Week 5 Game Recap: Pittsburgh Steelers 13, San Diego Chargers 23
What you need to know
The Steelers appeared to have shaken off the early season rust after jumping out to a ten point lead midway through the second quarter. The offense adjusted well to the San Diego blitz from the outside and run stop-gaps up the middle long enough to put together three straight scoring drives, including one with under a minute in the half to take a 13-7 lead at halftime. Ben Roethlisberger was 13 of 20 for 169 yards and looked the most comfortable in the pocket than he has all season and he helped lead the Steelers to 12 first downs. The Steelers out gained the Chargers 99 yards to -2 through the first quarter and 224-113 at the break.
The second half couldn’t have been more opposite for Pittsburgh. The offense generated just 49 yards on four drives that lasted only 18 plays. They held the ball for just 8:53 in two quarters, and turned the ball over twice on two Roethlisberger interceptions and another on downs in the waning seconds of the game. Roethlisberger went seven of 11 for 51 yards, and was sacked twice, while RB Willie Parker, 10-44 rushing in the first half, had just four carries for 13 yards in the second half. No receiver made much of an impact throughout the game as eight different players caught a pass for Pittsburgh. Hines Ward led the team with four receptions and 49 yards.
The Steelers’ defense looked rock solid through the first quarter and a half, limiting the Chargers to -2 total yards after the first quarter and 18 yards after San Diego’s first four possessions. But Pittsburgh allowed the Chargers to score on five of its final seven possessions, which included kneel-downs at both the end of the half and regulation.
The Chargers have been looking like two different teams all year; Strong throughout much of that match, only to go into hiding towards the end, allowing its opponents to rally. This time, however, they started sluggish only to make the necessary adjustments to finish strong. QB Philip Rivers had what analyst John Madden called a “coming out party” by finishing 24 of 37 for 242 yards and two touchdowns. He had one interception early in the first quarter, but only got more comfortable with each pass attempt and showed great poise amid the heavy Pittsburgh pass rush.
More impressively about Rivers, was that the running game sputtered most of the night. LaDainian Tomlinson posted poor numbers with 36 rushing yards and 34 receiving yards on eight receptions. Backup Michael Turner came through in the clutch with 56 rushing yards, including 40 in the fourth quarter with the Chargers in clock-grinding mode.
Rivers’ receiver of choice was Tomlinson with his eight catches, but only one of them went for significant yardage (19). WR Eric Parker was most effective downfield as he caught five balls for 86 yards. Keenan McCardell’s sure hands hauled in four for 37 and TE Antonio Gates got his first touchdown since Week 1. Malcolm Floyd scored his second touchdown in as many weeks.
The Chargers’ defense took Pittsburgh out of its element, stuffing the run up the middle and forcing QB Ben Roethlisberger to look for third and fourth check down options while eliminating the big play. It registered five sacks, two interceptions and had two questionable forced fumbles ruled in the grasp on apparent sack/turnover plays. San Diego held Pittsburgh to just 49 second half yards.
What you ought to know
While Roethlisberger completed 65% of his passes in the first half (13-20) for 169, he has yet to look like the leader he once was on last year’s Super Bowl team. He did look more comfortable in the pocket as he kept his head up, looked for alternate options, and danced around in the pocket with good anticipation of the pass rush. But he was also sloppy at times, holding the ball out with one hand in traffic, which nearly caused two lost fumbles. Both times he was ruled in the grasp, but replays showed both could have gone the other way. He was largely responsible for Pittsburgh’s second scoring drive when he completed five of six passes for 49 yards en route to a field goal. But he regressed in the second half, throwing two interceptions, one in double coverage on a flea-flicker and the other while under pressure, when he was hit while throwing a pass off his back foot. Roethlisberger now has zero touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Parker found it tough going early on, gaining just three yards on his first five carries, but finished the half with 44 yards on ten carries. Parker benefited greatly once QB Ben Roethlisberger loosened up the passing game in the late first, early second quarter. Parker also began running away from NT Jamal Williams, who was shedding blocks and clogging up the middle. Parker finally busted loose for 15 yards when he bounced off S Marlon McCree and darted up the left sideline, which set up his nine yard touchdown run with lead blocker WR Hines Ward off left tackle. Parker had another long gain of 14 to help set up a second quarter field goal, but was limited to just four carries for 13 yards in the second half. He added 26 yards on three receptions.
Haynes got 13 yards on his only carry to start off a first half, two minute drill in which the Steelers got a field goal. He also caught three passes for seven yards.
Davenport saw his first action of the season last night, albeit brief. After picking up a yard on his first carry of the season, he cashed in a 32 yard screen pass in the second quarter up the left sideline to help set up Willie Parker’s touchdown run. Davenport was later used on a third and one situation, but the Chargers’ defensive line pushed C Jeff Hartings into Davenport’s running lane and he lost a yard. Davenport also subbed in for injured return man Willie Reid and took a kick return back 26 yards.
Ward quietly led the Steelers in receiving with four receptions and 49 yards. He dropped his first attempt early in the game that would’ve gone for eight yards and set up a third and short situation, but caught everything else thrown his way within reason. He caught a ten yarder in the second quarter on the Steelers first field goal drive and ran two WR screens for minimal gains. Ward’s long reception came on a skinny post when after the catch he made a move to split two tacklers and darted up the left sideline for 24 yards. He was also the key factor in Willie Parker’s touchdown run, leading the charge with his blocking.
