FG Bill's soft D bites again
At first glance, those the didn't get to watch today's game might think, "Hmmm, not a bad day. They just came up a bit short. I mean, hey, the Stillers scored 23 points, Jerome Bettis rushed for 134 yards, the offense accumulated 322 yards and Joey Porter picked up a fumble and returned it for a TD." But, the Stillers lost, they had 13 penalties for 141 yards (the refs generously contributed to that total though), for the second time in two weeks, the defense failed to step up when needed and the special teams failed twice to recover onside kick attempts.
Despite a horrible bit of refereeing today, the Stillers were in control of their destiny with well under 4 minutes to play in the game. With 3:47 left on the clock, Kris Brown put the Stillers up by 10 with what should have been a game clinching FG. Instead...a nightmare unfolded at Three Rivers. With ZERO timeouts left, Philly's kick return unit took the field. Brown booted a lousy kick to the 19 yard line and the ball was returned to the Eagle 43. Then, on first down, McNads completed an 18 yard pass to the Stiller 39 followed by a 2 yard dumpoff. On 2nd and 8, McNads completed another dumpoff to Prickett who ran out of bounds at the 26. At that point, the refs made two blatant blunders.
- 1) they called Lee Flowers, who had both feet in bounds and who lowered his shoulder to accept a Prickett initiated hit, for a 15 yard late hit penalty -- an atrocious call!!
- 2) they then spotted the ball at the 13 yard line...26 yard line - 15 yard penalty = 11 yard line, not 13 ya numb-nuts!! Despite this being in Pittsburgh's favor, it just shows the incompetence of the crew.
Anyway, back to the 4th quarter - after spotting the ball at the 13, McNads threw his favorite dumpoff for a TD. A PAT later, the Stillers lead was 3, and a whopping 64 seconds was drained from the clock. 64 seconds to go 57 yards without any timeouts! Completely unacceptable even with the blown 13 yard personal foul against Flowers.
Philly then attempted an onsides kick which they recovered, but before the ball had gone 10 yards. 5 yard penalty, redo the kick. On attempt two, the Stillers again stood around like mummies in an ancient Egyptian exhibit and the Beagles laughed and guffawed as they scooped up possession of the ball.
Pittsburgh's D picked up where they had just left off and assumed the position... Philly committed a false start on 1st down that put the ball at their 27 yard line - 1st and 15. Rather than sending the dogs, Pittsburgh played dead and allowed a soft 13 yard completion. On 2nd the ball fell incomplete....3rd and 2 left a perfect opportunity to stuff the O, but 5 yards later it was 1st and 10 again. McNads then threw an incomplete pass and ran for 5. 3rd and 5 - another opportunity for the D but they again fell short after after a tired, ill-attempt at a 3-man rush. McNads completed the 3rd down pass to the 31 for 19 yards. Four plays later the ball was sailing through the uprights for a game tying, 40 yard FG as time expired.
After losing the coin toss, the game was basically sealed as the defense allowed more of the same and Philly's Green Akers kicked a 42 yard game winner.
This loss was extremely disheartening since the offense was largely ineffective despite the success of Jerome Bettis. After a poor first half start (9 of 21 with 1 INT and 102 yards) Kordell put together a few "so close" drives...too bad close only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades. Plain and simple, 16 points is not good enough for an NFL offense. And, the defense can play as well as they want for 3 and 1/2 quarters, but they need to get the job done with the game on the line. Against a poor opponent in Philadelphia, the Stillers absolutely needed to win. But, rather than progressing they are regressing and losing games they should win.
Having lost two heart breakers in a row, it will be curious to see how this team responds. 3 seasons in a row this team has been 5-3 at the halfway point. In the back half of 1998 they went 2-6, in 1999 1-7, in 2000 they're now 0-2. An ugly trend seems to be forming, I just hope for my heart and vocal chords' sake that they turn this around.
The problem is that either coaches fail to make adjustments (i.e. calling defenses to counteract Philly's bread and butter - dumpoffs) or the players fail to execute, or a little of both. As they say, when it rains, it pours.
I must say one thing positive though...I'm glad to see Edwards and Plex benched. I'm not sure if Plex was sat for performance or because he thought he was in Kansas after getting pummeled when Kordell laid him out to dry on an in route. Whatever the reason, Hawkins was actually having a decent day and Bobby Shaw and Hines Ward have been bigger playmakers. Whether you get 10 balls or 2 balls a game, you've gotta catch what comes your way. Edwards and Burress are simply not doing that. I wouldn't want either on the bench for long, they just need to realize that they are not above their teammates.