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Stillers-PoeBirds Postgame Analysis and Grades

January 19, 2009 by Still Mill

Stillers 23, Ravens 14 ���AFCC
Stillers 23, Ravens 14 ���. Jan 18, 2009 ����AFC Championship


Stillers-PoeBirds Postgame Analysis and Grades


The Stillers went up 13-0, but then, as usual, allowed an inferior team to hang around.By midway 4Q, it was a slim 16-14 lead, and the tension inside Heinz was thicker than the ketchup made by the stadium�s naming rights.Horrific memories -- of Alfred Papunu, John Elway, and Troy Brown, just to name a few -- began to vividly creep into the collective consciousness of the Stiller fans in attendance.(I was in the house for this one!)But in one fell swoop, Troy Pola picked off a Jacco pass, then dashed across the field and cut into the EZ to seal the win and send the Stillers to Sup Bowl 43 !!��




QB:Benji had an okay day, going 16 of 33 for 255 and most importantly, throwing no picks and no fumbling at all.He had a strong, decisive pass to a decently covered Ward in the 1Q, which Ward piled on the RAC for a 44 yards gain.He had a rare, smart TA (throw away) on 3d & 10 later in the 1Q, which allowed a 42-yard FG to be booted.A foolish sack there would have likely pushed the team out of FG range, or made it 10 times more difficult.�� Ben took some shots in the 1Q and late in the quarter, was being examined in the ramp area, with Lefty warming up.But Ben shook it off and never missed a snap.


����������� He had superb �improvision� (to use a Cowhard term) on the Holmes long TD, avoiding the rush and spotting Holmes, who was somewhat covered, and then lobbing a well-placed ball while off balance.He had a clever flip to Spaeth while under duress in the 2Q, which was too high, but another good use of improvision.In the 3Q, he had a strong strike to Miller for 30 yards on 2d & 24.He had a sure TD pass on a perfect deep ball to Sweed late in the 2Q, but Sweed dropped the ball.He was also victimized by 3 other drops.


����������� It wasn�t flawless, of course.Holmes� drop late in the 2Q was on a pass that was needlessly behind him; had it been on target, Tonio may have taken that slant to the house.The imbecility of dumping off a pass to Moore in the middle of the field, with no timeouts and 16 tics remaining in the 1H when that ball was snapped at the Raven 21, was incomprehensible forveteran QB.There were only 2 choices on this play -- taking a stab at an open man in the END ZONE, or throwing the ball into the bleachers on a THROW AWAY.You�ve got a 38-yard FG in your hip pocket and you cannot risk anything in the middle of the field when, again, there are no timeouts.There was also a very careless moment in the pocket on 3d & 3 late in the 3Q, in which Ben was nearly stripped of the ball while shuffling under duress.The wobbly, underthrown lollipop lob to Sweed in the EZ late in the 3Q should have been picked off; only Sweed�s solid breakup prevented a routine INT.Finally, there was a poor pass on 3d & 1 to Nate in the 4Q that was nearly picked by RayRay.


Despite the mistakes, Ben didn�t make a killer mistake like Delhomme, Jacco, McNab, and other QBs have made in these playoffs.He was strong in 3D situations and led his team with tough, determined play.He�ll need to play better, however, if the Stillers are going to score enough points to stave off the Cards.���� B


RB:Parker had his usual struggles against the stout Raven front 7, rushing 24 times for a meager 47 yards.It wasn�t his fault; there simply was very, very little daylight against a stout defense that continually sold out to stop the run against the bland, overly predictable Arians offense.Parker was permitted to run wide only once the entire game, which gained 6 yards, his 2nd-longest run of the game, in the 3Q.He was never allowed to run wide again.�� Parker made 2 large mistakes.He dropped an easy lob while wide open on an impromptu wheel route in the 1Q, showing the kind of awkwardness and clumsiness you�d see if you tossed, say, a butcher knife at someone and asked them to catch it.Then, later in the 1Q, he was lax with the ball and had it stripped by RayRay for a fumble at the PIT 43.Luckily, the Ravens were stopped on 4th down after this, so this turnover didn�t prove to be costly.


