The Green Bay Packers are trying to rally around offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, who lost his son Michael on Monday. Linebacker Clay Matthews says they’re dedicating Sunday’s game to the Philbins.
Check out the difference between our first and second half defensive philosophies. In the first half, we played a very run-focused defense. Lots of base personnel and then both safeties really close to the line of scrimmage. (They may have…
Iggles Blog – Philadelphia Eagles Blog
Okay, pop quiz. One question, multiple choice. But first, let me set the stage for you.
New England Patriots vs. the New York Giants. Pats home team in blue, Giants the visitors in white. What was expected to be a high-scoring game turned into an, ugly, hard-fought matchup where points were at a premium and both defenses were coming up big when it mattered. The 4th quarter sees things open up a bit, and both offenses start to find some rhythm. Giants take a late lead, but Tommy B brings the Pats down inside the 10. A last minute TD catch puts New England up and in control of the game with less than 2 minutes to play. Eli Manning gets the ball and seems to be having trouble getting anything going. We see a dropped interception by a Patriots defensive back. A back shoulder, freak catch on 3rd and long sets up great field position for the game winning touchdown. Giants run an end zone corner route off a New England blitz to win the game. Alec smashes the remote control and spends the rest of the night crying into his whiskey and watching reruns of To Catch a Predator.
Now, here’s the question. Am I describing a) Superbowl 42, b) yesterday’s loss to the Giants, or c) all of the above?
Superbowl 42 was one of the worst days of my life. It wasn’t just that the Patriots lost; it was how they lost. It was realizing what almost was and what that ’07 team could have been if not for some absolute absurdity. It was being so confident after watching Tommy B once again engineer a late 4th quarter drive to put the Patriots in position to win it. Then you get a ball bouncing off a defender’s hands, followed by a circus catch on 3rd and long when you think New England is about to make the stop, and that sinking feeling starts to come over you where you just know that it isn’t going to go the Patriots’ way. And when the inevitable happens, you try in vain to prepare yourself for a night spent staring up at the ceiling, reliving everything that went wrong in your head over and over like it’s going to make a lick of difference. It’s an experience I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.
It’s been 4 years since that fateful night. And only just recently was I starting to get over it. I’m at a point in my life now where the occasional day goes by and I don’t think about that game in some capacity. My hopes for having a semi-normal life were starting to grow. I was almost there. Until, that is, I had the distinct privilege of reliving that El Manning final Superbowl drive all over again yesterday, almost down to the minute. In 96 seconds, 4 years of slow, painstaking healing just got torn wide open and now I’m left as vulnerable and and nervous as a lone hot dog vendor outside the holding area for people who didn’t pass the audition for The Biggest Loser.
I know that in the grand scheme of things, this loss is far from the end of the world, and there are actually some good things that we can take from yesterday’s game that give us cause of optimism going forward, particularly on defense. But I’m having a hard time thinking about any of that right now. All I can picture is Eli Manning’s face – that misshapen, ugly, Cro-Magnon, backwater mug – celebrating yet another victory over the Patriots that resulted from an absolutely absurd final drive.
And to make matters worse, I’m stuck here in New York City for the inevitable aftermath. Game notes after the jump.
This is one of those losses that gets under your skin and just burrows there like some weird mutant space-bug. It’s a game that the Patriots should have won, but didn’t because of some crazy catches and critical defensive mistakes that ended up costing them the game. The Jets did the Patriots a favor earlier in the day by defeating the Buffalo Bills, giving New England the opportunity to take sole possession of 1st place in the division. However, once again New England couldn’t capitalize and Brady took his first loss at home in 31 games. It would appear that this is officially the year that streaks end for the Patriots.
Which leads me to believe that, since this is the year everything gets shaken up, there just may be another streak that has been associated with the Patriots as of late that may be falling this January.
I just hope it’s their playoff loss streak and not the streak of New England having the best record in the division since 2001. At this point in the season, who knows.
If anyone needs me, I’ll be under my desk.
