Steelers at Colts Review
January 15th, 2006 - Page updated at 2:30pm
Analyst For WagerOnFootball.com
GAME BY GAME SUMMARIES - DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS
steelers at colts REVIEW
Score: Pittsburgh 21 - indianapolis 18
IN - (MySportsbook.com)
- Jerome Bettis fumbled the ball
at the two-yard line as Pittsburgh was going in for
the game-clinching touchdown, and Indianapolis eventually
drove all the way down the field only to watch Mike
Vanderjagt badly miss a tying 46-yard field goal attempt
with 17 seconds remaining, as the Steelers held off
a furious Colts rally to post a dramatic 21-18 win
in an AFC divisional playoff game at the RCA Dome.
Ben Roethlisberger finished 14-of-24
for 197 yards with two touchdowns and an interception
for Pittsburgh, which has won six straight games dating
back to the regular season and also became the first
No. 6 seed to reach a conference championship game.
The Steelers will now play in the conference
title contest for the second time in three years and
will look to reach the Super Bowl for the first time
since the 1995 season, when the club lost to Dallas.
Pittsburgh will visit the Denver Broncos
in next Sunday's AFC Championship Game, beginning
at 3:00 p.m. (et).
Willie Parker rushed for 59 yards and
Hines Ward caught three passes for 68 yards for the
Steelers, who avenged a regular-season loss to Indianapolis
by pulling off the stunning upset.
"We mixed it up and did a good
job of dropping eight and bringing pressure and trying
to disrupt them and get them out of their rhythm,"
said Steelers head coach Bill Cowher. "They hit
some big plays there in the fourth quarter, and we
were fortunate to get out of there with the win."
Peyton Manning was 22-of-38 for 290
yards with a touchdown, but again could not get over
the playoff hump for the top-seeded Colts, who played
their first meaningful game in over a month and clearly
looked out of sorts for much of the game.
Indianapolis, which started the season
in dominant fashion and became only the fourth team
to begin a campaign with 13 straight wins, clinched
homefield advantage throughout the AFC playoffs in
Week 14, and as a result did not play many of its
starters to close out the regular season.
"They deserved to win the game,"
said Colts head coach Tony Dungy. "We played
hard and gave ourselves a chance but didn't make quite
enough plays at the end. You know it's disappointing
to have a regular season like we had and put yourself
in position and not finish it off."
The Colts also had to suffer through
a personal tragedy towards the end of the season,
as Dungy's 18-year-old son James was found dead in
his suburban Tampa apartment during the early morning
hours of December 22.
After a lackluster start, Indianapolis
trailed 21-18 late in the game and got the ball back
at its own 18-yard line with 2:32 left. However, Manning
could not engineer any late heroics as the Colts turned
the ball over on downs after the All-Pro was sacked
for the second time in four plays.
On the first play following the change
of possession, though, Bettis took a handoff in hopes
of driving into the end zone for the game-clinching
score, but things quickly turned sour.
The veteran running back was popped
by Gary Brackett's helmet and the ball flew out of
Bettis' hands where Nick Harper, who had been stabbed
in his right knee earlier in the week and briefly
left this game with a left knee injury, picked it
up and began racing up the field for what looked like
a miraculous touchdown return. However, Roethlisberger
was able to slow up the speedy cornerback before Harper
was finally tackled at the Colts 42-yard line.
"We score there and the game's
over and you certainly don't question that,"
said Cowher on his decision to run the ball instead
of taking a knee.
Manning was able to move Indianapolis
into scoring range with a 22-yard pass to Reggie Wayne
and an eight-yard completion to Marvin Harrison, which
brought the ball to the Steelers 28-yard line. Two
straight incompletions then brought on Vanderjagt
for a 46-yard kick to tie the game with 17 seconds
However, the most accurate kicker in
NFL history badly missed the field goal as the ball
sailed way off to the right side of the goalpost.
"He hasn't missed very many big
kicks since I've been here," said Dungy. "I
know he's very disappointed but I told the team we've
got to rally around him. That wasn't the play that
lost the game for us."
Vanderjagt had gone 6-of-6 in field
goal tries at home in his playoff career.
Roethlisberger then took three knees
to end the game and give Pittsburgh a shocking win
over the heavily favored Colts.
Trailing 21-3, Indianapolis proved
why it has one of the league's best offenses as it
scored early in the fourth quarter. After appearing
to be stopped on third down, Dungy sent the punting
team on, but Manning waved the special teams unit
back to the sideline and kept his offense on the field.
