Gerry Dulac's Two-Minute Drill: Game 15 vs. Panthers
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GAME BALL goes to: QB Ben Roethlisberger
There were more failures in the red zone -- just two touchdowns in six trips inside the 20 -- and only 4 of 12 third-down conversions. But Roethlisberger put an early end to the game by throwing for 259 yards before halftime, the most first-half passing yards in his career. And he did it by attacking the Panthers in the middle of the field, converting five passes of 20 yards or longer, including throws of 40 and 43 yards to WR Mike Wallace, the latter for a touchdown. Roethlisberger finished with a passer rating of 111.5.
A quick look at the top performances from Thursday's game:
1LIKE MIKE: Opposing teams have been trying to take away the deep pass to WR Mike Wallace, but the Steelers are countering by getting Wallace to make big plays after the catch. It worked again in the second quarter when Wallace took a quick slant from Roethlisberger, split LB Nic Harris and S Charles Godfrey, and ran untouched to the end zone to complete a 43-yard play. "I like a guy that is producing plays to help us win," coach Mike Tomlin said.
2SOME ATONEMENT: Sanders tried to make up for his TD drop when he caught a deep slant for 35 yards on second-and-18 to the Carolina 29. Three plays later, his 7-yard slant set up Rashard Mendenhall's 1-yard touchdown run that gave the Steelers a 17-0 lead.
3NOT SLOWING DOWN: Leading 3-0, ILB James Farrior made back-to-back plays when the Panthers had third-and-2 at the Steelers 29. First, he stopped RB Mike Goodson on a direct snap for a 3-yard loss, then sacked rookie QB Jimmy Clausen for a 4-yard loss on fourth-and-5.
4WASTED COVERAGE: With 32 seconds left, CB Anthony Madison forced a fumble by Mike Goodson on a kick return that Will Allen recovered at the Carolina 28. The turnover went for naught as Suisham was wide right from 41 yards, his first miss in 14 attempts since replacing Jeff Reed.
5BIG STOP: On third-and-6 at the Steelers 7, LBs LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons combined to stop Jonathan Stewart for a 2-yard loss, keeping the Panthers without a touchdown and forcing them to settle for a 27-yard field goal.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
8 That's the number of receptions of 40 yards or longer this season for WR Mike Wallace, who had two more against the Panthers -- a 43-yard touchdown and a 40-yarder that set up a field goal near the end of the first half. Five of Wallace's 40-yard catches have been for touchdowns.
WHAT WAS HE THINKING?
It was just last week, after repeated failures in the red zone, that Roethlisberger and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians agreed to change their personality inside the 20. Instead of trying to score immediately, they would try to peck their way to the end zone. That lasted one game. At the Carolina 15 near the end of the first half, Roethlisberger threw two incompletions in the end zone before throwing 8 yards to Emmanuel Sanders on third down. The Steelers settled for a field goal, one of four failed TD chances in six red-zone trips.
"I just think the guys really feel bad after a loss. And they didn't carry it around with them for a long time afterward."
-- LB James Farrior, on why the Steelers are 4-0 and have outscored the opposition, 117-37, in games following losses
X's AND O's
The Steelers appeared to have a third touchdown in the red zone when rookie WR Emmanuel Sanders caught an 8-yard pass from Roethlisberger on third down on their first possession. But the play was challenged by Carolina Panthers coach John Fox and overturned by replay when it was ruled the ball came out of Sanders' grasp when he hit the ground. The Steelers settled for a 26-yard field goal by Shaun Suisham. "I knew I had caught the ball, but I guess it came out," Sanders said.
JAN. 2 OPPONENT: at CLEVELAND BROWNS, 1 P.M.:
The Steelers won the first meeting, 28-10, and have won 19 of the past 21 games. However, the Browns won the last meeting in Cleveland, 10-6, in 2009.
First Published December 24, 2010 1:37 am