The Philadelphia Eagles are averaging 170.0 yards rushing per game so far this year and an incredible 5.7 yards per carry! Lesean McCoy and Michael Vick are going the heavy lifting in the running game for the Eagles. McCoy has played in six games for the Eagles so far this year and he has carried the ball 105 times for 569 yards (5.4 ypc) with 6 TD runs. He has also caught 21 passes for 123 yards (5.9 ypc) with 2 TD runs so far in 2011. QB Michael Vick continues to run well. He has played in all six games for the Eagles so far this year and he has carried the ball 45 times for 372 yards (8.3 ypc), which is pretty darn impressive. Ronnie Brown is still an Eagle. He has played in six games this year and he has carried the ball 13 times for 38 yards (2.9 ypc). Rookie RB Dion Lewis has also played in all six games for the Eagles and he has 7 carries for 31 yards (4.4 ypc). He has also caught 1 pass for -3 yards. The Eagles need to continue to make teams pay that try to stop their passing game.
You know, because I like pain.id="attachment_13161" class="wp-caption aligncenter" style="width: 530px"> class="wp-caption-text">Awesome.
As part of a promotion with SeatGeek – one of Fansided’s loyal business partners – a select group of NFL bloggers (including myself) has been asked to submit an answer to one of the most pressing questions ever to face the National Football League: when will the lockout end? The winner of the contest – the blogger whose prediction is closest to the actual end date – will receive 0 worth of game tickets courtesy of SeatGeek, along with the prestige of knowing he’s just smarter than everyone else..
Of course, we professional sports writers have no more access or insider knowledge than the majority of the public at this point, and even the most experienced among us is going to be shooting in the dark here. The talks have been confidential, the “sources” have been anonymous, and the general opinion of negotiations has waffled pretty consistently between gleaming optimism and catatonic despair since late March. This is a guess, pure and simple. I do not want to be held accountable for my hypothesis.
That said, here goes.
Recently, I wrote about some devastating losses by the Steelers and Pirates that were pretty hard to swallow for me as a fan. Well, today, I’d like to share my memories of a time that will always be one of my fondest memories: The day the Pittsburgh Steelers–one of my teams–finally got over the hump and made it to the Super Bowl.
Growing up as a Pittsburgh sports fan in the 80′s, it was slim-pickins’ around here. The Steelers were mediocre to below-average for the better part of the decade, and the Pirates were one of the laughing-stocks of baseball in the mid-80′s. The Penguins were also one of the worst teams in the NHL, but they did have an exciting, young player named Mario Lemieux (maybe you’ve heard of him) who would eventually lead the Penguins out of their long-history of failure to the top of the mountain with two-straight Stanley Cup victories in 1991 and 1992. That would have been great for me, but the only problem was I wasn’t much of a Penguins fan back then. In-fact, I barely followed the sport of hockey. No, my teams were the Steelers and the Pirates and I also had a great love for the Pitt Panthers football and basketball programs.
Speaking of the Pitt basketball program, in 1987 and ’88, Pitt was considered one of the favorites to make it to the Final Four–particularly the 1988 edition led by future NBA players, Charles Smith and Jerome Lane. However, despite being a top 5 team the entire season, the Panthers were upset in the second round by Vanderbilt and that upset loss started a trend of my teams falling short time and time again.
The Panthers never made it to the Final Four in the late 80′s and the Pittsburgh Pirates failed to make it to the World Series despite winning the National League East three straight seasons starting in 1990. Each NLCS defeat was more devastating than the year before with the grand finale being the soul-crushing loss to the Atlanta Braves in Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS. As I wrote in a previous post, it was, without question, the worst loss I have ever experienced as a fan.
As for the Steelers, their fortunes were pretty low in the early 90′s when Bill Cowher took over as Head Coach in 1992. But Cowher immediately instilled a winning-attitude in the team and the City was excited about the Steelers once again.
By 1994, it seemed inevitable that the Steelers would at least make it as far as the Super Bowl. They had the best record in the AFC that year and homefield advantage all throughout the playoffs. Led by Neil O’Donnell, Eric Green, Barry Foster, Yancey Thigpen, Dermontti Dawson, and John L. Williams on offense and Rod Woodson, Greg Lloyd, Carnell Lake, Kevin Greene, and Levon Kirkland on defense, the Steelers had one of the most talented teams in the league when they faced the underdog San Diego Chargers in the AFC Championship game at Three Rivers Stadium. The Super Bowl appeared to be their destiny.
Unfortunately, the Chargers had different plans and the Steelers quest for the Super Bowl came up three yards short. Another year, another team biting the dust with everything on the line. When would it ever end?