The move turned out to be the right one as Manning
found Brandon Stokley for 13 yards on 4th-and-2 to
keep the drive alive. Then, two plays later, Manning
hit Dallas Clark over the middle of the field and
the tight end raced 50 yards for a touchdown, cutting
the Steeler lead to 21-10 with 14:09 left.
Pittsburgh then took up nearly eight
minutes off the clock, keyed by a pair of short fourth-down
conversions, before punting the ball into the end
The Colts' comeback then appeared to
fall short as Manning threw a ball that clearly looked
to be intercepted by Troy Polamalu. However, after
an extensive video replay, the officials determined
that the ball hit the ground and they reversed the
original call of a Steeler interception.
"I had the defender catching the
ball," said referee Pete Morelli on why the call
was overturned. "Before (Polamalu) got up he
hit it with his leg with his other leg still on the
ground. Therefore, he did not complete the catch.
And then he lost the ball."
Manning took advantage of the gift
call as he marched his team down the field, courtesy
of a 20-yard pass to Harrison and a 24-yard strike
to Wayne, before Edgerrin James capped the series
with a three-yard run. Indy then went for two points
and converted when Manning hit Wayne in the back of
the end zone to bring the Colts within 21-18 with
4:24 to go in the game, which set up the crazy ending.
James ended with 56 rushing yards and
caught five passes for 26 yards. Wayne had seven catches
for 97 yards.
Pittsburgh wasted no time taking the
lead as it drove right down the field on the opening
possession of the game. The Steelers moved 84 yards
in 10 plays and capped the series on Roethlisberger's
six-yard touchdown strike to Antwaan Randle El with
9:25 left in the first quarter. Roethlisberger went
6-of-7 for 76 yards, including 54 yards passing to
Heath Miller, on the scoring drive.
Later in the first quarter, Pittsburgh
struck again as Roethlisberger connected with Miller
for a seven-yard score to make it 14-0 with 3:12 to
go in the period. The big play on the 72-yard drive
occurred on 3rd-and-10 when Ward was the recipient
of a 45-yard catch that was also aided by a personal
foul for a defensive facemask.
Miller finished with three receptions
for 61 yards.
The Steelers completely dominated the
opening 15 minutes as they outgained Indianapolis,
156-25. In addition, Roethlisberger ended the quarter
by going 9-of-12 for 147 yards with two touchdowns,
while the two-time MVP Manning was a dismal 2-of-6
for 37 yards and was sacked twice.
However, the Colts finally mustered
a scoring drive midway through the second quarter,
but they had to settle for a short field goal after
failing to get in the end zone. Indianapolis drove
96 yards in 15 plays and appeared to score on a one-yard
TD run by James Mungro, but the Colts were whistled
for a false start and sent back five yards. The penalty
proved especially costly as James was then stopped
on a conservative 3rd-and-goal running play, which
brought Vanderjagt on for a 20-yard kick to make it
14-3 late in the half.
Pittsburgh forced a punt on the first
series of the third quarter and then put together
a successful drive, but the march stalled at the Indianapolis
37-yard line and the Steelers were also forced to
kick it away. However, the punt pinned the Colts deep
in their own territory and they were eventually forced
to punt from the end zone. Pittsburgh immediately
took advantage of the field position battle as Randle
El returned the kick 20 yards to put the Steelers
at the 30-yard line.
Six plays later, Bettis found the end
zone from one yard out to extend the cushion to 21-3
with 1:26 left in the third period. Bettis carried
the ball on the final five plays of the drive and
ran for 19 yards.
Bettis, who rushed for 46 yards,
has a rushing touchdown in four straight playoff games...The
Steelers were beaten by New England, 41-27, in last
year's conference title game...Pittsburgh is 5-0 all-time
versus the Colts in the playoffs...The Steelers are
13-0 this season, including playoffs, when outrushing
their opponent...Clark caught four passes for 84 yards
while Harrison was used sparingly throughout the game
and had only three receptions for 52 yards...Manning
is now 3-6 in his playoff career...Indianapolis last
reached the AFC Championship game in the 2003 season
before losing to the eventual Super Bowl champion
Patriots...Since 2000, the Colts are 0-4 in the playoffs
when they do not score in the first quarter...Pittsburgh
leads the all-time series 18-5, which includes victories
in 10 of the last 11 meetings. Indianapolis' only
win during the streak came earlier this season in
Week 12 when the Colts posted a 26-7 win...Cowher
is 7-1 in his career versus Indy.
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