The Pittsburgh Steelers were up 8 points with less than 7 minutes left. The Patriots were able to get a field goal to cut into the lead. Pittsburgh would go 3 and out and the Patriots would take advantage of that missed opportunity by the Steelers. The Patriots would convert and Take the lead 27-24 with less than a minute. With :52 seconds left, Ben had a chance to rewrite his own history against Tom Brady. After a 70 yard catch and run by Ju Ju Smith Shuster to get the Steelers down to the 10, Pittsburgh would get a would be go ahead TD overturned. Two plays later Ben would run a fake spike to stop the clock and try to sneak a pass into Rodgers hands on an inside slant. The ball would get deflected and then intercepted. Final score in Pittsburgh, Patriots 27 Steelers 24.
The interception at the end of the game was a poor decision on Ben’s part, but the fact is, the worst decision he made all day was the 3rd down pass underneath on the drive that could have put the game away with 4 minutes left. On third and 5, Ben threw a 4 yard pass that would give Pittsburgh a 4th and 1. That miscue gave the Patriots life down just 5 points with 3+ minutes left. That is where the game changed.
The Patriots big drive was all about Brady to Gronk as they used him all the way down the field on the final drive. It would be Lewis that would score the put the Patriots ahead. They would then Find Gronk uncovered in the end zone for the 2 point conversion to give them a 3 point lead. All of that left Big Ben one more chance to win the game, or at least tie.
He would throw a pass to Shuster and Ju Ju did everything he could to make up for Ben’s poor decision on the drive prior as he would take that crossing pattern 70 yards to the Patriots 10. Ben would then throw a pass to Jesse James and this is what we saw.
As James reached across the line, he then had his hands hit the ground and the ball moved. After the play was called a catch and touchdown, the refs took a closer look and determined that he did not complete the pass. They way it was interpreted was that he was still in the process of catching the ball as he hit the ground and not making a football move. Here is the rule itself.
A player who makes a catch may advance the ball. A forward pass is complete (by the offense) or intercepted (by the defense) if a player, who is inbounds:
(a) secures control of the ball in his hands or arms prior to the ball touching the ground; and
(b) touches the ground inbounds with both feet or with any part of his body other than his hands; and
(c) maintains control of the ball after (a) and (b) have been fulfilled, until he has clearly become a runner (see 3-2-7 Item 2).
Note: If a player has control of the ball, a slight movement of the ball will not be considered a loss of possession. He must lose control of the ball in order to rule that there has been a loss of possession. If the player loses the ball while simultaneously touching both feet or any part of his body to the ground, it is not a catch.
If you read the above rule, it makes this call completely subjective which means it put the game in the hands of the Refs. The call on the field was a touchdown, and should have stood. They made the call that he was still in the act of catching it. Which is a farce.
Blown call or not, it left 2nd down at the 10 with 30 seconds left. Plenty of time to go and get at least a field goal. But after a catch that made its way to the sideline that did not stop the clock, it left 15 seconds and third down as time was ticking away. Ben faked the spike and threw a slant to Rodgers that was deflected, and then intercepted.
In the post game presser Tomlin was asked about missing AB before he was asked about the called back TD. He said that the game plan changes when AB is not in the game, but he felt that the others responded well. When asked about the called back TD he said, “I don’t have HD, and all of that stuff. It’s really irrelevant how I feel about it. I’m not going to cry over spilt milk.” The very next question was about Ben going for it on that 3rd down fake spike. He was asked, do you have any problem with Ben going for it there… he quickly answered “No, we play to win.”
The game was lost when: Ben and his offense went 3 and out with 4 minutes left. They had just burned 7 minutes off the clock going 30 yards on the last drive. All they needed was a first down, or two at the most and the game was over. But instead, they went 3 and out. That essentially ended the game because by that point Brady had re-discovered Gronk and Pittsburgh could not cover him one on one. The choice to not double him was a bad one.
The Steelers were the better team for 3 and a half quarters, but that never seems to make a difference for the Patriots.
During the game, Pittsburgh lost Antonio Brown early in the game to a calf injury that will have him miss what could be the remainder of the regular season. They also lost Conner to an apparent MCL injury. Both were tough losses.
Joe Haden, although he did practice late in the week he did not play in the game and he was Missed. He could have helped a great deal in the secondary. The Steelers intercepted Brady once but could have had 2 more and both would have ended the game at the moments they occurred. Mitchell had an opportunity late and played for the big hit instead and on the drive before, Davis had a chance but could not come up with it.
In the End, This game was about missed opportunities, major injuries and questionable calls.
When asked about the overturned call, Ben said he had no comment. He also went on to say after being asked that it was sent in from the sideline that he was to go for it on that fake spike. He said it was not a fake spike that he was supposed to go on that play. He was asked if he liked having it in his hands with a chance to win and responded after two clarifications that yes he does and it’s fun.
Observation: The loss to me was devastating in the fact that not only are you missing your best defensive player for at least the season possibly forever, but you are now missing your best offensive player for what could be the remainder of the season to a calf injury. He may be back by post season, but how healthy.