The Steelers were still the favorites in the AFC in 1995, but they appeared to be sleepwalking through the first half of the season. Rod Woodson, their all-world cornerback, suffered a season-ending injury in the first game and the Steelers were 3-4 after 7 games. The ugly first half of the season included a loss to the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars and a blowout loss at home to the Vikings. The final dagger in the heart of the team’s playoff chances appeared to be a 27-9 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in a Thursday night contest at Three Rivers Stadium. Myron Cope even questioned whether the team could recover and remarked that Super Bowl teams don’t normally get smacked around at home twice in the same season.
But the fortunes of the team changed on a dime. The Steelers decided they were going to forget about the past and just make it a 9-game season. They immediately got on a roll and won 8-straight games, including a huge overtime win in Chicago and an almost miraculous 49-31 victory in Cincinnati after trailing 31-13 in the second half.
It was one of the most exciting stretches of football in franchise history. The Steelers finished 11-5 and captured their second-straight AFC Central Division. They didn’t earn homefield advantage for the playoffs but were the number 2 seed behind the Kansas City Chiefs.
In the divisional round of the playoffs, the Steelers faced off against the perennial AFC heavyweights, the Buffalo Bills. Steeler fans were a little leery of Jim Kelly’s offense, but the Steelers controlled the majority of the game and won going away, 40-21. Most people figured the Steelers would have to travel to Kansas City to play the Chiefs for the right to go to the Super Bowl.
The next day, my family and I sat and watched in disbelief as the Chiefs lost to the 5th seeded Indianapolis Colts, 10-7, at Arrowhead stadium.
When Kansas City’s kicker missed a last-second field goal to secure the win for the Colts, my sister and I celebrated as if witnessing a victory by the home team.
I could not believe the fortunes of my Steelers. Immediately after watching the Chiefs game, I had to go out and shovel snow in the back yard and that’s when it occurred to me that maybe God had intervened and given the Steelers a chance to fix what they screwed up the previous year. I’m serious, that’s what I was thinking as I shoveled that snow. Being a Steelers fan, naturally I believe in Divine Intervention. It was God’s plan for the Steelers to make it to Super Bowl XXIX and they blew it but since He’s a forgiving and loving God, He gave them another shot.
The scenario was almost identical to the 1994 AFC Championship Game: The Steelers were heavy-favorites playing at home against a team that nobody thought even had any business being there. I was trying to fight the urge to feel over-confident like I did the year before but it was pretty hard given the circumstances.
In-fact, the entire mood of the city was exactly like it was for the San Diego game. People were already looking ahead to the Super Bowl. I mean, who could blame them? The Colts were 9-7 in the regular season and only one 9-7 team had ever made it to the Super Bowl. Surely, the clock was about to strike midnight on Indianapolis’ Cinderella season.
Right before the start of the game, my uncle Eugene and I looked at each other as if to say, “We got this!” However, very early in the game, a Neil O’Donnell pass was tipped and intercepted. This time, my uncle and I looked at one another as if so say, “here we go again.”
The teams traded field goals for most of the first half and the Colts led, 6-3, late in the second quarter. However, right before the half, Neil O’Donnell hit rookie sensation Kordell “Slash” Stewart with a controversial 5-yard touchdown pass and the Steelers led, 10-6. The reason the play was controversial was because Stewart stepped out of the back of the end zone before he caught the touchdown. Fortunately, there was no instant replay in 1995 and the touchdown stood. The Steelers were ahead by 4-points at the break and just like the previous year, my brother Joey called me at halftime feeling pretty confident that the Steelers were headed to the Super Bowl.
I must admit I was pretty confident, too. I felt it was just a matter of time before the Steelers went up by two or three scores on the out-classed Colts.
But just like with the Chargers in 1994, the Steelers never did shake the upstart Colts. The teams traded field goals again in the 3rd quarter and it was 13-9 Pittsburgh heading into the final period.
Colts’ kicker Cary Blanchard missed a field goal to keep the score 13-9 and everyone watching the game in my grandmother’s living room jumped for joy. I had visions of the Steelers going on a long, time-consuming drive and putting the game away with a Bam Morris touchdown run. But for the second-straight year, the Steelers were stuck on 13 points.
The Colts had the ball near mid-field mid-way through the 4th quarter. Colts’ quarterback Jim Harbaugh, that year’s Captain Comeback, dropped back to pass and hit Floyd Turner with a 47-yard touchdown strike. I was stunned. It was Humphries to Martin II. ”Here we go again” indeed.
