Monday Evening Quarterback - Week Two
Walk Between the Raindrops
What a difference a week makes.
Last week, the Steelers won a close game by rallying late in each half for a score, a game in which the other team missed two field goals.
This week, it was a total role reversal with the Steelers ending up on the very disappointing short end of an unexpected Chicago stick.
There's no reason to panic. Yesterday's game is a teachable moment. The Steelers never played with the sense of clutch urgency that they've played with over the last 4 football games.
Perhaps they've come to believe that "clutch" can be turned on at the flick of a switch. If that's the case, best for this wake-up call to come early and against an NFC team on the road.
The Steelers have consistently been the team that makes the game-winning plays down the stretch.
Their wide receivers typically compete for the sticks.
The defense typically makes the plays it needs to make to get off the field.
The kicker is usually money, especially with the game on the line.
The quarterback typically becomes better as the game goes on, not worse.
There were plenty of failures against the Bears, but in the interest of blamestorming we as Steelers' fans must find one singular scapegoat. Some of us have chosen Jeff Reed. Some of us have chosen Tyrone Carter. Some have even chosen to blame Bruce Arians, simply because bad habits are hard to break.
In my mind, it was Ben Roethlisberger who allowed the game to be close in the first place.
After starting out on fire, completing 13 of his first 15 passes, Ben started a stretch of inaccuracy that did more to submarine the Steelers' chances than anything else in this game. It should have never come down to Jeff Reed's foot.
It all started on 3rd and 10 with 6:33 left in the second quarter. Ben had Holmes wide open and sailed the ball 4 feet over his head.
The Bears would march 97 yards to tie the game and end the half.
When the 3rd quarter started, Ben was still off. On 2nd and 10, the slip screen to Holmes was there and Ben missed the target badly.
On the next play, Ben had Holmes open behind the linebackers, but the ball came out funny and right to Hunter Hillenmeyer. The Steelers punted.
The defense forced a 3 and out, and the Steelers got the ball back, but Ben was no better.
On 2nd and 8 a wide open slant to Ward was thrown into the mud.
After barely completing a first down ball to Moore, Holmes had his second drop on the sideline. This didn't help; when Ben is having problems, his receivers have to make plays.
Ben held the ball too long and was sacked on the next play, ending the drive.
The Steelers had the ball and a chance to build on their lead late in the 3rd quarter. On 2nd a 9, Ben missed Miller badly on a TE screen.
After a nice 3rd down completion to Holmes and then a nice check with me to Holmes for a first down, Ben went right back to poor form.
The swing pass was set up nicely, but Ben threw low and behind to Parker. If that pass is where Parker can catch and go, it might have been a touchdown. Ben would be sacked on 3rd down and the Steelers would miss the field goal, and the Bears would tie the game on their next possession.
Ben was 9 of 18 from the bad overthrow to Holmes on. Those aren't awful numbers, but these were mostly simple, high percentage throws to wide open receivers. Additionally, there were at least 5 throws that were completed but were poor passes, passes where the receiver had room to run but couldn't because of the scattershot nature of the throws.
Ben left points on the board in the middle of the game (with help from Holmes, certainly), and that's why the Steelers lost.
This is part of the game, folks. When you lean on your quarterback to win games for you, the team is going to struggle when he's not having his best day. Yesterday was certainly not Ben at his best from the standpoint of simply delivering the football.
Usually, he's extremely accurate and gives his receivers an easy ball to catch. For whatever reason, he was inaccurate and I don't expect it to continue.
Maybe the real question after yesteday is simply...where was the glove?
THE FURIOUS FIVE
1. New England Patriots
The Legend of Tom Terrific grows. For the second consecutive week he called his shot in the huddle, telling his linemen that he was going to throw 4 consecutive incompletions to close out the game. Ruthian I tell you, Ruthian.
2. New York Giants
It's time to bench Brandon Jacobs, the offense has a new identity and it's about spreading the field and mixing in the run with Ahmad Bradshaw.
