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The Pittsburgh Steelers stunned the Indianapolis Colts today, 21-18, knocking the Colts out of the playoffs just a month after the Colts had challenged the 1972 Dolphins for the only perfect season in NFL history. The Steelers had to hold off a late charge from Peyton Manning as well as two bad calls by the referees, one which almost handed the game to Indianapolis:
The Pittsburgh Steelers gave the Colts every opportunity to steal their playoff game Sunday.
In the zany, final moments of a true thriller, Indy couldn't figure out how to take it.
So the Steelers survived a goal-line fumble by Jerome Bettis and one of the most mysterious replay reversals in NFL history to shatter the Colts' dream season with a 21-18 win. Pittsburgh (13-5) became the first sixth seed to make a conference championship game and will journey to Denver next Sunday for a shot at the Super Bowl.
They will do so breathlessly.
This victory should have been so much easier. The Steelers dominated the Colts (14-3) until a fourth quarter with almost unimaginable twists and turns that ended when Mike Vanderjagt missed his first field goal at home, wide right from 46 yards. Vanderjagt then slammed his helmet to the turf, obviously forgetting how fortunate he was to have the chance.
The Troy Palomalu interception could not have been more clear; both his knees hit the turf while he possessed the ball and rolled over twice, fumbling only after he got up to run the ball and quickly covering it himself. The referee's decision to reverse the call on the field stunned even the Colts, although they quickly took advantage of it to score their final touchdown. After converting the two-point play, the Colts defense gave the offense one more chance to win the game, but the Steelers shut the Colts down on their own two-yard line with 80 seconds left in the game.
In a weird finish, the Steelers could not just take a knee because the Colts had all three of their timeouts left -- and it would have forced Pittsburgh to kick a field goal and give the ball back to Manning with a six-point deficit. Instead, they gave the ball to the Bus, who hadn't lost a fumble all year -- and he promptly coughed it up in a play that looked reminiscent of the Eagles-Giants Pisarcik play. Only a foot tackle by Ben Roethlisberger saved the game for Pittsburgh. Unbelievably, Vanderjagt missed a 46-yard field goal wide right -- and I mean wide, wide, WIDE right -- to lose the game to Pittsburgh.
The other terrible call actually was a non-call in the first half. The Steelers had already established a 14-0 lead over the Colts and had their offense moving again. Roethlisberger threw to Antwaan Randle El downfield about twenty yards, well within field-goal range and for what would have been a first down. Nick Sharper, who played through an injury inflicted by his wife last night (a stab wound to his thigh that required three stitches), tackled Randle El well before the ball arrived, which bounced off of his hands. No flag came out despite the clear mugging that Sharper put on Randle El, and the drive stalled out, allowing the Colts to answer with a field goal.
Now the AFC championship looks much different than it did yesterday. Denver will host the game instead of traveling to Indy, which will make Broncos fans delighted. However, Pittsburgh plays well outside and in tough weather, and they match up well with Denver on both sides of the line. Both teams have to be happy with today's results.Sphere It View blog reactions
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