By: Tom Cloutier
The final minutes of the 4th quarter were an absolute rollercoaster, but the Patriots launch a comeback and hold on for the win in Pittsburgh.
In what could very well serve as the prequel to this year's AFC championship game, both teams put on a strong performance. It was a clash of the titans between the 11-2 Steelers and the 10-3 Patriots. The Patriots were coming off a loss at Miami and continuing their road trip back up north to Pittsburgh. I can't imagine being on the end of a Belichick lashing after a loss and no team wants to face Brady coming off one either. Big Ben and the Steelers have likely had this game circled on the calendar all year, especially after their defeat at the hands of the Patriots in last years AFC championship.
The game remained fairly even through the first half and into the third quarter. The Patriots opened up the scoring with a 1-yard rush from Rex Burkhead, but the Steelers answered on their very next drive. Both teams went on to exchange field goals before Roethlisberger led the Steelers on a 15 play drive that concluded with a touchdown and ate up almost all the time remaining in the 2nd quarter. During that quarter, Antonio Brown left the game with a calf injury, he would not return.
The Patriots opened up the 2nd half with a touchdown. Bradin cooks caught a 4 yard pass from Brady, but Gostowski missed the PAT, leaving the Patriots down by one point. They forced a punt out of the Steelers, but Brady under threw a pass intended for Gronk and was intercepted. The Steelers capitalized and scored again to increase their lead to 8. The Patriots kicked another field goal to get back within one touchdown and proceeded to force another punt out of the Steelers. With just over two minutes left on the clock, the Pats came back onto the field.
Tom Brady already has 50 game winning drives in the 4th quarter/overtime in his career, and he looked ready to put another notch in his belt. Gronk, the co-hero for the Patriots 4th quarter caught 3 passes from Brady to set up a score, highlighted by one just above his shoe laces. A five yard TD rush and Gronk 2-Pt conversion put the Pats back up by a field goal with only 0:56 and a single tieout remaining for Big Ben and the Steelers.
Roethlisberger opened his potential comeback drive with a short pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster. Opting to make the game interesting, the Patriots defense elects not to tackle him, nor force him out of bounds, and he turns what could have been a 10-15 yard gain into a 69 yard gain. The Steelers are now sitting 1st and goal with 0:34 left on the clock after using a timeout. Big Ben passes over the middle to Jesse James, who stretches for the touchdown. I'm already calculating how many plays it will take Tom Brady to score a touchdown in under 30 seconds. The review is taking longer than normal for what looked like, at first glance, a surefire TD. The slow realization that he bobbled the ball seeps into Pats and Steelers fans alike. The official finally comes back onto the field and reverses the call, no touchdown. Moments later, in a turn of events reminiscent of the end of Super Bowl XLIX, Big Ben's pass was intercepted in the end zone, sealing the victory for the Patriots.
Patriots fans rejoice and Steelers fans hang their heads in agony. They tumbled from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows in mere moments.
In what could surely turn out to be this year's #DezCaughtIt, you be the judge. All I care about is that the Pats are #1 in the AFC and clinched the east for the billionth time.
Image Source: (ESPN)