Every win from here on out will probably be coupled with some sort of exclamation like, "What a win!" There are no shitty wins in the playoffs, and each victory is special in its own way.
Yesterday, the Steelers made it clear that they wanted no part of another 11-10 pissfest. The 35-24 final was actually a lot closer than the story of the game. We let the same thing happen as the last time we played San Diego...an early touchdown allowed followed by defensive dominance. Since it is the playoffs, you don't think about things like allowing the opposing QB to pass for over 300 yards when we allowed one TEAM to accumulate 300 in an entire game...you just take the win however you can get it.
I hope this win doesn't inflate the egos of the fans as the early season win against the Texans did. Everyone lauded our brilliance as a complete team, something that was again evident against the Chargers on Sunday night. But it takes one iffy game, especially now in the playoffs, to destroy any delusions of grandeur.
We're finishing up with the final few MMCNYs, so let's just get to the rankings.
Sasso. The critics have been officially silenced. Ben played like he's never been concussed, or the concussion gave him some superhero abilities. As in, Ben's concussion = Spider Man's radioactive spiderbite. I haven't seen Ben's passes so crisp in...well, ever. He's put together good passing performances before, but opposing fans are always quick to point to his lower-level play come playoffs. He let Willie run the ball about 700 times before he even threw a pass, and after a weak start, finished with respectable numbers and no turnovers. Ben executed the gameplan to perfection, so he gets a perfect 5 of 5 motorcycle helmets.
Willie. But Ben couldn't do everything that he did without Willie. 146 rush yards, 2 TDs and a 5.4 yard average. Willie looked like he was tired of all the Sproles-love from the past week, and wanted to remind the NFL that when healthy, he's one of the supreme ground talents in the game. Maybe I'm too awestruck by the win, or blinded by the fact that it's the playoffs, but I ave to open with 2 perfects. 5 of 5 motorcycle helmets. Now do that to Baltimore!
Santonio/Hines. Showed up! You look at Santonio's line and see 2 catches and a reverse. But then you remember that his punt return TD was our only offense for almost half of the game. After the O came to life, Hines made clutch grab after clutch grab, destroying third downs like they were nothing. Together, they had less than 100 yards combined receiving and no touchdown receptions, but their combined efforts really meant something in this game. 4 of 5 motorcycle helmets.
Berger. Yeah. That was a 48 yard average. 4 of 5 motorcycle helmets.
Defense. In the weirdest stat of all time, the D let Philip Rivers pass for over 300 yards, but kept the Chargers to only 290 yards of total offense. I guess that can be classified as a push...and the house wins on a push in Pittsburgh. Sproles did what he was going to do, and padded his stats with a nice long touchdown catch and run after the game was nearly decided. I'll look at holding the Chargers O to 1 offensive play in the third quarter, and the fact that we created turnovers when I'm relating this to our game for next week. The final word is that the D, while allowing a few yards, really limited the Chargers after the initial and potentially devastating scoring drive. 4 of 5 motorcycle helmets.
Home field advantage. We'll see you in Pittsburgh again, Baltimore!