Moore was relegated to his leper role, rarely participating in any meaningful offensive plays.He ran the ball only once, on a 3rd & forever draw play that netted 6.He caught only 1 pass, the ill-fated dumpoff that essentially ended the 1H before the Stillers could stop the clock for a FG.Part of the blame goes to Moore on this play.After he was tackled, a ref ambled over, with his hands out, practically begging for the ball so that he could spot it for a spike play.Instead, Moore, like a befuddled dumfuk, got up and turned away from the ref, then finally tossed the ref the ball about 2 seconds later.Moore had some decent blitz pickups during the game.


Russell wasn�t permitted to play at all on offense.���


Parker:B-����� Moore:B-������ Russell:Inc


FB: The FB was rarely used; when it was, McHugh got the work.He had an atrocious lead block for Parker at 9:20 4Q, getting stood up like a giraffe and getting blown backwards by Jarrett Johnson for no gain.I�ve not seen a FB get stood up this horribly since Jon Wittman once roamed the fields for the Stillers.Very poor.


Davis filled in for Moore, who got nicked up, on a 3rd & 6 in the 3Q, and caught a middle dump and churned upfield for a big 20-yard gain.��� McHugh:C-�� Davis:B+


WR:Ward got things going early, torching the Ravens on the 44-yard catch & run and getting 11 on a 3rd & 10 later in the 1Q.But on that 11-yard grab, he injured his knee in the Heinz Field grass (you know, the grass that supposedly is much, much safer than that Field Turf stuff), and hobbled off the field in pain.He briefly returned, but then donned the parka and was done for the day.��


Holmes picked up some of the slack.He dutifully improvised while Ben scrambled from pressure, hauled in the pass, then skirted 3 defenders en route to a huge 65-yard TD.He was robbed of a 23-yard catch in the 1Q near the GL, in which he had 3 feet down, plus a hand, before the ball came loose as he LANDED at the GL.The play was ruled a catch at the 5-inch line, and then, somehow, the idiot relay judge over-ruled the catch and ruled it incomplete.An utterly horrendous, no-brained ruling.�� That said, I�ve grown sick of these clown football players doing their fuking BALL-LUNGES to the goal line, sticking the ball out, exposing the ball to the opposition, and to the ground, to nothing but bad things.Catch the fuking ball, then worry about extraneous things and smartly extend it only when prudent to do so.Tonio, on a related rant, needlessly vaulted for the GL on his TD instead of simply continuing his RUNNING for the end zone.The fastest way from point A to Point B is with your FEET.  If it weren't, Olympic sprinters would be diving and vaulting themselves at the finish tape.   There is a time and place for a vault or a leap, but there�s too much of this silly-assed nonsense going on all over the NFL and NCAA.


���� Tonio also dropped a fairly easy slant on 3d & 10 late in the 2Q, which would have been an easy 1D and perhaps even a long TD off some RAC.���


Nate had a long day.He dropped a 3D pass in the 1st series, although it was basically jarred loose by a DB.He had a poor block on the bubble screen to Ward on the 1st play of the 2Q, resulting in a 1-yard loss.He had a careless drop/fumble in the 3Q, but luckily was ruled down by contact, and with Harbaugh out of challenges, there was no way for the Ratbirds to challenge this play.He did have a good grab on 3rd & 6 in the 2Q, good for 8 yards, although the catch was made by his legs and his gonads as he allowed the ball to slither through his hands on a low pass.��


After dropping an easy TD pass last week, Limas Peed again was wide open for a long TD, but foolishly took his eyes off the ball and dropped it late in the 2Q.Limas apparently peed the bed as a toddler and hasn�t stopped since, as every time he is wide open downfield, he meekly alligator-arms the ball and allows it to clang off his hands.To make matters worse, Peed started to get up, then feigned some phantom, bullshit injury to his WRIST.The trainers had to come out, and because it was under 2:00 in the half, the Stillers were charged their final timeout.�� When all you have is a WRIST injury, you limp your sorry ass OFF the field in this situation, rather than selfishly burning a timeout due to self pity and a bruised ego.Thus, in a case of utter selfishness and stupidity, Sweed first took 7 points off the board with his assaholic drop, then took 3 off the board by burning a timeout.Unbelievable.�� Peed partially atoned for his blunder a few plays later, blistering Corey Ivy with a pancake block.He also had a solid catch on 3rd & 8 in the 4Q on a low in.�� Perhaps his best play of the game was to break up the INT attempt in the EZ in the 4Q on the underthrown lob.Of course, on the play, Sweed never looked BACK to the QB on the stop n� go route, which therefore didn�t sell the route.�� The one bright spot is that, since he can�t catch but showed that he is capable of breaking up a pass, perhaps Peed can be looked at to move to DB in the offseason.