Yes, the Steelers had a favorable match up in the AFC Championship Game for the second-straight season. Maybe God really did give them another chance. But for a second-straight year, they were throwing it away before our very eyes.
Heck, it was almost the identical score to the San Diego game. The Steelers trailed, 16-13, with time and hope, once again, running short. My sister had a headlight out in her car and I told my uncle I would help him change it after the game. When Turner scored his touchdown and the Steelers failed to move the ball on their next drive, my uncle said, “they’re done! Come on, let’s go fix that light.”
Well, I couldn’t pull myself from the screen and neither could anyone else, thankfully. With very little time left, the Colts had a chance to salt the game away. It was 3rd and 1 and Colts’ running back Lamont Warren appeared to have not only a first down, but maybe even clear-sailing straight to Arizona and Super Bowl XXX. But out of nowhere, Pittsburgh’s young cornerback, Willie Williams, tripped up Warren and tackled him behind the line-of-scrimmage and the Steelers still had life.
The Pittsburgh offense basically had one last shot to either tie the game or take the lead. Very early in the drive, Colts’ linebacker Quentin Coryatt stepped in-front of a Neil O’Donnell pass intended for Ernie Mills and nearly intercepted it. Fortunately, Mills stuck his hand in and broke it up.
Just before the 2-minute warning, the Steelers faced a 4th and 3 and just like the year before, their season hinged on 3-yards. The tension in my grandmother’s living room was so thick you could cut it with a knife (sorry for the cliched expression) but for some reason, one of my relatives was talking on the phone. I can’t remember if it was my grandmother or one of my uncle’s, but whoever it was, they must of had ice-water in their veins. Who could talk on the phone at a time like that?
Thankfully, O’Donnell hit Andre Hastings with a pass down to the Colt’s 38 and the Steelers were still alive. Right after the two-minute warning, O’Donnell went for broke and hit Ernie Mills with a perfect pass all the way down to the Colt’s one-yard line. When Mills caught that ball, my two uncles jumped up and embraced. I’ll never forget that moment as long as I live. For you Colts fans out there, when Mills came down out of bounds, he lost control of the ball. It was clearly a catch, but in today’s NFL, it probably would have been reviewed and overturned. Sorry.
Could the Steelers do it? Could they take the lead or would they have to settle for a field goal? A Bam Morris run got nothing on first down, but on second down, Bam-Bam fought his way into the end zone and the Steelers had a 20-16 lead. After the touchdown was signaled, Steelers tackle John Jackson jumped up and down like a little kid, Neil O’Donnell walked over to the crowd and blew a kiss to someone, and the Cowher clan had a group-hug up in the Steelers luxury box. It was a very special moment. I was sitting on the floor next to my sister, and I’m not ashamed to say I got choked up just a little. The Steelers had the lead with 1:34 remaining. The Colts needed a touchdown to win the game. A field goal couldn’t save them. No way would the Steelers’ defense let Harbaugh march his team down the field for the winning score.
But I knew I had to keep my compusure. I had seen this all way too many times–Pitt’s devastating losses in the late 80′s, Sid Bream sliding across home plate, Dennis Gibson denying the Steelers just a year earlier–and I was worried I’d get burned again.
Harbaugh did start to lead his team down-field, but for a split second, the Steelers had the AFC Title in their grasps when defensive back Chris Oldham had both of his hands on one of Jim Harbaugh’s passes. Unfortunately, just like Coryatt, he couldn’t secure it, and Indianapolis was still alive. Harbaugh eventually had the Colts at the Steelers’ 29 yard-line with 5-seconds left. It was Hail Mary time. Once again, everyone in Steeler Nation had to wait for a pass in the endzone to see if Pittsburgh would advance to the Super Bowl. Harbaugh’s pass came down in the front right-corner of the endzone with Colts and Steelers players waiting to fight for it. Colts’ receiver Aaron Bailey got his hands on the ball as he fell to the turf with several Steeler flailing at it, and for a brief moment, he appeared to catch it. In-fact, NBC color-man Phil Simms exclaimed, “He caught it! He caught the ball!” For a split-second, I saw every devastating loss that I had experienced flash before my eyes.
I’m not sure if anyone remembers this, but right around the time of that final play, certain viewers in the Pittsburgh area lost their cable-feed and it didn’t come back on until after the play was over. I’m not sure exactly when the video-feed was lost, but I couldn’t imagine being without cable at that exact moment. I would have surely had a heart-attack.
