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Hidden Play Week 9: The Rare Unicorn Where a Sack Against is a Good Thing

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 picked up a big 3rd down conversion on a pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster at the 2 minute warning.  This gave the Steelers a first down, and the teams knew they were in ‘End Game’ with the Ravens holding 2 timeouts (since they had to call their first timeout on JuJu’s first down).  First play was a run to James Conner for no gain and the Ravens used their 2nd timeout. Second down was another run to Conner, which lost a yard and ate up the Ravens’ final timeout.

Now the Steelers found themselves in an interesting position.  With 1:45 on the clock, do they run the ball and eat 40 seconds, giving the Ravens the ball back with under a minute to play and no timeouts?  Or do they pass the ball, gain a first down, and end the game on kneel downs?

Coach Mike Tomlin is anything but conservative, and he has shown time and time again, if the game can be won on offense, they will go for the first down.  In this game, another pass was called to try and have the offense win the game.  Ben Roethlisberger dropped back, surveyed the field, bought time, and held onto the football, taking a sack, and eating 9 seconds off of the game clock in the process.  The 40 second play clock started at 1:36, allowing the Steelers to take the game clock down to 57 seconds before calling timeout to set up the punt. The punt and subsequent return ticked off another 13 seconds giving the Ravens the ball back on their 24 yard line with 44 seconds left in the match.

Normally taking a sack is a bad thing, but in this instance it allowed the clock to run, and also ate more time than running a conventional rushing play (about 3-5 seconds).  Extra seconds are precious in ‘End Game’, and the Steelers effectively ended the game with a sack of their own by Stephon Tuitt, running the clock from 37 to 14 seconds before the Ravens could get off their next snap.

So thank you Big Ben, for taking the only sack of the game when your receivers were not open, eating as much time as possible, and giving your team its best chance to win the game.

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