Stillers Back to .500 with 48-28 Victory
After a horrible three game skid and defensive woes late versus Philly and all day against the Jags, the Black 'n Gold rebounded against a hapless Bungles team that fumbled the ball 8 (count 'em 8) times on the day. Three of those fumbles were recovered by Pittsburgh, two of them in the second half. While the two second half turnovers got the defense back on track, the fumble in the first half spelled the outcome of the game. After trading touchdowns on the first four possessions and the game tied 14-14, Pittsburgh was held to 3-and-out. Miller's punt was promptly fumbled by Cincy's Yeast and recovered by Vrabel at the Bungle 30. Six plays later, Bruener grabbed an 11 yard TD to put the Stillers up for the third and final time in the game. After fumbling, Cincy managed only to punt and take a knee to finish out the half.
To start the second half though, the Bungles came out strong scoring on a 10-play drive in which Corey Dillon grabbed 31 yards and a touchdown. At that point, the defense had been woeful -- allowing the 2-9 Bungles to score on 3 of their first 4 full offensive possessions (the 5th was a knee to kill the clock at the end of the first half).
The offense, having switched roles with the defense from earlier this season, took control of the game and took the wood to Cincy with a 6 play drive capped by a nice 45 yard throw and catch from Kordell to Shaw. Pittsburgh was back up by 10, 31-21.
After trading punts on the next two series, Cincinnati fell apart at the seams. On 3rd and 12, Gildon made a nice inside move to sack Akili Smith who fumbled the ball. Sullivan, playing for injured Kevin Henry, recovered at the Cincy 7 yard line. One play and seven yards later, Jerome Bettis put the Stillers up 38-21. Moments later, with Cincy facing 3rd and 13 at their 38 yard line, Smith again fumbled and Gildon recovered. The Dong was happy to sit on the ground after the recovery, but Porter picked him up, pushed him to the endzone with one hand and fought off a would-be tackler with the other.
Cincy was then completely demoralized and the fans poured outta Paul Brown stadium in disgust. The entire fourth quarter became mop up time although there was one play worth noting. In Pittsburgh's final offensive series, Graham, who had taken over for Stewart, threw a quick sideline pass to Edwards who made a couple moves heading toward the left sideline. Rather than going out of bounds, he spun out of a tackle and reversed field. With Plex and company blocking on the other side of the field, Troy ran to the other sideline and 27 yards downfield before being run out of bounds. What would have been a measly two yard gain put the Stillers in range for their final FG of the afternoon. Mop up time or not, it was a great play.
Despite today's victory, I'm not about to bet the house that the team is starting another 5-game winning streak. While the offensive play was encouraging, the defensive play was not. As mentioned earlier, in 3 of the first 4 true offensive series, a 2-9 team scored 21 points on the Stillers' swiss cheese defense. Cincinnati was largely responsible for their loss. In a shoot out, high scoring game, the team that turns the ball over usually loses and that's exactly what happened this afternoon. Losing the ball at your own 30 and 7 yard lines is the equivalent of writing your own death warrant.
On the other hand, it's good to see Pittsburgh beat up on a team that they should beat up on. They took advantage of nearly every opportunity that presented itself. Three recovered fumbles resulted in two offensive and one defensive TD. After shooting themselves repeatedly in the foot, Cincy's offense was not given any free passes in the second half. And finally, and most important, Pittsburgh showed they are capable of rebounding when the chips are down for the second time this year. This year's mentality is a big improvement over last year's -- rather than sulking in their sorrows, the team is showing pride and a don't quit attitude.
- Jerome Bettis captured another 1000 yard season with his 93 yards on 23 carries (4.04 yds/carry) today. This is his 5th in a row and 7th in 8 years
- Gildon and Porter, who had 2 and 1 sacks respectively today, were tied with 8 sacks each coming into today's game - this was good enough for tops amongst AFC linebackers.
- Pittsburgh's defense, that WAS one of the better run defenses in the NFL, was again brutalized by the run. Cincy gained 209 yards on the ground and Dillon gained 128 yards to eclipse the 1000 yard mark for the 4th time in his 4 year career. The D has now given up 449 ground yards in two weeks.
- With his performance today, 11/20 for 182 yards with 3 TD's and no picks, Kordell Stewart amassed a QB rating of just under 136! (single game rating of course).