Thankfully, Bailey didn’t catch the ball, it hit the turf and when I saw the officials’ arms waving “incomplete” I jumped up and ran and did a belly-slide into my grandmother’s kitchen. When my little slide was over, I found myself next to the stove where my uncle Tony was preparing something for dinner. Much like the phone conversation when it was 4th and 3, I couldn’t figure out why one of my relatives was doing something other than watching such a climactic moment. Anyway, my uncle looked down at me and said, “grow up.”
I couldn’t help it. After a game like that, a slide across the floor seemed pretty appropriate. Along those lines, I had just recently learned how to drive and I took my uncle’s car out for a ride just to take everything in and maybe even honk the car horn a few times. I don’t remember any crazy celebrations going on, just an African American man walking alone. I beeped my car horn at him as I drove by and he acknowledged it with a slight-smile. He was the first, and to-date, only person I have ever honked my car-horn at in a celebratory manner.
The Steelers would face the Cowboys in the Super Bowl and later that evening, NFL Films was playing highlights of the two teams’ epic battles from the 70′s and it was at that moment that it really sunk in: the Steelers were in the Super Bowl. With all due-respect to Mario and the rest of the Penguins of the 90′s, after many near-misses, one of MY teams had finally gotten over the hump!
We all know how Super Bowl XXX turned out, but the 1995 Steelers season was a truly special time for me as a fan and I will never forget it.
The Pittsburgh Steelers were poised to bring back the glory of the 70′s to the Steel City in 1994. Under 3rd year Head Coach Bill Cowher, the team boasted a 12-4 regular season record. And thanks to a late season victory over the hated Cleveland Browns at Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh clinched not only the Central Division crown, but the number 1 seed in the AFC for the playoffs.
In the divisional round of the playoffs, the Steelers would face the Browns for the 3rd time that season. Even though Cleveland was the 4th seed and a Wildcard, most experts considered them at least the 2nd best team in the AFC that year and many regarded the divisional matchup between Pittsburgh and Cleveland as the de facto AFC Title Game. There was never any love-lost between the Steelers and old Brownies and the Cities of Pittsburgh and Cleveland have always been fierce rivals. Maybe it was because I was a lot younger and much more impressionable back then, but I don’t remember as much hype for any Steelers non-Super Bowl playoff game as there was for that Steelers/Browns postseason matchup.
The Steelers knocked off the Browns twice in the regular season and the experts were wondering if they could do it for a third time. “It’s tough to beat a team three times in one season,” was the belief held by some people the week leading up to the game. The Steelers were still the slight favorites, but many were predicting that the third time would be the charm for the Browns and they would be the team leaving Three Rivers victorious. As it turned out, unlike the two regular season matchups, this game quickly became a lopsided affair in favor of Pittsburgh. The Steelers jumped out to an early 17-0 lead on their way to a very satisfying 29-9 victory. The Black and Gold really were the kings of the AFC Central.
After the game was over, I was out walking around my neighborhood when I came upon these kids who were celebrating and waving their Terrible Towels at passing cars. I experienced a few playoff victories in the 80′s but I didn’t remember seeing anything like that. It really did feel like the glory days of the 1970′s had returned.
The next day, my uncle Tony and I sat down to watch the other AFC Divisional playoff game between the San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins. Everyone I knew was a little leery of the prospect of Pittsburgh native Dan Marino coming back to his hometown and walking away with the AFC crown. I know I wanted the Chargers to win and so did my uncle. It was a close game, but the Chargers did pull out the victory and I can still picture my uncle and I cheering pretty loudly. I was convinced that everything was falling in place for my Steelers and a trip to the Super Bowl was a mere formality.
Leading up to the AFC Championship Game, most people felt the same way. The Steelers “Blitzburgh” defense racked up 55 sacks in ’94 and was ranked 2nd in the league. On offense, Pittsburgh had the number one rushing attack in the NFL and even though the team only ranked 23rd in passing, they were fairly efficient in the air and quarterback Neil O’Donnell threw only 9 interceptions the entire season.
The Chargers–led by quarterback Stan Humphries and running back Natrone Means on offense, and linebacker Junior Seau and defensive end Leslie O’Neal on defense–had a respectable year and put up solid numbers on both sides of the ball (5th in total offense, 9th in total defense) but weren’t really considered that strong of a team despite their 11-5 record.