Ward:�� A���� Holmes:�� B������ Nate:�� C���� Sweed:F


TE:Miller only rarely was allowed to participate in the offense (3 grabs), but when he did, he was huge.He mad a nice catch on a low pass in 3d & 5 in the 1Q, good for 18 yards.He had a gainer for 14 yards late in the 2Q that set the Stillers in position for a very make-able 38-yard FG.He had good RAC work on the 2d & 24 grab in the 3Q that netted 30.Spaeth was never involved in the offense and was thrown only 1 pass on a dumpoff stab while Ben was under pressure.Spaeth was pitifully weak at the point of attack (POA) in a parker run up RG/RT in the 2Q, which was stuffed for 2 yards.


��� Miller spent numerous plays as a sidecar on 3D.He had a strong blitz pickup on Tonio�s long TD, then had the presence of mind and the hustle tosprint downfield and serve as an escort for the last 20 yards of Tonio�s TD jaunt.THAT was a great football play.


Miller:�� A+������ Spaeth:��� B-


OL: The OL had its usual struggles in the ground game against the PoeBirds.Of course, with the WoodPeckers selling out on run blitzes, including several safety/CB blitzes, it wasn�t feasible to think this OL was going to pave the way on bland, vanilla 1st down plunging.The boners were plentiful, however.Willie The Colon had a false start on the first series, then had another on 3d & 8 in the 4Q.Colon was weak on Ngata on Parker�s run in the 2nd series, causing a no-gain as he was thrown aside by Ngata.Stapledick and The Colon spent most of the game in a befuddled, confused state, in which they were constantly bamboozled by a simple crossing stunt by Raven defenders that continually allowed free pressure on the QB.This simple stunt is run by middle school teams all over the country, yet Stapledick and The Colon looked as though they�d never seen it.Stapledick, who has regressed as the season has worn on, got totally tooled by Pryce late in the 2Q, which forced an errant pass.Stapledick was assigned to shuffle left on a PAP in the 3Q, but incredibly over-ran the block and allowed Suggs free, easy INSIDE access to the QB for a 14-yard sack.Utterly piss fucking poor.Not to be outdone, MaxiPad Starks never moved out of his stance on a 3d & 13 in the 3Q, which allowed Suggs to plunder untouched into the backfield for an easy sack of the QB.Hartwig was flagged for being illegally downfield on a screen pass, although, since the play took about 9 seconds to develop, he hardly can be faulted.Piss Kemo committed a totally dumbassed unsportsmanlike penalty after a play in the 2Q, pushing the Stillers way back and setting the table for Leonhard�s long PR.Yes, Kemo was blatantly facemasked by the defender on this play, but foolishly retaliating with the dumbassed shove after the whistle -- a shove that does nothing to inflict punishment, mind you -- was a selfish, no-brained, stupid-assed mistake that helps produces losses in the NFL playoffs.Hartwig was manhandled on this same play by Ngata, which resulted in a no gain by Parker.��


�� At times, the line did give Benn good time and room to complete some key passes.


Kemo:C����� Stapledick:�� D��� Colon:D������ All others:C+


DL:The line did a solid job bottling the Raven ground game, although McClain, with the injured ankle, only played sparingly.Everyone got involved, including reserves like Eason, Hoke, and Kirschke.Fat Casey actually chipped in for once.He had a pressure on the 1st series, on a 2-yard dumpoff.He was stout and solid on the 4th & 1 sneak by Flacco that was stuffed.He had a good stop of Rice for 2 yards in the 4Q.He was credited for an assist on McGahee�s 4-yard run in the 1Q, when he got stood up and blown off the ball.


