In an unusual playoff weekend, only one of the favorites managed to defend their home field advantage. Fortunately, that one team was the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Steelers defeated the San Diego Chargers 35-24 in a game that looked like old fashioned Steelers football. The Steelers ran the ball, controlled the clock, and played stingy defense. Sound familiar?
Willie Parker ran for 146 yards on 27 carries. That’s a 5.4 yard per carry average. Not a bad day’s work.
The Steelers ran the ball 42 times while only throwing the ball 27 times. That’s probably not a bad ratio, particularly when the running game is working as well as it was on Sunday.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed 17 of 26 passes for 181 yards. More importantly, Roethlisberger avoided careless turnovers. He threw no interceptions, and never fumbled the ball. Roethlisberger did take several long attempts downfield that just missed their intended receivers. Though the long bombs missed their intended receivers, they were enough to keep the defense honest.
On the defensive side of the ball, the NFL’s #1 ranked defense held the Chargers to 15 yards rushing. Total. In the whole game. That is impressive under any circumstances, but considering that Chargers’ running back Darren Sproles had torched the Indianapolis Colts’ defense for 328 all-purpose yards last week, it is absolutely astounding. Sproles averaged 1.4 yards per carry, and his longest carry was only 8 yards.
But the most impressive aspect of the entire game was probably the third quarter. The Steelers controlled the ball so effectively that the Chargers only got to run one play from scrimmage during the entire quarter. Their total time of possession during the quarter was less then 20 seconds. it’s pretty hard to score when you don’t get to touch the ball.
So the Steelers move on to the AFC Championship against the Baltimore Ravens. The Steelers have already beaten the Ravens twice this season. Now they’ll have to do it a third time if they hope to move on to the Super Bowl. As they say, “three’s a charm”.
On the NFC side, the Arizona Cardinals defeated the highly favored Carolina Panthers to move on to the NFC championship. Former Steelers coaches Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm will lead the Cardinals to the NFC championship game for the first time in……….. well, it’s been so long that I don’t think anyone really remembers the last time it happened. Suffice it to say that it was a looooonnnng time ago.
Finally, the Philadelphia Eagles ousted the defending Super Bowl champions, the New York Giants, to move onto the final four.
The Steelers-Ravens and Cardinals-Eagles will meet next week to determine which two teams will meet in the Super Bowl. Stay tuned.
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