In fact, on the last week of the regular season–the week after Pittsburgh had wrapped up the number 1 seed with its victory over Cleveland–the Steelers played at San Diego. The Chargers needed to win the game to clinch the number 2 seed and a bye in the first round of the playoffs. With nothing to play for, Cowher decided to rest most of his key starters, yet, the Steelers still took the Chargers down to the wire before losing on a last-second field goal.
If the Steelers 2nd and 3rd stringers could stay with the Chargers on the road in a meaningless game when San Diego had everything on the line, how could the Chargers possibly come into Three Rivers Stadium and even make a game of it against a full Steelers squad with a trip to the Super Bowl at stake?
The oddsmakers installed the Steelers as 9-point favorites, but the way people were talking around here that week, it might as well have been 99 points. I was listening to Myron Cope’s radio show and one caller appeared so confident that he asked Cope which team he thought the Steelers would have a better chance against in the Super Bowl: The Cowboys or the 49ers. I don’t recall if Myron cautioned this fellow not to count his chickens before they hatched, but I know when I heard that, I got an uneasy feeling. I don’t know, just seemed like bad karma.
But everyone was talking that way all week, and to be honest, I felt the same way. I didn’t think the Chargers were even in the same league as the Steelers.
Even the Steelers themselves appeared quite confident that they would be heading to the Super Bowl. There was talk of a team-organized Super Bowl rap video the week leading up to the game against San Diego. I don’t know if that video was ever produced, but, once again, I had this uneasy feeling. Still though, I didn’t think there was any way the Steelers could lose.
A local news station went to San Diego to get a feel for how Chargers fans thought the game would go. From what I remember, they didn’t seem too confident that their team would pull it out. They interviewed one guy, a store owner, who didn’t give his team much of a chance but did say that we Pittsburghers needed our team to win because the weather was so gloomy in our city that we had nothing else to look-forward to. Touche, sir. Touche.
I remember the morning of the game quite-fondly. My two little cousins came over and it was a nice little family gathering. My grandmother, my two uncles, my cousins and I sat down to watch our Steelers wrap up the AFC Championship and clinch a trip to the Super Bowl. It was going to be a glorious afternoon.
It was unusually warm and rainy for a January 15th day in Pittsburgh. That should have set off alarms that things might not go according to plan.
The game did start off beautifully as Pittsburgh went on one of its trade-mark time-consuming drives that ended with a Neil O’Donnell 16-yard touchdown pass to fullback John L. Williams and the Steelers appeared to be off and running. It was going to be a repeat of the Cleveland game from a week earlier. The Steelers were just going to impose their will on the sparkless Chargers and run away with the AFC title. But a funny thing happened, the Chargers stayed in the game. The Steelers clearly were the better team, but there was San Diego, hanging around, only trailing 10-3 at halftime. There was a huge Steelers defensive stand at the end of the half led by linebacker Levon Kirkland that helped preserve that lead, but the way the Steelers were moving the ball–they would ultimately out-gain San Diego 415-226 in total yards–Pittsburgh should have put San Diego away fairly early.
Regardless, everyone was still pretty confident, especially my brother who called me at halftime pretty excited about the prospects of Pittsburgh playing in the Super Bowl.
In the 3rd quarter, the Steelers continued to move the ball, but still couldn’t put the Chargers away. However, they did extend their lead to double-digits thanks to a Gary Anderson field goal and were up, 13-3, midway through the 3rd quarter. It was at this point that my uncle Tony, showing confidence similar to that caller to Myron’s show, screamed, “Let’s go, fellas! Pick it up a notch! You’re going to be facing tougher competition in a couple of weeks!” I don’t know if he jinxed them, or angered the football gods, but right after that, Stan Humphries went back to pass and hit little-known tight end Alfred Pupunu for a 43 yard touchdown pass that seemed to stun everyone in the stadium.
This made the score 13-10, and I couldn’t believe it. Would the Steelers ever finally rid themselves of the pesky, upstart San Diego Chargers and march onto the Super Bowl? The answer was a resounding no.
The score remained 13-10 until the 5-minute mark of the 4th quarter. Humphries, once again, dropped back from the Steelers 43 yard line on 3rd and long and hit wide receiver Tony Martin for the go-ahead score. The Steelers blitzed on the play, but San Diego picked it up and Martin was left one-on-one with cornerback Tim Mcyker, who was beaten badly on the play. I was sitting on the floor beside my cousin Erin when this play unfolded and when Martin caught the touchdown, she screamed, “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” It was like a scream from a horror movie or something.