��� Aaron Smith had a very strong game.He let nothing get up his inner gap and helped stop McGahee on a plunge for 1-yard in the 2Q.Watching live, I can attest that there was nothing spectacular, but plenty of very strong, very astute play by Smitty.�� Keisel had some pressure after a long time in the pocket on a 3-man rush in the 1Q.He also chipped in on bottling some runs.��� Eason was fairly active, stopping McGahhe for 3 yards and then 2 plays later for 1 yard in the 2Q.������ A


LB:Leading the way was LaMarr Woodley, who had another dominating performance.�� Woodie was a beast against the run and constantly hounded and beat on Jacco.He vaulted over Rice in the 2Q and hit Jacco as he threw incomplete.He blew up the 3rd & 1 play that set up the 4th & 1 in the 1Q.He beat Zo Neal and sacked Jacco late in the 3Q.He then body slammed Jacco on a thundering sack in the 4Q on the play that preceded the big INT by Pola.Don�t think that Jacco wasn�t still feeling Woodie�s body slam when he released that fateful INT.Gee, it�s a good thing this guy rotted the bench all of last season behind a stiff named Clark Haggans because, as you know, that Haggans fellow �knew the defense�.


Largely over-looked in this game was Larry Timmons, who had a strong all-around effort.Timmons also hounded Jacco once he was permitted to play on most downs.He slashed in and was blatantly held by Anderson (no flag) on a 1-yard plunge in the 2Q.Soon later, he created the pressure that resulted in the Smith sack on 3rd & 6.Timmons then had outstanding hustle on a screen in the 3Q, in which he rushed the passer, then sprinted like a demon and hauled down Rice.��� Timm had a good read and stuff of McGahee on a 3-yard plunge in the 4Q.Gee, it�s a good thing this guy rotted the bench all of last season behind a stiff named Larry Foote because, as you know, that Foote fellow �knew the defense�.


Harrison spent much of the day fighting through one hold after another.His pressure forced a Jacco to fire the pass that Townsend picked early in the 1Q, and then his rush forced a TA at 6:00 1Q.James laid a thundering hit on McClain on a 3Q plunge.On the Pola INT, it was Harrison who applied the pressure and hit Jacco right as he released the pass.As I�ve stated hundreds of times over the years -- good, legit pressure & harassment is far, far more effective than a Dong Sack after the QB has had 6 seconds back in the pocket.He did allow a wide run to McGahee for 7 yards in the 1Q, and then another wide run that gained 14 late in the 3Q.But on the next play, he stopped a toss sweep for no gain.


Taunto Farrior had yet another uneven, mediocre game.He had a good hole-fill on 2nd & 3 in the 1Q, which forced the 3d & 1 and then the 4th & 1 that was stopped by the defense.He also helped on that 3rd & 1.Well known as �The Winged God of LB Coverage�, Farrior actually had a pass defensed in the 2Q, getting his fingers on a deep in and tipping the ball away.�� Hooray -- Farrior, for the 1st time in about 9 weeks, had a pass defensed !!�� If Colbert moves quickly, he can sign this guy to a long-term extension.


����������� Of course, the number of boners and miscues by Farrior were bountiful, and in plain view of the CBS replay cameras.�� He took a foolish angle on McGahee�s bounce wide early in the 2Q, good for 9 yards.Two plays later, he had a weak, 1-armed flail in the backfield, and got credit for a �solo tackle� as McGahee stumbled forward for a 4-yard gain on 3rd & 2.�� Then, on a 2nd & 15 in the 2Q, Rice caught a routine middle dump 2 yards beyond the LOS, with Farrior in nearby overwatch.Farrior took a moronic angle, and then had his face shoved into the dirt by a Rice stiff-arm as Rice rumbled for a 22-yard gain while Farrior laid on the turf with his dick in the dirt.For a supposed �Pro Bowler� and �2nd team All Pro�, this was as piss-poor a defensive play as you�ll see this time of year.Then, in the 4Q, Farrior was totally hopeless in coverage on Todd Heap, getting thoroughly abused on a 20-yard gain on 2d & 12.


Not to be outdone, Larry Foote had a wretched evening before finally giving way to Timmons.Foote had a good, rare lick on McGahee on a 2-yard gain in the 3Q.He was incredibly weak, soft, and poor as piss on both of McGahee�s TD plunges.On the first, Foote was unblocked, yet meekly flailed at McGahee in a horrifically putrid attempt.He then weakly whiffed on the 2nd TD run.You see a defender making half-hearted tackle attempts -- while totally unfettered and unblocked -- on GL plunges with the AFC title on the line, and you cannot help but wonder if he was trying to throw the game.


