Travel anomaly caused by hurricane, questionable calls by officials and Tomlin can't ruin comeback
November 5, 2012 8:00 PM
Matt Freed /Post-Gazette
Isaac Redman carries against the Giants in the fourth quarter Sunday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. Redman ran for 147 yards on 26 carries with one touchdown.
By Ed Bouchette Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Steelers overcame travel logistics, questionable calls by the officials and by their own head coach, then a 10-point, fourth-quarter New York Giants lead Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
Some how, they found a way to a 24-20 victory against the reigning Super Bowl champions on an emotional day played in the nation's largest region wracked by Superstorm Sandy.
"We combated a lot of adversity [Sunday] and were able to pull it out," said Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, who criticized his own fake field-goal call that blew up in their face.
"Hopefully, this is a big step for us."
Isaac Redman rushed for 147 yards and the winning, 1-yard touchdown run with four minutes left. A defense that had allowed fourth-quarter comebacks in all three of their losses, stiffened again in the fourth quarter for the third consecutive time to preserve a victory.
Not only that but they made Giants quarterback Eli Manning look less than mortal. He completed just 10 of 24 passes for 125 yards with one interception, by Ike Taylor. The Giants, who fell to 6-3 after ending a four-game winning streak, managed only 68 yards rushing. The Steelers, who won their third in a row to improve to 5-3, ran for 158 yards.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger gave up 10 points on a controversial fumble that was returned for a touchdown, and only his fourth interception this season led to a third-quarter field goal by the Giants. But he led them to another comeback victory in the fourth quarter and completed 21 of 30 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns.
"That's as disappointing a loss as we've had around here in a long time," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said.
The game was played before 80,991 at MetLife Stadium even though there was no public transportation, and gas was hard to come by after Hurricane Sandy left a trail of destruction, power outages and heartbreak over a wide swath of the New York metropolitan area.
The storm left the Steelers without hotel rooms and no choice but to fly in Sunday morning, landing at nearby Newark Liberty Airport just after 10 a.m. Tomlin shrugged off the logistics, saying there were "a lot people that have a lot more adversity than what we had this morning."
They did face plenty of adversity once the game started to the point that even Tomlin, usually reticent to criticize officials, did not hesitate to call out referee Bill Levy's crew in somewhat subtle ways.
"I can't figure out some of this stuff now," Tomlin said at one point when asked about a call.
Emmanuel Sanders caught a 4-yard touchdown pass from Roethlisberger for the first score of the game early in the second quarter.
But then New York took a 14-7 lead on several questionable calls by the officials.
The first came when Keenan Lewis was penalized 41 yards for a pass interference call that looked more like a good defensive play by the improving cornerback. The next occurred on third down at the 2 when Ike Taylor broke up a pass for Victor Cruz. But the officials called a penalty on Ryan Clark for a "blow to the head" of Cruz even though replays clearly showed he hit him in the mid-section.
That led to a 1-yard touchdown run by Andre Brown and a 7-7 tie.
"Some of the penalties," Tomlin said, "were suspect."
Chris Rainey's 50-yard return on a kickoff put the Steelers in good field position to start the next series at the Giants 48. They moved to a second down at the 32 and Roethlisberger dropped back to pass.
As he cocked his arm, Osi Umenyiora hit it, jarring the ball. It appeared that Roethlisberger still had some control of the ball as his arm moved forward, throwing the ball to the ground. Boley scooped up the loose ball and ran it back 70 yards for a touchdown.
After an automatic review of the play, the officials stayed with their touchdown ruling.
Nevertheless, Shaun Suisham capped a four-play, 47-yard drive just before the half to kick a 30-yard field goal to cut into the Giants' lead, 14-10, at halftime.
Lawrence Tynes kicked two field goals -- one after Roethlisberger's interception -- to put the Giants up by 10 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Steelers again cut into the Giants lead when Roethlisberger threw a short pass to Mike Wallace on a crossing pattern over the middle and Wallace ran past everyone down the left sideline for a 51-yard touchdown.
The Giants were in man-to-man coverage with no safety help on the play.
"I knew if I catch it, I could just run across the field and just try to keep running and it worked out for me," Wallace said.
The Giants led, 20-17, with 14:05 left in the game.
The Steelers had a chance to tie the score with a fourth down at the Giants 3, inches short of a first down. They lined up to try a 20-yard field goal, but instead pulled a fake. Holder Drew Butler took the snap, pitched it over his shoulder to Suisham, who ran to the right and was tackled for a 1-yard loss by Giants cornerback Michael Coe and end Justin Tuck, who were not fooled by the fake.
"I took a shot and the guys backed my play like I knew they would and I appreciate that," Tomlin said. "They overcame bad coaching sometimes and that's on me."
They did so by forcing the Giants to punt from the 7 after that missed opportunity.
With 8:55 to go, the Steelers took over at their 49. Roethlisberger led them on a 51-yard drive that ended with Isaac Redman running 1 yard for the winning touchdown with 4:53 left.
Redman said Tomlin told them beforehand that, "This game is the fork in the road, which way do we want to go?"