3. Baltimore Ravens
They won again but were exposed defensively. Teams will begin throwing the ball all over them, there's no pass rush outside of Suggs and their secondary is Ed Reed and 3 chunks of smoked ham.
4. Denver Broncos
Josh McDaniels finally wrapped up that perfect season - against Ohio.
5. New Orleans Saints
The NFL's answer to the Phoenix Suns. They score in bunches, play little in the way of defense and will be one and done in the playoffs.
He put his players in position to succeed, kept the Bears defense completely off-balance and authored one of the better game plans of his tenure. His star quarterback and his star receiver let the team down.
Few defensive players stood out yesterday, except for the wrong reasons. Clark was solid, filling strong against the run and playing a nice centerfield.
He single-handedly limited Devin Hester's ability to do damage with some big kicks, including a 58 yarder and a punt downed at the 3 yard line.
Lebeau continued to blitz, it continued to not get there and Jay Cutler continued to take advantage. Whereas Dom Capers and the Packers played packed-in zones with the occasional blitz, forcing Cutler into mistakes, Lebeau sold out to get to a guy who is hard to get to, stretching the secondary thin when they were already without their best player in Polamalu.
“I was down there twice. They were makeable field goals. I don’t care where I’m kicking, what the conditions are. It’s a terrible feeling, but at the same time you have to live to fight another day.”
- Jeff Reed
Santonio Holmes' projected season stats are 112 catches for 1,712 yards and 8 TD's.
Santonio Holmes had 2 drops and failed to make a spectacular game-winning catch. He failed, and he would be the first to admit it.
But he also was a big reason the Steelers were moving the ball in the first place, and I expect him to rebound from a disappointing afternoon.
MAKING THE ROUNDS
1. Tyrone Carter didn't have a great day, but he was not put in a position to succeed, getting way too much man coverage responsibility behind the blitz. That's not his game, not even close.
2. James Harrison and Lamarr Woodley are getting pressure, but they've played against two quarterbacks who are tough to sack for different reasons. Kerry Collins is tough to sack because the ball comes out so quickly, whereas Jay Cutler is tough to sack because he combines Ben's escapability with superior athleticism for a QB. The slow witted and slow footed Carson Palmer does neither well.
3. I mentioned it elsewhere, but I'm intrigued by the idea of Rashard Mendenhall seeing some time as the 3rd down back in place of Mewelde Moore. Moore is the consummate pro, he's solid in every area and gets the most out of his ability. But Mendenhall is downright explosive, with the potential to break those outlet passes for big plays, not just modest gains.
4. This team needs both Limas Sweed and Mike Wallace. Sweed's downfield blocking could have resulted in longer gains on more than a few plays, whereas Wallace is still disinterested in blocking.
5. CBS was extremely annoying with their insistence on showing Troy Polamalu after every Chicago completion. Troy looked annoyed and somewhat spry on the sideline. He'll be back sooner than later.
AROUND THE LEAGUE
6. I don't fear the Patriots one bit. They're done, and I don't just mean for this year.
7. The least shocking game of the week was the 49ers dispensing with the Seahawks. The 49ers are playing physical, quality football and the Seahawks have personnel problems all over the place, from quarterback to running back to wide receiver to offensive line to defensive line to the secondary.
8. The Texans did what they Steelers couldn't do - take advantage of stacked fronts by getting the ball out on time. Matt Schaub is a quality distributor of the ball, but the real difference maker was Andre Johnson. The Steelers have very good receivers. They do not have a "generational" receiver like Johnson.
9. Brett Favre is showing a newfound ability to do whatever it takes to win. His relationship with both Brad Childress and Darrell Beavell probably has a lot to do with it. Last week, it was managing the game and handing off. This week, it was a high-percentage short passing game, which Favre ran humbly, patiently and to perfection.
10. After two weeks, no team in the NFL is truly impressive.
IN THE CROSSHAIRS
It's got to be Carson Palmer. Despite the defenses' struggles against the Bears, the Steelers traditionally feast on the Bengals, and this week it should be no different. I will guarantee that both Harrison and Woodley will get on the sack sheet on Sunday.