Woodley:�� A+����� Harrison:�� A���� Timmons:A-���� Farrior:��� C������ Foote:D��


DB:Leading the way was none other than Troy Pola, who came into the game with an injured calf and excessive adulation over Balt safety Fred Reed.�� All Pola did was respond with one of the very best individual defensive efforts in the entire history of Steeler playoff football, single-handedly making 1 big play after another to lead the way to victory.This wasn�t merely a �good game� by Pola; it was a stupendous one.He vaulted over the stack to provide the initial stuff of Jacco on the 4th & 1 sneak that was stopped short.He adroitly flashed up on a Jacco designed keeper in the 3Q, snuffing it for an 8-yard loss.2 plays later, Pola tipped a deep in pass to Mason for an incompletion.Later in the 3Q, Pola flashed up and chopped down Heap after a short dumpoff on 3d & 14.In the 4Q, Troy flashed up on a bubble screen and stopped Clayton for a 3-yard gain.And then, in a play that will rank somewhere up there just behind Maz�s, Roberto�s, and Willie�s series HRs; Mario�s splitting of the No-Star defense; and Franco�s Immaculate Reception (just to name a few), Pola read Jacco, snared the INT, and then bobbed and weaved his way across the field and into the EZ for the TD that sealed the deal.�� Being in the house, I certainly will never forget this epic play.


Ike was somewhat quiet, but did a solid job of shutting down his side of the field.On a 2d & 7 in the 4Q, ike foolishly allowed Smith to get open deep in the EZ, and then failed to look back or the ball while flailing his arms like a windmill for an obvious PI flag.At this juncture of the game, with a 9 point lead, I really have no idea what Ike was thinking on this play.Ike was also semi-beaten deep by Clayton on the 1st series, but the ball was OT.


McFadden was also quiet.He was jobbed on the PI flag in the 2Q that gave Balt a 1st & goal at the 3.At the very worst -- and this would have been tickytack -- this could have been called illegal contact, which is a mere 5-yard flag.The ever-trusty Townsend had the big INT in the 1Q.��


Gay had good 3D coverage on Mason in the 1Q.He was a bit too soft on a 3d & 3 slant to Mason in the 4Q, which netted 11.


Clark had a good stop of McGahee on a widish run in the 4Q, which injured the RB.�� Late in the game, Clark then delivered a wicked, but legal, blast to McGahee after a middle dumpoff, leaving both players prone on the ground in pain.�� Slow as he is, Clark at least can usually be counted on to deliver the big blow to a defenseless, unsuspecting receiver.


Carter had a hit on the QB as he threw in the 2Q, resulting in an inc.He also had an INT off a tipped pass in garbage time late in the game.


Pola:A++����� All others:��� B


Spec teams:Just the usual putridity that we�ve come to expect at Heinz Field for playoff football.Five (5) defenders over-ran a 42-yard Berger punt in the 2Q, and Leonhard dashed 45 yards before being stopped by Berger, who had a good effort to stop and poke the ball from the returner.Berger allowed his foot to scrape the turf on a 4Q punt, which resulted in a 21-yard shank.�� Berger also had a poor, low liner of a punt late in the 4Q.Reed had a queer, duckhook liner of a KO in the 3Q, which was fielded at the 23 and returned to the 37.


���� On the plus side, Davis opened the game with a crushing block of a Raven cover-man, pancaking the man and sending him to the dressing room.(Of course, this isn�t the kind of blocking that impresses an OC like Bruce Arians.)�� Madison was strong in KO coverage, making a stop at the 12 and chipping in on some other KOs.Davis had a good stop in punt coverage late in the 2Q and a good hit in KO cover on the 2H opening KO.Tonio had a good 25-yard punt return in the 2Q.Berger did a slick acting job and drew a 15-yard roughing flag late in the 1H.Russell had good 2nd effort on a KO return in the 4Q, returning it 25 yards to the 41.�� Reed nailed 3 FGs amidst a bitter cold evening.��


����� Still, there were too many hideous blunders to overcome the good.������ C��


OC:The red eft, a small newt found in coastal areas of SE USA, is chock full of tetrodotoxin and is generally considered to be the most vomit-inducing animal on the planet.That is, of course, with the exception of Bruce Arians, who produces more vomit, nausea, and diarrhea than if 10 red efts were ingested in a single meal.�� Arians did precisely what we feared he�d do, rolling out a bland, vanilla, Neanderthal gameplan that would have made the cavemen from the Geico commercials beaming with joy.


