Hidden Play: Week 12 at Denver: 2 Fumbles Hide 2 Excellent Play Calls

By G.Stryker:

Games are full of special moments.  Most are easy to see and are part of the highlight reel each week.  Some moments happen just out of the limelight of the big play, but without their efforts those big plays don’t happen.  These hidden plays can be a block, a pressure, a tip, or football IQ creating the impact that is the difference between success and failure.

The Steelers racked up 527 yards of total offense on some excellent play calling by offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner.  A lot of times during team losses, coordinators are blamed for the failures of their team’s performance.  An in depth look at the play calling for this game, will show that even if the right play is called, a terrible result can still occur.

The first play occurred during the first play of the second quarter on the Steelers’ second drive of the game.  The team trailed 3-0 and were facing a big 3rd down and 1 conversion. The Steelers line up heavy in a 22 (2 TEs 2 RBs).  David Decastro Pulls, and Roosevelt Nix is in front for a run to the right outside of the TEs who are sealing the middle of the field.  Ben Roethlisberger executes the best play action I’ve seen him do in years, and the Broncos are selling out to stop the run.

Xavier Grimble, who sealed the edge, then releases left and is WIDE OPEN.  Ben just has to give him a touch lob, and it appeared he would have an easy 24 yard, walk in touchdown.  The fates would not be on Grimble’s side, as he lost the football on a big collision, just before he crosses the goal line.  The terrible aspect of the ball going through the end zone, out of bounds, and giving it back to the Broncos was the worst possible of all results.  Instead of a terrific play call that gives the Steelers a touchdown, or at the very least, a first and goal after a big 3rd down conversion, will now be remembered for the most heart wrenching way to lose 6 points and possession.

The second big play call occurred with 18 seconds left in the 3rd quarter.  The Steelers offense was taking momentum back with a good drive that had them in Bronco territory just past midfield.  The play prior, the Steelers suffered a devastating sack and now faced a 2nd and 16. Steelers are in 11 personnel with the TE standing up away from the tackle, causing 3 receivers to the right.  

At the snap of the ball James Conner looks to block, and then spins to release as his linemen get in front of him for a nicely executed screen.  The blocks were delivered so well, Conner was able to make one cut back at the line of scrimmage to make a defender fall down and he wasn’t touched until 23 yards later, when a low tackle inexplicably causes Conner to lose control of the football and fumble it straight up into the air.  

Instead of having the ball at the 23 yard line, in field goal range, after a great play call to negate the loss of a sack, the Steelers again lost possession.  The Broncos would take that turnover to the end zone in their best drive of the game, and never relinquished the lead.

So this game is proof that, even if your offensive coordinator calls a successful day, that great job can still be hidden by costly turnovers.  

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