Stillers 31, Chargers 21 ��. Dec. 24, 2000 Game #16
Stillers-Chargers Post Game Analysis & Grades:
With faint hopes of sliding into the playoffs, the Stillers sputtered but held off the hapless 1-win Chargers, but the Vikings got whipped by the Colts, so the 2000 season has ended for the Black n' Gold. There's not a whole lot to dwell on this game, since there's nothing to build on or work on for next week. The next time this team plays a meaningful game, will be next September, some 8+ months from today.
1. On their first offensive play of the game, Leaf hits Graham on a bomb for a 71-yard TD.
2. On the ensuing KO, Will Blackwell takes it 98 yards for a TD.
3. On Pgh's 2nd series, Rodney Harrison intercepts a Stewart pass, and runs 63 yards for a Diego TD.
4. Late in the 2nd qtr, Shaw is blatantly interfered with on a deep crosser, and the PI flag gives the Stillers a 27-yard gain. 3 plays later, Stewart, on another Big Play, scrambles 19-yards for a TD.
5. Clinging to a 3-point, 4th quarter lead, Stewart lobs a 3rd down pass to Hawkins down the s-line. Hawkins catches it with 1 foot IB at the 1, and it's ruled a completion. San Diego challenges, but the on-field ruling is upheld, despite Hawkins' one foot clearly being OOB. 3 plays later, Stewart ran it in from the one to give the Stillers a comfy 10-point lead.
QB: We've been bombarded, both in today's broadcast as well as every one the past month, about "how well Kordell Stewart has progressed and improved," blah blah blah. Sorry, but I just don't see it, especially after today's weak passing performance against one of the worst pass defenses in all of football. Yes, he took off and ran well while under pressure. Hey, he's had the ability to do that since the day he was DRAFTED. Problem was, he had this asinine, bullheaded notion that he was a "pocket quarterback", and for 2 seasons he went out and showed the world that he wasn't. The two INTs were hideous throws off of such overt telegraphing that he would have put Western Union out of business a long time ago if he'd been around back then. The Chargers could have easily had 2 other INTs. There were some nice throws to Bruener, and the disputed lob to Hawkins was a nice touch, too. Still, 50% completions and 2 poor INTs against one of the league's sorriest pass defenses, is pretty lame. C.
RB: Bettis had little room to run against a stubborn front 7 that often had the SS up in run support. He averaged just 2 yards per carry on 26 carries, and often lost yardage due to heavy penetration and slow-developing runs. The backs were actually more productive in the passing game. Hunt had 2 nice pass plays of 16 and 14 yards, and Bus caught 2 passes for a total of 10. Bettis tried a HB-option pass near the goal-line, but once again his acting was as poor and wooden as Sylvester Stallone, and his pass to a wide open Tuman was pitifully short and incomplete. B.
FB: Kreider had yet another solid day at work, busting open a few good holes for Bus, plus making a nice over-the-shoulder grab of a short out pass that netted 10 yards and a 1st down. B.
WR: Lil' Pee Pee Hawkins was the focal point of the offense today, having at least 10 balls thrown his way, and snaring 5 balls for 71 yards and a TD. In all of this, there was catchable pass on a 2nd quarter post pattern that he appeared to have dropped; a deep lob early in the 3rd quarter that he was too small and too weak to go up and get; and the disputed 4th quarter reception in which he failed to get his 2nd foot down IB. Ward had 4 grabs for 36 yards, all on little piddly stuff. Shaw and Edwards were only sparingly involved in the offense, and while Shaw drew the 27-yard PI, he didn't have a reception, nor did Troy. B.
TE: Bruener had, at least by his standards, a career day, snaring 2 passes for 33 yards. Of course, true to his nature, he also dropped a 10-yard pass in the 2nd qtr. B.
OL: The line had troubles all day against the stubborn, aggressive Charger front. Tylski, Faneca, and Myslinksi took turns playing "Ole!" with opposing defenders, allowing a host of harassment and disruption. The line did give Stewart PLENTY of time on both INTs, so at least the INTs cannot be blamed on leaky protection that disrupted or rushed the QB. There were a few holes opened for Bettis. What hurt the line today was the plethora of slow-developing plays. and plays that had Bettis moving laterally, which allowed Diego to engulf Bettis. Stewart was sacked twice, but one sack was only a 1-yard loss. I'm sure Stewart would like to punch Myslinksi for the weak, sloppy attempt he made to block the Diego defender, who abused Myslinski and hammered Stewart, causing an injury. B-
DL: Given the luxury of facing a porous Charger O-line and weak rushing attack, the D-line responded with a stingy effort, shutting down Diego on the few (11 by a RB) rushing attempts and providing some pass harassment. Smith had a couple stops, Kimo had a a nice stuff for a loss early on, and even the seldom used Clancy had a stop. Even Sullie, whose contributions this season couldn't have filled up a shot glass, had the pocket push and pass disruption that forced Leaf from the pocket late in the game, resulting in a Gildon strip and sack. Sullie also had a nice read-and-stop of a 3rd & 3 screen pass, which was stopped short of the marker. It's hard to give a grade for this game, since the Diego running game was non-existent and the Diego offense was so erratic and sloppy. B.
