It’s the hill that gets you. Walking up the hill heading away from LP Field in Nashville can go one of two ways. If the Titans lose, it’s the longest half mile of your life. If the Titans win, it feels like you’re walking downhill.
The hill had a second benefit yesterday. It let me get feeling back into my feet. In the coldest football game I attended since the 2003 Divisional Playoffs, the Titans stood tall and told the ranking maven sportswriters to stuff it. We learned again on Sunday that teams who play well in December will play deep into January.
Ben Roethlisberger is a great quarterback. He’s the youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl and was the clear favorite by Steeler nation yesterday. He can’t do it by himself. Don’t get me wrong, he has some great receivers. His running backs aren’t going to win any playoff games. I would take the University of Oklahoma’s offensive line over the one the Steelers trotted out 30 hours ago. I will give their OL credit. They’re pretty good at recovering Roethlisberger’s fumbles. And Michael Griffin was tackled by an offensive lineman on one of his two interceptions.
When Roethlisberger hit Hines Ward to take a 14-10 lead, Titan fans were a little nervous. There were 10,000 Terrible Towels in the stadium. Steeler Nation didn’t have Titan fans outnumbered, but they certainly had them outliquored and outweighed. At that point in the game, the Steelers were a missed field goal and an ill-advised Roethlisberger scramble from a 20-10 lead.
This is familiar territory. The Titans scored 21 straight points. The offense was the first to exceed 300 yards against the Steelers. Chris Johnson and LenDale White combined for 80 second-half rushing yards and two critical touchdowns. Johnson’s 20-yard scamper on fourth down and White’s two-yard run after a Steeler penalty on fourth down were the plays of the second half. Griffin picked two passes off and ran about 120 yards on his statistical 82-yard return that finally iced the game.
Let’s sidestep the obvious. The Titans’ D-line is deep. Kerry Collins can make plays when he’s accurate. Justin Gage is capable of not dropping the ball. Chris Johnson is wicked quick. The secondary was the key unit in the game. Most of the sacks and fumbles on Roethlisberger were of the coverage variety. Pressure increased as the Titans took the lead and the offensive line tired. Griffin, Hope, Harper, and Finnegan were the MVPs. Roethlisberger threw for more than 300 yards but no one cheering for Pittsburgh cared. He made mistakes and the Titans benefited. It was because of the back-end coverage.
At this point, I don’t care who the Titans play in a very likely Saturday night prime-time affair on January 10. The wild-card winner will have to hit hard and early, because once this team gets momentum, it’s game over.
It was cold and it was windy. The sun went behind the stands in the second half. It’s all so much more tolerable with a win.
I have a 33-point lead in my z17 matchup. My opponent has Matt Forte, Greg Olsen, Adewale Ogunleye, and A.J. Hawk. I have Greg Jennings and Lance Briggs. I could use a solid 20 points from my guys to feel good. In the AUFL, my team is losing by 58 by the team that finished with the worst record in the league. It’s time to regroup for 2009.