitely not least, it was good to see that everyone was contributing last night. Ben completed 24 passes to a total of 8 different recipients. Even Carey Davis registered a catch...finally. 'Course the majority of the load fell on Hines Ward who had 7 catches for 78 yards and Santonio Holmes who had 6 catches for 54 yards. And that's the way it should be. But the way we were spreading the ball around in the 2nd half of that game last night was/is a good sign. The more weapons we utilize, the harder it is for the other team to key on 1 or 2 guys.
- Turnovers: Yes, I'm talking about turnovers again...reluctantly. Big Ben, could you please try and maintain a little composure in the pocket? There were a number of times where I saw Ben get unnecessarily flustered, second guess himself on throws, or not take what the defense was giving him in hopes of making a long completion. Now, I couldn't see down the field so he may have been rightfully holding back on certain reads, but everytime he pump faked we lost precious seconds to make a play. We've gotta either start calling better plays to get guys open, Ben needs to get rid of the ball quicker, or he needs to take advantage of what the defense will offer him - IE like that 1st down run he had. Done.
- Offensive line play: See exhibit A below...We all knew coming in that Denver did not have what most would qualify as a good defense. They let up 20 points to the Raiders in a winning campaign earlier this season, a team that only scored 10 points on Kansas City's poor-excuse-for a defense yesterday. So let's suffice it to say we should not have been letting guys come free and hassle Big Ben nearly as much as they did last night. This was a problem last season and so it is now as well. Obviously replacing Max Starks did not solve our problem. Actually, last night it really looked to me like Kendall Simmons was the biggest asshole on that line. I seem to remember 2 or 3 times guys coming after Ben from Simmons' territory. Simply, Kendall Simmons and Willie Colon need to get it together. Sort it out dicks.
- Late Game Defensive Breakdown: Listen. When you score a touchdown to tie things up with a minute left on the clock, all you need to do is make sure the other team does not move the ball into field goal range. Obviously we forgot that we had just come back to TIE IT UP and had not ACTUALLY WON the game yet. All we needed was 1:10 worth of solid defensive play. And what happened? Completion to the tight end for 16 yards (with a really nice offsides penalty, though it didn't mean anything...thank you Clark Haggans). Completion to Brandon Marshall, who shat on us all game, for 9 yards. A Silverback Offsides penalty = 1st down at the 50 for Denver. Completion to Glenn Martinez (anyone know who that is? Me neither...) for 11 yards. Another completion to the other tight end for 9 yards and a 49 yard Jason Elam field goal sends us home with our tails between our legs. Seriously, that did NOT look like what you would expect from the #1 defense in the league. Coming in, we had let up 47 points all season. Last night we gave them 31. What more can I say?
So I guess overall I'd say while I'm discouraged because we lost a very winnable game, I did see a few things that were encouraging as well. We can't dig ourselves holes with turnovers, but at least when we did, the team responded and showed us that we are not just a team that plays from ahead (though we certainly like to). Which is important if we have any hopes of a playoff run this year.
Anyways, after that novel of an entry, I'm done. If you need me, I'll be here at my desk until 5:30 trying not to screw anything up royally. It's Monday. Kill me.
[Behind The Steel Curtain]
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