Steelers Defeat Giants, End Eli’s Winning Streak
Less than a week has passed since Hurricane Sandy passed through the northeast, impacting many lives up and down the New Jersey and New York coastlines. After much debate Mayor Bloomberg decided against running the New York Marathon, however cancelling/delaying an NFL game rarely happens. Pittsburgh was forced to travel to MetLife Stadium from Pennsylvania on Sunday morning. The Steelers hopped on a plane early in the morning and took a bus from the airport to the stadium, with time to spare before their 4:25 est kickoff.
With many Giants fans without power the tri-state area was looking forward to taking their minds off of the effects of Sandy and focusing on cheering Big Blue to victory. This rivalry dates back to 1933, when the Steelers were known as the Pirates, and New York has a 44-28-3 record all-time against Pittsburgh. The Giants have won 4 of the last 6 games but these two teams have played in just 4 games since 1994. Most of these rivalry games took place before the Steelers moved to the AFC in 1970. This game was about each team’s quarterback, players who were part of the same draft and two of the three active players with multiple Super Bowl victories.
Big Ben Roethlisberger is 24-7 against NFC teams (0-1 against the Giants) while Eli Manning has won his last 8 games against AFC teams (including his Super Bowl XLVI victory). The 2004 NFL Draft Class will have Ben and Eli tied at the hip for the rest of their careers, but their numbers are quite similar despite a drastically different way of playing the game. Each player has become known for their ability to perform late in games and when you look at the 4th quarter statistics from 2004-11 you see that Eli has a slight edge. Eli has a 60% completion rate throwing for 8.251 yards, 65 touchdowns, 41 interceptions and a QB Rating of 86.6. Ben has a 59% completion rate with 6,884 yards, 43 touchdowns, 31 interceptions and a QB Rating of 84.8.
It shouldn’t be surprising to anyone that this game came down to yet another 4th quarter comeback but if one QB performed at all his team may not have been in that predicament. The Steelers jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead after a 4 yard pass from Ben Roethlisberger to WR Emmanuel Sanders. The Giants would answer with a 1 yard touchdown run from Andre Brown after a questionable helmet-to-helmet hit penalty on Ryan Clark. Clark blew up WR Victor Cruz in the back of the end-zone and never made any contact with his helmet or shoulder pads to Cruz’s head. Cruz was on the wrong end of an aggressive hit, but it was completely clean and that penalty was more than questionable.
It is hard to determine the “chaos theory” of what should and shouldn’t be called but a big shift in the game came on the ensuing Steelers drive. Ben Roethlisberger was attempting a pass when he was pressured from behind and had the ball jarred from his hand. The “fumble” traveled forward before being picked up by Giants LB Michael Boley who would return it 70 yards for a touchdown. On that return there was a blatant block in the back and when the ref went under the hood to review the call many were expecting another play saved under the tuck rule, or giving New York the ball around the 25 after a penalty. I was stunned when the play was confirmed on the field and the touchdown stood.
Ben Roethlisberger did feel pressure from DE Osi Umenyiora and the Giants player did get his hand on the ball loosening it from Big Ben. Ben did not lose possession of the ball and still had enough of a grip on the pigskin to throw it forward. My understanding of the rulebook would tell me that this play should have been ruled a forward pass and therefore the touchdown would have been reversed. That is not how it went down and it gave New York a 7-14 lead but luckily for Pittsburgh it didn’t determine the game.
Eli played absolutely terrible and may have had his worst game ever as an NFL QB, completing just 10 of his 24 passes for 125 yards, no touchdowns and 1 really bad interception. The pick happened in the first half when Eli tried to force it into double coverage to Victor Cruz, but it was Steelers CB Ike Taylor that came down with the ball. Despite Eli’s terrible play the Giants had increased their lead to 10 points by the end of the 3rd quarter but that’s when Big Ben took over. Roethlisberger would cut the lead to 3 after hitting Mike Wallace for a 51 yard passing touchdown just 55 seconds into the 4th quarter. The Giants would get the ball 3 times in the 4th quarter but each time they punted after just 3 plays. New York would run 9 offensive plays in the final 15 minutes and accumulated -8 yards.
Big Ben would score two touchdowns and run the clock out in 3 of his 4 4th quarter drives, the other was a missed opportunity. The Steelers got cute and faked a field goal from the Giants 12 but Shayne Suisham would be tackled for a loss of 1 yard and the Steelers would turn the ball over on downs. It seemed as if Pittsburgh may have pissed away a great opportunity to cut into the Giants lead and many felt that Eli would close out the game. Manning wasn’t playing well and he immediately gave been an opportunity to get his 29th game-winning or comeback drive, coming into this game they both had 28.
Roethlisbeger made some good short passes on the final scoring drive, but really the Steelers QB had to just watch as Isaac Redman ran through the defense. Redman got the nod at RB because Rashard Mendenhall and Jonathan Dwyer were scratched from the game due to injury. Redman would finish the game with 26 carries for 147 yards, including a 1 yard rushing touchdown with just minutes left in the game. Redman’s 100+ performance was the third straight for a Steelers RB with Dwyer cashing in the past two weeks.
The Steelers improved to 5-3, winning their last 3 games and are now right back in the playoff picture and the battle for the AFC North. The Giants had won 4 games in a row coming into this home game against Pittsburgh but a poor performance by their franchise QB turned out to be too much to overcome. For New York this game will be a big factor in whether or not the Giants are playing for a 1 or 2 seed in the NFC. The Giants were looking like one of the hottest teams in the NFL under they absolutely folded in front of an emphatic crowd.