LB: Like their linemen brethren, the LBs were rarely tested today and barely broke a sweat. Both Kirk and Holmes were reduced to spectators by a Diego offense that mostly ignored the run, and on the rare times it did run, was thoroughly ineffective. Holmes did force an errant, hurried incomplete pass on a blitz, and delivered a hard blast to Leaf as well. Porter chipped in 2 sacks, one of which was a splendid speed rush in which he beat the LT to "the corner" and then veered to, and got, the QB. Porter also had a deflection of a pass while rushing. Funny, what happens when this man is allowed to rush, instead of being dropped into coverage. Gildon collected 2 more Dong Sacks and had a couple other easy solos, including a stop of Graham on a 2-yard hitch. Facing such softee competition, it's also hard to grade the LBs. B.
DB: DeWayne got off to an inauspicious start, slipping on the bomb to Graham that resulted in a TD. He came back and had a solid game. Chad played ok, too. Battles led the team with 4 solos and an assist. Cody had an INT on a miserably underthrown deep ball by Leaf. Townsend chipped in with 2 sacks off of blitzes. Leaf's throwing was pretty poor, but the secondary limited Conway to a game-long 12-yard reception, and Jones to 7, which is pretty good work. B.
Spec Teams: Imagine getting production from both the KO return, and punt return, teams in the same game. Will "The Tiptoe" Jackwell, who opened the game with a meek, tiptoe return, had a massive hole on the 2nd return, and busted a couple half-hearted arm tackles and took it 98 yards for the score. Quick, we'd better re-resign Jackwell -- and soon -- lest anyone else beat us to the punch. Hank was actually sent out to field every punt, and responded with a dazzling array of moves and 2nd-efforts that allowed him to nearly break 3 different punts for TDs. ON the other hand, the coverage teams were a bit soft and spongy today. Kris booted two FGs, and Josh had a solid day punting. A-.
Off Coord: Wonder why I despise Kevin Gaypride?? Here we are, in a must-win game, and TWICE in the 1st quarter, on 2nd and inches situations, Gaypride orders the totally unimaginative and predictable Bettis plunge, both of which were engulfed for a loss or no gain. Of course, I realize that Little Billy is behind this overly conservative charade of running Bettis into the teeth of the Charger defense on 2nd & inches, when a shot downfield against one of the worst pass defenses in all of pro football might have made a big play for the playoff-hungry Stillers. And how 'bout the plethora of slow-developing plays that took Bettis LATERALLY -- rather than HEAD ON -- which allowed Diego to continually topple him for negative yardage? And you'd think that after Bettis' pitiful INT versus Cleveland in week 2, that the team would either scrap having him attempt this HB-Option play, or at least get him trained to conduct the "run-fake" better and make a better throw. Nope. Bettis didn't fool anyone within 6 miles of the stadium that he was running the ball, and then, while wearing those jumbo-sized shoulder pads that are about 3 feet wide and weight at least 37 pounds, threw a miserable pass that was short of Tuman, who was standing but 8 yards away. Lastly, seeing Stewart telegraph those hideous INTs really gives you the impression that Gilbride has really developed him as a passer, eh ? C.
Def Coord: In a job only slightly less enviable than the guy who got to run the tryouts for the Charger cheerleading squad, Lewis had a cupcake day facing such an anemic offense. I can't fathom that Lewis needed any more than 2 hours per day to game-plan for this atrocious morass known as the Charger offense. B.
Head Coach: Cowher will be all happy in beating up on the hapless, 1-win Chargers. In his press conference this week, he'll probably go on and on, as though he beat the '85 Bears or the '98 Vikings. In actuality, his team marginally beat a hapless team that dropped about 5 passes and got horrible play from its special teams. B.
It's "nice", I suppose, to "end the season on an up note" and "go above five-hundred" yadda yadda. Frankly, I'm not a big proponent of the "carry-over effect" that some so-called football experts like to blather on about. Due to free agency (both gains and losses), the draft, player development (yes, a long forgotten task in Pgh.), injury, and coaching moves (head coaches as well as key assistants), a team's relative strength against its division and conference foes may change rapidly from December to the next August. And during the dog days of August, I don�t think ANY player or coach is milling around in the hot sun, fondly waxing poetic about what his team did the previous season's meaningless finale versus a 1-15 opponent. This win came a day late and a dollar short. The win this team really needed, was down the stretch either against Philly, Jax, or the Giants, but in all three cases, came woefully short. Many folk will point to the "hey, at least we didn't fold down the stretch like we did the past 2 seasons," but to me, that's like if France was proudly claiming that they haven't been whipped lately in any World Wars like the way they were manhandled in WW1 and WW2.
As I do each year, I'll soon compile a player-by-player grading, as well as a coach grading. Stay tuned for that, as well as my annual "Off Season Outlook". (Check out the "Articles" page if you'd like to read similar articles from the past two seasons.)
The Still Mill