Parker has never, ever had a good day against the PoeBird defense, with his career high somewhere around a whopping 71 yards.In 2 prior meetings this year, Parker has beencompletely shut down, but intent on pounding the aquare peg into the round hole, Arians insisted on constantly plunging Parker into the teeth of the Raven defense.Only once was Parker permitted to run wide.It gained 6 yards -- his longest run of the day -- and then was never tried again.


Not counting the final 2 possessions that merely were garbage time, the Stillers embarked on 12 drives.�� 9 of those drives began with a mind-numbing gut-plunge by Parker.�� It got so absurd that, in the 2H, I shouted to nearby fans in my section, �20 bucks it�s a line plunge�.who wants to bet against me�?��� No one dared the bet, and in the 2H every single possession began with a futile plunge into the teeth of the Raven defense.Arians astutely went deep on the 1st play of a possession late in the 2Q, and had Limas Peed for the TD that was dropped.�� This play worked so well that Arians, the stupidass that he is, refused to do anything similar in the 2H


Starting CB Samari Rolle was out, and his replacement, Walker, was nicked up.Corey Ivy was also pancaked by Peed and missed some PT.Yet despite all this, Arians was far more interested in attacking a STRENGTH with his weakness, than attacking a glaring WEAKNESS with his STRENGTH.That is a major modus operandi of Bruce Arians -- reinforce failure with continual plunging of Parker against a stout run defense, and refuse to exploit a weakness, with the Raven secondary suffering 1 injury after another.

Ben was rolled out, with a moving pocket, at 3:00 1Q, and hit Nate for an 8 yard gain on 1st down.It worked so well that it was the only rollout run the entire game.


The offense faced two (2) 3rd & shorts.On the 1st series, they had a 3rd & 3.Arians, the stupid bastard that he is, goes SG 1B, andan out to Miller was incomplete.�� In the 4Q, facing a 3rd & 1, Arians, the stupid bastard that he is, goes EB 5W, and Ben�s pass to Nate is inc.�� It once again points to the total lack of identity of a �power running team� going AWAY from a POWER RUNNING FORMATION on 3rd & short, and at least trying to pass off the play-action.��


The playclock once again constantly ran down to 0:01, thanks to the glacially slow pace that Arians prefers.


The offense ran 1 screen the entire game.It took about 9 seconds to develop, of course, and Parker was crushed as soon as he caught the ball.One reverse was run, which netted 2 yards.


Heath Miller had a huge day, grabbing 3 big passes for 62 yards (a modest 20 yards per catch).With Ward injured, you�d have though Miller would be needed even more in the passing game, yet he spent a good chunk of the game as a sidecar pass blocker.


With the defensive dominance in the 1H, this should have been a 27-3 ballgame, yet Arians stumbled, frittered, and farted around the entire half and produced all of 13 points, 3 of which were off a Flacco INT that gave the offense the ball on the Balt 35.Granted, Limas Peed dropped a sure TD pass late in the 2Q, but that aside, Arian�s stale, overly predictable and entirely Cro Magnon offense was a wretched pile of shit for most of the evening.


Arians loves the 2TE set, yet never uses the 2nd TE unless as a valve dumpoff option.If yer never, ever gonna involved the 2nd TE in the passing game, why not simply acknowledge that fact and insert a backup OT, as the Ravens do with Adam Terry, which is a much better blocking option than a backup TE ?This is another classic example of Arians� claiming fervent theoretical supporter of a certain scheme, yet eschewing it at all costs when the rubber meets the roads.��


I�ll state again -- the biggest hurdle to the Sup Bowl title, by far, remains Bruce Arians.���� D-


DC:Dick again had the luxury of the triple bonus�.facing a greenhorned rookie QB; an anemic overall offense; and each of the top RBs hobbled by injury.�� (McLain came into the game with a gimpy ankle; McGahee limped off the field 3 times prior to the neck injury.)�� To his credit, he rarely used the homosexual 3-man rush, and went with a fair amount of 5-man.There was, however, a fair amount of Velcro blitzing, but there were some good, clean shots at the QB.


