The Catch That Saved Christmas

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Antonio Brown stretching the ball across the goal line became an instant iconic moment in Pittsburgh sports history.

With 1:18 left in the game, it was looking like the Baltimore Ravens had all but ended the Steelers season. With a loss, the Steelers only scenerio to make the playoffs would have been for the Bengals to beat the Ravens on the road next week, paired with a Steelers win over the Browns. But this is the time for Christmas miracles, for the Killer B’s to do what the Killer B’s do, and move the ball 75 yards to finish off the hated Baltimore Ravens. The first half fit the script for the type of games these two teams play, physical and low scoring. The good news for the Steelers was that LeVeon Bell was finding cracks in the Baltimore defense and picking up yardage to draw their safeties closer to the box.

The second half started off horribly for the Steelers. On the first play following the kickoff, Ben Roethlisberger’s overthrown ball missed tight end David Johnson and found Baltimore linebacker Zachary Orr. A few plays later, Joe Flacco hit Steve Smith Sr. down the seam for a touchdown, then again on the two point conversion to put the Ravens up 14-7. The Steelers would respond with a 36 yard field goal following an 8 play 65 yard drive, the big play being a 39 yard pass to Eli Rogers, that left the Steelers trailing 14-10. On the Ravens following drive, a Justin Tucker 46 yard field goal pushed the Baltimore lead back to seven at 17-10.

On the second play of the ensuing drive, looking to make something happen, Ben threw his second interception on a pass intended for Jesse James. At the Steelers 39, Ravens linebacker CJ Mosely cut in front of James and returned the ball to the Steelers 11. For the second straight time, the defense rose up and held the Ravens to a field goal, which extended their lead to 20-10 going in to the fourth quarter. With a little under fifteen minutes to go, the the Killer B’s took over trailing by 10 points.

With 14:18 left in the game, the Steelers took over on their own 25. On first down, LeVeon Bell was stopped behind the line for a loss of 2 yards. On 2nd and 12, Ben Roethlisberger hit Jesse James down the middle with a 21 yard pass, out to the Pittsburgh 44. On 1st and 10, Roethlisberger threw a pass on the left side to Antonio Brown, who took it 6 yards, out to midfield. Ben then went deep down the left side, on 2nd and 4, t0 Demarcus Ayers, who drew a pass interference call on cornerback Tavon Young at the Raven 15 yard line. After an 8 yard pass to Antonio Brown at the Baltimore 7, LeVeon Bell finished the drive off with a touchdown run to the left corner of the endzone, cutting the Ravens lead to three.

With the Steelers trailing 20-17, the defense came up big again, holding the Ravens offense to a three and out and giving the offense the ball with 10:05 left. The Steelers however did not take very much time in reclaiming a 24-20 lead. Using six plays to go 90 yards in 2:49, Ben Roethlisberger finished the drive off with a short pass to Bell, who willed his way into the endzone by plowing through a plethora of Raven defenders at the goal line. The drive was highlighted by a 23 yard LeVeon Bell run, and passes of 33 and 26 yards to Antonio Brown. With 7:16 standing between the Steelers and an AFC North title, the defense needed to come up with one last stop.

One thing about Joe Flacco is that once he gets rattled, he makes crucial mistakes. If he can maintain his composure though, he is as deadly as anyone. On the Ravens last drive, Flacco stayed within himself and turned to a little used fullback out of Harvard, Kyle Juszczyk, to convert a crucial third down, one of three conversions on the drive, and for the gritty 10 yard touchdown run to give the Ravens a 27-24 lead with 1:18 left in the game. It was certainly looking like the Ravens were going to walk away with the win for the seventh time in eight games, but the way Ben and the offense had been moving the ball against the Ravens defense the last three drives, it definitely wasn’t over yet.

It’s hard to keep Antonio Brown in check for an entire half the way the Ravens did. It’s even harder knowing that no matter what you do, Brown will eventually come back to get you, and when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers offense, they have other weapons that can soften up your defense before Brown finishes you off. That is a thought that had to be going through John Harbaugh’s mind as Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense took the field with 1:18 left in the game. While Ben Roethlisberger did go to Brown to pick up the intial first down on the final drive, it was a 16 yard pass down the middle to a high hurdling Jesse James, and a tremendous grab by Eli Rogers for another 20 yards that put the Steelers in position to put the game away for good. Following another completion to Jesse James at the Baltimore 4, Ben rushed to spiked the ball with 14 seconds left on the clock.

Out of the shotgun on 2nd and 4, Ben hit Antonio Brown on a quick slant, just short of the goal line. Three Ravens defenders quickly converged on Brown, Eric Weddell, Zachary Orr, and Jerraud Powers. Three Ravens on one Antonio Brown should have been more than enough to keep Brown out of the endzone, but three on one, when it involves AB, is an unfair fight….for the other three. Nobody works harder or is more determined to win than Brown, and he would not be denied at the goal line. With a great sense of field awareness, Antonio Brown extended his left arm as far as he could to break the plane of the goal line just before he was taken down at the 1. It’s a play that has been dubbed as the “Immaculate Extension”.

Nobody delivers like Brown, and he has proved it once again. In the first half, Antonio Brown was held to one catch for 7 yards, which came on the game’s opening drive. He finished the game with 10 receptions for 96 yards and a touchdown, which happened to be the most important touchdown of the season. It’s no accident that number 84 comes up big in the biggest moments, or that Ben looks for him at those times, simply because no one is more prepared for them. The Ravens knew that Ben was looking for Brown, and still, they could not stop him. His epic battle at the goal line not only ended the Baltimore Ravens post season dream’s, but at the same time, within Steelernation, his effort gave us the catch that saved Christmas. That’s what Brown can do for you.

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