Washington’s role as the #3 receiver remained as such throughout the game. Washington was credited with the game’s first first down eight minutes into the game with a 12 yard reception. He also had two catches in the second quarter for nine and 22 yards in the two minute drill to help set up the Steelers’ second field goal before the end of the half. His streak of drops continued as he let a ball over his shoulder slide off his finger tips on a second and thirteen fly pattern.
Holmes did not factor much in the passing game, but more importantly, he took over the #2 WR spot on the third offensive series of the game. He had a second quarter reception of 13 yards on third down and eight, which helped set up the Steelers’ first field goal. And Holmes later had an eight yard reception in the third quarter. Two plays later, Holmes was the targeted receiver on a flea-flicker, but he was double covered and the pass was intercepted deep in San Diego territory. Holmes also had 72 return yards.
Wilson was demoted in the first quarter from the #2 WR to the #4 WR. He had not been targeted early in the game, but did manage to catch passes of nine and eight yards, both in the fourth quarter.
Miller was held in check with two receptions for 22 yards. He had a 15 yard catch on Pittsburgh’s first field goal drive.
Reed hit field goals of 39 and 44 yards, both in the second quarter and hit his only extra point attempt late in the first quarter.
The Steelers did well against the Chargers’ running backs until it was time to make one final stand in the fourth quarter. Michael Turner took over and rumbled for 40 fourth quarter yards in chewing up clock, and the defense could not get off the field in time for the Steelers to have a realistic chance of a comeback. They held one of the best RBs in the NFL, LaDainian Tomlinson to 36 yards.
Pittsburgh’s pass rush was off to a great start collecting a sack and an interception in the first quarter. S Ryan Clark wrestled the ball away from WR Eric Parker early in the first quarter for the pick and had nine total tackles. But the secondary eventually gave way to QB Philip Rivers and his 242 yards and two touchdowns.
|QB Philip Rivers, Pass: 24 - 37 - 242 - 2 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 6 - 24 - 0|
The local San Diego media and fans have been restless in waiting to see what Rivers is capable of. Rivers responded with 242 yards and two touchdowns. After a rocky start in which he threw an interception, Rivers came out a different player in the second quarter. He led five consecutive scoring drives, including two touchdown drives of 85 and 91 yards, and field goal drives of 32, 63 and 54 yards. Both of his touchdowns throws were placed only where his receivers could catch them. His nine yard fade pass to 6-foot, 5 inch Malcolm Floyd was put in the back corner of the end zone over 5-10 CB Deshea Townsend. His touchdown pass to TE Antonio Gates was placed behind the receiver but out of reach of Townsend, who was then also out of position to make a tackle after the catch. Rivers came up huge in the fourth quarter with a 15 yard run on third down and nine with just under three minutes remaining to set up the game clinching field goal.
Tomlinson was quieted by the Steelers’ run defense and only had seven carries for nine yards in the first half He did not make much noise in the passing game despite a game high eight receptions. He flashed glimpses of greatness on a 19 yard screen pass when he cut to his left, put a move on one tackler and hurdled over another to get to midfield en route to a Chargers field goal. Tomlinson lined up several times as a slot receiver when Michael Turner was in at tailback but caught all of his passes out of the backfield.
Turner had a team high 56 yards on 11 carries, all in the second half, including 40 yards in the final quarter. Turner came through most of all on the Chargers final drive (6-29) when he picked up a first down just before the two minute warning on third and one. He followed that up with a 23 yard run in which he broke two tackles to the Steelers six yard line, setting up San Diego’s final field goal.
Parker emerged as Rivers’ top wide receiver last night, making five first downs on all of his catches, none shorter than 13 yards. Parker’s long went for 25 yards after he caught a deep out for 19 yards, shook two tacklers and stumbled forward for six extra yards. He dropped one ball just shy of a first down on third and 19.
After held reception-less last week, McCardell was back in his old role as reliable possession receiver, catching four for 37 yards. He could have had five catches for at least 77 yards, but a 40 yard bomb went off his arms and he had CB Deshea Townsend beat for more had he caught it on the run.
Floyd’s big frame, 6-feet, 5-inches, proved valuable on QB Philip Rivers first touchdown pass, a nine yard fade pass in the back of the end zone. Floyd’s height was no match for 5-10 Deshea Townsend and Floyd plucked the ball out of the air at its highest mark, and got his second foot in bounds for the touchdown. Floyd was also the target of another deep end zone pass, but it was broken up at the last minute.
Jackson was a non-factor other than his one reception. He was targeted on a deep roll out pass by Rivers, but was over thrown despite being open for a possible 20+ yard gain.
Gates has yet to match the dominating performances we’re used to seeing, but he still hit pay dirt last night when he caught Rivers’ second touchdown pass. Gates caught the pass over the middle at the five yard line while boxing out the defender to prevent the interception. Gates then spun away from the tackler and lunged forward into the end zone for the 22 yard touchdown.
Kaeding booted field goals of 28, 33 and 22 while converting both extra point attempts.
The Chargers stuffed the run in between the tackles early on, but failed to adjust when Pittsburgh shifted gears to the outside. The unit clamped down in the second half allowing the Steelers to run just 18 total plays. NT Jamal Williams was the anchor on the line with six tackles. When he wasn’t pulling a running back down, he was disrupting the backfield by pushing would-be blockers into the running lanes. He also had a QB sack.
The Chargers sacked Roethlisberger five times and forced two interceptions. Quentin Jammer led the Chargers with seven solo tackles and Marlon McCree and Drayton Florence had the interceptions. Terrence Kiel left the game on his own power with an undisclosed injury.