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Week 5 rundown: Steelers face surging SD

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Oct 5, 2005.

  1. robdog
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    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

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    Source: <a href="http://msn.foxsports.com/nfl/story/4932404" target="_blank">Fox Sports</a>

    By Michael Tanier

    Steelers at Chargers: Two weeks ago, the Steelers lost to the Patriots thanks to a clock meltdown that would have made Salvador Dali proud. A substitute timekeeper (the regular guy called in sick) actually added 52 seconds to the game clock early in the fourth quarter, but no one noticed. The Patriots used this glitch-in-the-Matrix bonus minute to execute a 37-yard drive and kick the winning field goal.

    Of course, the guy in the press box wasn't the only person in Pittsburgh to have brain cramps that day. Antwaan Randle El marred an otherwise excellent performance with a no-look lateral to Hines Ward that won't be appearing in fast food commercials anytime soon. Then there were the defensive lapses in that final drive. The Patriots were out of timeouts, yet the Steelers allowed two running backs to catch short passes over the middle, gain significant yardage, and scamper out of bounds to stop the clock. Letting Kevin Faulk do it is one thing, but Patrick Pass? He's so slow that fans could have driven down from Zelienople to tackle him before he reached the sidelines.

    Despite the loss, the Steelers remain one of the two or three best teams in the NFL. But they face a major challenge this week: The Chargers have officially bounced back from their 0-2 start and are picking up where they left off last season.

    The Steelers and Chargers are similar in many ways. Both teams use a zone-blitzing 3-4 defense. Both teams love to run the ball, particularly on first down - the Steelers run the ball 70 percent of the time on first down, the Chargers 65 percent of the time; both figures are among the highest in the league. Both quarterbacks can rack up big numbers when the running game is clicking.

    The key for the Steelers will be applying pressure up the middle; Brees had trouble when the Cowboys and Broncos brought heat up the gut. The Steelers are masters of the interior blitz; look for them to focus on stopping LaDainian Tomlinson on early downs, then to attack Drew Brees on third-and-long. Offensively, the Steelers will keep the heat off with the help of a healthy three-headed backfield. Willie Parker will get most of the work, but Jerome Bettis and Duce Staley are both ready to get back in the action.

    The Steelers also need Ben Roethlisberger to re-focus after a wild 'n' crazy bye week: the second-year quarterback took his sister to her homecoming dance last weekend. They say that a tie is just like kissing your sister. Losing by three due to dumb plays and clock malfunctions must be just like taking her to a dance.

    Eagles at Cowboys: With Donovan McNabb battling through a sports hernia, the Eagles defense and special teams had to play their "A" game to beat a quality opponent on the road, right?

    Nope. The Eagles defense mixed big plays with big lapses last week against the Chiefs. Their usually reliable special teams were horrible: a blocked field goal, a botched extra point, a kickoff return touchdown allowed, a fumbled kickoff. Despite the mistakes, the Eagles overcame a 17-0 deficit to win the game. The Chiefs figured that the key to stopping the Eagles was stopping runner/receiver Brian Westbrook. So they focused on Westbrook and let Terrell Owens run free. Great strategy.

    The Cowboys, meanwhile, looked great in Week 1 but have shifted into reverse. They folded against the Redskins, struggled against the Niners, and came out flat against the Raiders. Drew Bledsoe is starting to lapse into bad habits, ignoring his check-down receivers and throwing deep on every play. He threw for just 212 yards against one of the worst secondaries in the NFL last week, and 130 of those yards came on two plays. The Eagles secondary is loaded with Pro Bowl players who won't get burned deep.

    The Eagles have won nine of their last 10 meetings with the Cowboys, often by scores of 49-21, 44-13, and 27-3. And then there's Owens, whose eyes light up when he sees that big star in the middle of the field. Unless Bledsoe and Bill Parcells have some surprises in the playbook, this game will be over quickly.

    Bengals at Jaguars: I'm on the Bengals bandwagon. Been there since Week 1. I'm not driving, but I'm in the front seat, fiddling with the CD changer and the climate control, which explains the icicles on the windshield and the non-stop System of a Down.

    But I'm picking the Jaguars this week. Why? Because Jacksonville's Marcus Stroud and John Henderson are two of the best defensive tackles in football, and the Bengals have major injury problems at center. Starter Rick Braham will likely play hurt because backup Larry Moore suffered a more serious injury last week.

    Neither Stroud nor Henderson has registered a sack this season, but they'll push the pocket with one of them facing a banged-up Braham. They'll have to provide some heat, because the Jaguars offense is up to its old tricks. On the team's first six drives against the Broncos, the Jaguars executed a total of 18 plays for 48 yards, producing five punts, one fumble, and no points. They showed signs of life late in the game, but why do the Jaguars always wait until the second half to start scoring?

    Look for the typical three-point Jaguars win this week, not to be confused with the typical three-point Jaguars loss. And look for me to ride shotgun on the Bengals bandwagon until Week 7.

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