The GL defense probably needs some additional work.Balt twice had 1st & goal at the 3 and then the one, and scored easily on FIRST down walk-ins on both tries.�� You�d like to at least force an offense to earn the TD, and hope for a botched snap or a false start on 2nd or 3rd down.��


Getting carved up on the 4Q TD march wasn�t overly impressive.It wasn�t a terribly long march, but 58-yards is no gimme for an offense and Dick allowed an anemic, 1-dimensional offense to march those 58 yards in the 4Q while they were down by 9.Playoff games are won and lost in the 4Q, and if you can�t stop the lousy PoeBird offense from marching for a big TD in the 4Q, you have to shudder at the thought of stopping the potent AZ offense in the 4Q.


Dick tried a clever wrinkle, dropping Fat Casey into short zone coverage on Wood�s sack late in the 3Q.While it worked against an anemic offense like Balt�s, it�s dubious that it will work against the likes of Warner, Fitz, Hightower, James, Breaston, and company.


It was nice to see the production and effectiveness from the two 2nd-year LBs, Woodley and Timmons, tonight.Gee, it�s a good thing Dick rotted both of them on the bench last year when the defense went months without a single big play.That Dick -- he really is a clever fellow.


It�s ironic that Dick has feasted all season long on the inept, the inexperienced, the 1-dimensional, and the injury-riddled.Now, he faces a versatile, deep, talented, experienced, highly capable offense for the first time all season.�� His final exam will take place versus the Cards, and his ability to limit that offense will go a long way in determining which team hoists the Lombardi Trophy on Feb. 1st.����� B


HC:Tomlin did what Billy Cowhard struggled time and time and time again -- winning the conference championship.To his credit, the team played with moxie, teamwork, and grit.It wasn�t flawless.Foolish penalties and lazy miscues (drops, etc.) cost the team severely in this game.Armed with a 13-0 lead at home, this team was on the precipice of disaster in the 4Q, clinging to a flimsy 2-point lead.��


���� The refusal to simply trot out the FG team for a 38-yard try with 16 ticks left in the 2Q was puzzling, given the propensity of Ben taking a sack and the team having no timeouts.��


���� I�m not sure why Tommy didn�t challenge the spot of Parker�s 7yard run that preceded the 3d & 1 in the 4Q.Parker had squirted UNTOUCHED near the end of this play, skittering across the grass turf for a few extra yards.The ref immediately put his foot down to mark the ball perhaps 2inches short of the 1D.When the TV angle returned, the ball was spotted way back, over a yard short of the 1D.No bank in the country accepts saved timeouts nor saved challenges as a deposit, and this late with so much on the line, this would have been a prudent use of a challenge.


��� Lastly, I have no idea why Ben called a timeout at 2:01 4Q to �run down the clock but avoid the delay of game flag�.�� The ball was on the Balt 36, with a 9-point lead.There wasn�t going to be a FG attempt at this juncture of the game unless it was a 22-yard chipshot.�� Yardage meant nothing here; time was everything.Therefore, why not simply allow the clock to run down to 2:00, take the penalty, and also have a 2-fer with the 2MW??�� Granted, there could be an obscure NFL rule that says the 2MW cannot happen in conjunction with a penalty�but I am not aware of that.����� B+


Field Surface:�� The grass was chewed up a bit, although the frigid temps and the lack of rain at least made it playable.Ward injured his knee while it was planted in the sod, and McGahee did the same to his knee on a Ryan Clark tackle in the 4Q.Remember, of course, that �grass fields are always safer than Field Turf.���� B-


Synopsis:�Nevermore�, quoteth the Raven!�� So long to RayRay, Fred Reed, Bartholomew Scott, and the rest of the boorish PoeBirds!!�� And I was in the house for this historic victory!The Stillers are in the big show for the 7th time!!�� Bring forth the Lombardi!!��� It�ll take a huge team effort, of course, to beat the Cards.If any Stiller player thinks we�ll nonchalantly roll over the Cards, he is sadly mistaken.�� Stay tuned for intense pre-game coverage and matchup keys of the big game in Tampa.���



(Still Mill and -- when it comes to the analysis of the Pittsburgh Stillers, no one else comes close�.)



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