It really was horrific. I couldn’t believe that the Steelers were actually trailing in this game. How was that even possible? The Steelers had one more shot. They had moved the ball the entire day, but after their touchdown on the opening drive of the game, could only muster two Gary Anderson field goals up to that point.
A field goal wasn’t going to help them now. They needed to score a touchdown and there was precious-little time remaining for them to do so.
They did get it going and started moving the ball down field quite easily and after O’Donnell hit tight end Eric Green at the 9-yardline to make it 1st and goal with two-minutes left, things were starting to look up. Funny story: when O’Donnell hit Green, I jumped up and nearly hit the ceiling and my cousins Erin and Russ got one huge kick out of it. You’d think they’d be too into this important game to gain any kind of amusement out of my antics, but they still found the time to laugh at me.
Okay, back to the game. On first down, they tried Barry Foster on a run up the middle and lost a yard. On second down, O’Donnell’s pass fell in-complete. On 3rd down, Neil hit John L. on a pass to the 3 yard line. Now it was 4th and goal from 3 yards out with only 1:08 left. The Steelers called a time-out and this was it. They were either going to go to the Super Bowl or send 60,000 people home in stunned silence. Which was it going to be?
Infamously, it turned out to be the latter. O’Donnell dropped back to pass and tried to hit halfback Barry Foster on a quick pass over the middle, but Chargers’ linebacker Dennis Gibson broke it up and San Diego was now in celebration-mode.
You could hear a pin drop at Three Rivers Stadium as well as my grandmother’s living room. After the pass was broken-up, my grandmother said, “All that money down the drain.” She was referring to all the money that people spent on signs, Terrible Towels, and helmet cakes in the weeks prior to this big game.
I was in disbelief and I walked out and back over to my mom’s house, muttering, “I can’t believe they lost. I’m done! I’m done!” I was still mourning the Pirates three-straight NLCS losses as well as the Steelers’ overtime loss to the Chiefs in the AFC Wildcard game the year before. It was at this point that I thought I was snake-bitten as a fan and none of my teams would ever reach the Promised Land.
When I got to my mom’s house, I did nothing but pace back and forth in her living room–a 22-year old man just at a loss. I spent the entire week thinking the Steelers would be in the Super Bowl and there I was, once again, in disbelief after one of my teams let me down in the Big Game.
Another funny story: While I was pacing back and forth in my mom’s living room, I happened to look over at my old dog, Terry, and he was looking at me funny and cowering in the corner. He was obviously afraid of me at that very moment and probably wondering what was wrong with this raving lunatic. I didn’t notice the humor initially, but after a few days, I got a good laugh out of that. If only my dog knew the importance of that game, he’d have understood why I was acting like such an idiot.
Anyway, after I finally settled down a bit and stopped my pacing and muttering, believe it or not, I turned on the post-game radio show. Myron Cope was in the lockerroom, speaking in hushed tones as he interviewed the shocked Steeler players. I don’t think I ever heard Myron that subdued.
Speaking of radio personalities, the next morning, the late, great John Cigna, former host the KDKA morning show, was interviewing a psychologist to try and get some pointers on how Steeler fans could best handle the depression. After Cigna concluded his interview, he said, “I feel like I have the flu.” Finally, someone else said it. I thought I was the only one who ever felt that way after a devastating loss.
It was the Chargers against the 49ers in Super Bowl XXIX and even two weeks later, I was still complaining about the loss to the Chargers. My uncle Tony told me enough was enough and that I should get over it. But how could I? Freakin Stan Humphries in the Super Bowl? That weak San Diego team against the powerhouse 49ers? The Steelers blew it, case closed. It was supposed to be the organization of the 70′s going up against the organization of the 80′s for all the marbles. The winner would be the first to claim 5 Lombardi trophies.
I guess someone forgot to inform San Diego of the script.
I can’t believe I even watched the Super Bowl, but I did. Not surprisingly, it was a blow-out. San Diego was never in the game and lost, 49-26. They proved to be one of the weaker Super Bowl teams in history.
Weak Super Bowl team or not, they had what it took to come into Three Rivers Stadium and snatch the AFC Championship away from the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Steelers did recover a year later and made it to Super Bowl XXX, but January 15th, 1995 will forever be remembered as the day Steeler Nation was blind-sided and knocked to the mat by a quick Pupunu straight to The Chin.