I thought I'd sleep on this thought and write this in the morning, as there was too much emotion in what evloved as a fairly calm game for the first 30 minutes, and I thought that perhaps this feeling was just the emotion from the game. But this morning the feeling is still there.
The feeling is, that we owe Madam Fortune a big one! 5 reasons why, as well as some game notes after the jump.
You can surely say that all good teams are lucky. But this time we really got some help! I counted at least 5 (five!!!) major, massive lucky breaks for us in the final 15-18 minutes of the game (last few minutes of play in the 4th and in the OT). Let's count them.
(1) The Polamalu pick. Yeah, I know, a huge heads-up and a very athletic play by the one who makes them routinely. But it was a tipped ball. Essentially, a receiver's drop that went upwards - up for grabs. Consider that this happened on a 1-yard line, 3 minutes to go. With the way our offense played in the 2nd half, I am not sure that we would have come back to win the game if Buffalo had scored there.
(2) OT opening kickoff return. It may have ended even before the first play of OT had the Buffalo returner not hit his own man and falled down when all the Steelers' tacklers were behind him. A rare breakdown in Pittsburgh's special teams, and were oh so lucky not to have lost the game right there.
(3) Ben's fumble. On 3rd down from Pit's 5-yard line (if I am not wrong), pocket collapses, several Bills in around Ben, and he drops the ball. At the 1-yard line. And it falls into his hands. At the 1-foot line. One foot away from a safety and the end of the game.
(4) Bills punt return fumble. Sepulveda had to kick out of the back end zone. The returned stood on the Pit 40. The kick went further than that, way further, but had the first tackle been broken, it would have been a nice long return. But our special teams forced a fumble, and though Buffalo recovered it, the ball went almost 30 yards back, to the Bills' 30s. The field position was reversed, and Fitzpatrick actually had to drive quite a distance for a chance to score. Which he did, and this leads to the biggest lucky break of the game for Pittsburgh -
(5) The Stevie Johnson endzone drop. It was there, in his hands. Ryan Clark and Ike Taylor beaten. Bills offensive lineman leaped into FItzpatrick's hands to celebrate a win... Too early. Incredulous drop. We have had a few too, Wallace and Sanders dropped a couple of easy ones. But none could ever be bigger than this. Wow.
Let me say it straight - if one of these 5 bounces goes the other way - we lose the game. But, hey, sometimes it is better to be lucky than good. And as I have always said - what distinguishes great teams from good ones, is that the former find ways to win in games than don't go their way.
Some other game notes from Buffalo:
1. Keyaron Fox. The backup LB and a usually good special-teamer made me mad in the end of the game. In Week 4 against the Ravens, after the goal-line stand in the final 2 minutes, the Steelers punted away, but a bad penalty on Fox put the ball in Flacco's hands on Pitsburgh's 40. 40 seconds later, we are 3-1. Yesterday we punted away and Fox shoves someone near the Buffalo bench after the play was over. Add 15 yards to a decent return, and the ball is 15 yards away from a makeable FG. Deja vu, and not a good one. Tomlin will have to talk to Fox about it.
2. Ben. How about our QB? Not the best game, but wow, what a heart! Win an injured leg, hobbling and limping, try to make a run line an 18-yard scramble on 3rd and long to keep the scoring drive alive! And I tell you what, this run would have never happenned, had Ben not kept looking for a receiver to pass, almost pumping the ball as he ran. That kept defenders with their receivers, and that gave Ben room to run. Wow.
3. Shaun Suisham. We all know these were his first FGs as a Steeler, and we all know he did a great job. But I'll just tell you this: all his kicks were from 40 to 50 yards away. The range frmo which Jeff Reed was 0-for-4 this season. There, you have it.
4. Offensive line. A poor game. Period. Especially from Chris Kemoeatu. 3 holdins, in crucial moments. I thought that the only situations where he was good was when he pulled to the right to block for Mendenhall. Other than this, horrible.
5. Pass defense. Other than the 65-yard TD, our defense seemed to be in its usual bend-not-break state. But there was a constant feeling that with better WRs, and less drops, the Bills would have won it. It is time to stop giving up those 10-yard cushions. 70% of Fitzpatrick's passes were pitch-and-catch. This isn't the way to go.
Anyway, we are 8-3 now, let's take a long breath and... off we go to Baltimore!