The NFL delivered another wild playoff game last night, as the Cardinals salvaged an overtime win after blowing it in regulation.
I’m a huge fan of Bruce Arians as a had coach, but some of his aggressive calls on offense and defense late in the game almost blew up in his face. On their past possession in regulation, the Cards had an opportunity to run out a good chunk of the remaining clock by running the ball, but he he had Carson Palmer try a difficult pass up the sideline to Larry Fitzgerald in an attempt to seal the game, but that incompletion gave Aaron Rodgers enough time to launch the game-tying Hail Mary. On that incredible play, Arians chose to go with a blitz as opposed to stacking defenders in the end zone, and that cost him as well.
In overtime, Palmer redeemed himself after some shaky play in regulation with an incredible throw across his body to Fitzgerald after scrambling away from pressure, and Fitzgerald rumbled all the way to the 5 yard line to set up the game-winning score.
This is just one of the many wild playoff games the NFL has produced this season and in recent years. The league has some issues, including the overall quality of play during the regular season, but many these playoff games have been incredible.
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin argues a call with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the background in the AFC Wild Card round at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 8, 2012 in Denver. Pittsburgh lost in overtime 29-23 to Denver. UPI/Gary C. Caskey
As a Browns fan, it’s annoying to watch the rock-solid organization in Pittsburgh that produces consistent winners for the Steelers. The Rooney family knows how to run a football team. They find great coaches and stick with them. Continuity is one of their greatest advantages over teams like the Browns who change regimes every couple of years.
With that backdrop, it’s a little surprising to see Art Rooney II interject himself so directly into team affairs with the decision to not bring back offensive coordinator Bruce Arians. Ben Roethlisberger isn’t happy.
“When I get back, I’m going to go up to Mr. Rooney’s office and ask him what he wants from me, what he wants from this offense, because I think that’s a viable question for him,” Roethlisberger said. “He’s our owner and our boss, so I really would like to know kind of what he wants and where he sees our offense going because I’d like to tell him where I see us going.”
Roethlisberger said he thinks Arians was building one of the NFL’s best offenses, and he’s surprised that Arians won’t get to continue doing that.
“We feel like we are really close to being an elite offense,” Roethlisberger said. “For your leader to be gone is kind of a shocker, but you’ve got to be ready for whatever the Rooneys and coach [Mike] Tomlin decide it our next step.”
The Steelers have had some problems, mostly with keeping Big Ben healthy. There’s a feeling in the organization that they need to get back to running the football. But this team had a lot of success with Arians, who basically unleashed Roethlisberger and let him become an elite quarterback with his improvisation skills.
We’ll see how this plays out. The Steelers will have quite a bit of turnover, particularly on defense, as the team is getting older. Now we’ll be seeing some changes on offense as well.
Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas performs during half-time at the NFL’s Super Bowl XLV football game in Arlington, Texas, February 6, 2011. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL ENTERTAINMENT)
I’m just saying…
– Christina Aguilera had at least two weeks to prepare for the National Anthem and she still managed to change a word and skip an entire verse. Did someone forget to rub her the right way before she went out to midfield? Because you know you have to do that with her, right?
– What a game by Jordy Nelson: Nine catches, 140 yards receiving and one touchdown. Now imagine how good his numbers would have been had he not dropped two first down passes right in his hands.
– Speaking of drops…James Jones is lucky the Packers held on to the win because his drop in the third quarter was setting up to be the turning point in the game. Nobody can make a potential touchdown disappear faster than James Deandre Jones.
– I want to commend Bruce Arians for his decision to be aggressive when the Steelers were backed up to their own 7-yard line late in the first quarter. Rashard Mendenhall had just ripped the Packers for 24 yards on two carries in the previous series, so naturally Arians wanted to prove how smart he was by taking a shot downfield. Nick Collins and the Packers want to thank you for the gift, Bruce.
Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is seen on the field after the Steelers defeated the Baltimore Ravens 13-10 at M & T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on December 5, 2010. UPI/Kevin Dietsch
I’m not a NFL coordinator and therefore won’t act like I hold the secrets on how either team can win Super Bowl XLV. (Wait a minute – I don’t hold any secrets? What the fu…)
When it comes down to it, putting together a solid game plan is only half the battle. The players still have to execute and avoid mistakes and a great scheme won’t save a team that turns the ball over and commits penalties. But here are five ways the Steelers can get the upper hand on the Packers and take home the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday.
1. Run the ball right down Green Bay’s throat.
You have to look hard, but the Packers’ defense does have a weakness. Green Bay allowed 107.7 yards per game on the ground this season to finish a respectable 11th in that category, but they also allowed rushers to average 4.5 yards per carry. Only six teams (Indy, Washington, Denver, Jacksonville, Tampa Bay and Buffalo) gave up more yards per carry than the Packers, who struggled mostly against teams with power running games. The Dolphins, Vikings, Lions and Falcons (during the regular season – not the postseason) all had success running against Green Bay’s front seven. The Packers went a combined 3-3 against those teams, so running the ball at GB doesn’t necessary mean victory but it’ll certainly help the Steelers’ cause. The Steelers were 6-1 when Rashard Mendenhall rushed for over 80 yards this season. Feeding him the ball can help slow Green Bay’s pass rush, keep Aaron Rodgers off the field and help Pittsburgh control the tempo of the game.
2. Disrupt Rodgers’ rhythm by being physical with his receivers.
What the Eagles, Bears (in the first quarter) and especially, the Falcons, did in trying to defense Green Bay’s passing game was an absolute sin. Aaron Rodgers has outstanding vision, accuracy and makes wise decisions. He can read blitzes as well as any quarterback in the league and he gets the ball out of his hand in a timely manner. That’s why playing his receivers seven yards off the ball is a travesty. Midway through the second quarter the Bears realized they had to roll the dice with their corners and start being more aggressive in coverage. That’s part of the reason the Packers struggled to move the ball as well as they did after the first quarter. Ike Taylor is a fine corner and can certainly hold his own. But the Packers will look to exploit Bryant McFadden and William Gay, so both defensive backs must be physical at the line of scrimmage in order to disrupt Rodgers’ timing. LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison are two of the finest pass-rushers in the league. But instead of solely relying on the pressure that their front seven can produce, Pittsburgh also needs to be aggressive in its secondary or else Rodgers will continue his assault on opposing backfields.