By Matthew Marczi
The Pittsburgh Steelers enter the second half trailing 14-10, but received the opening kickoff.
On first down, Ben Roethlisberger found Antonio Brown for 11 yards. He dumped a pass off to Brown for 6 yards on the next play. Le’Veon Bell picked up about three on second down to set up third and a long one. But it could have been a short one and they wouldn’t have gotten it, as Bell was once again stopped in the backfield.
However, the Steelers broke out a trick play with punter Mat McBriar finding David Paulson down the field, all the way to the 13. Roethlisberger took off and ran it in himself on the next play to put the Steelers up 17-14.
Now trailing, the Green Bay Packers took over from the 20. Matt Flynn’s first pass was over his receiver’s head, but Eddie Lacy gained seven on second down to make it third and manageable. Jarrett Boykin caught the ball right at the line for the first down.
After a four-yard run by James Starks, Flynn’s long pass again went over the head of his intended target, setting up third and six. Stevenson Sylvester had a sack on third down, but offsetting penalties negated the play. On the second third and six play, fullback John Kuhn took a draw nine yards.
Cameron Heyward deflected Flynn’s pass on first down. On second and 10, Flynn ran a bootleg and had to throw the ball away, but a hold on Jason Worilds gave the Packers an automatic first down.
Ziggy Hood was allowed to get into the backfield on first down, forcing Flynn to throw the ball at his receivers’ feet. On second down, Lacy was able to gain about three yards. Flynn once again found Boykin, however, for another frustrating conversion.
The Packers sent Flynn on another bootleg, and this time his pass was out of bounds. William Gay made a good tackle to hold Lacy to two yards on second down. The pass on third down was wide and incomplete.
The punt was downed on the two-yard line. On first down, Bell carried the ball and just barely got out of the end zone. He fumbled the ball—the first time in his career—and it was recovered by Green Bay at the three. Vince Williams fought off a block to make a tackle for a two-yard loss. On second down, Flynn tossed the ball out the back of the end zone after briefly considering running it. On third down, five-wide, Flynn’s pass was nowhere near his receiver.
The Steelers blocked the field goal, courtesy of Steve McLendon. In the skirmish following the block, Ziggy Hood was flagged for illegally batting the ball forward, giving the Packers the ball back, half the distance to the goal. The officially incorrectly ruled that Ryan Clark never had possession of the ball. Lacy ran it in for the go-ahead touchdown on the next play.
Taking over at the 32, Bell burst up the middle, leaping over a defender for 25 yards. After three more yards, an unnecessary roughness penalty gave the Steelers a first down. Jonathan Dwyer picked up seven on the next play. On second and three, Dwyer caught the pas short and fell, but got up before he was touched down and gained seven yards.
From the 11, Roethlisberger found Matt Spaeth on only his second target of the year in the end zone to re-take the lead at 24-21.
The Packers returned the opening kickoff to the 40, but Flynn was run into by the h-back, affecting the throw. Cortez Allen took advantage, picking off the pass to take at 31-21 lead.
The Packers got off another return, but a hold brought it back to the 15. On first down, another hold made it half the distance to the goal. Lacy gained a few yards on first down, but then left the game. An incomplete pass set up third and 14. Yet another forced Green Bay to punt.
However, Roethlisberger hung a pass low on first down, which was intercepted by AJ Hawk. An unnecessary roughness penalty on Spaeth gave the Packers the ball on the 23. A hold on second down made it third and 16 on what would have set up a first and goal on a quarterback scramble.
On the very next play, Flynn found James Jones for a first down for 20 yards. On first and goal, James Starks got down to the six, and to the four on second down. On third and goal, Flynn’s pass was off target to a receiver being boxed out from the far corner of the end zone. The field goal made it a one-possession game at 31-24.
Starting from the 20, Bell was stopped for no gain on first down. On third and four, Roethlisberger’s pass to Brown was too wide to force a punt, giving the Packers the ball on their own 42 to start the drive.
Heyward tackled Starks after a gain of six on first down. On second and four, he wrestled his way for five yards to cross midfield. Flynn found Jordy Nelson running away from Gay across the middle of the field down to the 16. A gain of six by Starks placed the Packers on the 10.
Starks pounded his way for nine yards to set up first and goal from the one. On the next play, Kuhn took the fullback handoff into the end zone to tie the game.
Felix Jones mishandled the kickoff on was tackled on the 11. On first down, he went deep for Brown, but the pass was a bit too deep. On second down, Roethlisberger reversed field to find Brown for a catch and run of 28 yards, in the process breaking the single-season franchise record for receiving yards.
After a four-yard gain and an incomplete pass to Brown, Roethlisberger’s pass on third and six went to Heath Miller, but was shy of the first down. The Steelers went for it on fourth down. Roethlisberger found Will Johnson for the conversion, but a defensive holding would have given them a first down regardless.
Bell gained just four yards on first and second down to set up third and six on Green Bay’s 42. Roethlisberger’s pass hung up short to Bell, which would have converted. Instead, the Steelers had to punt.
The Packers began from the eight with three minutes to play. Brett Keisel brought Flynn down for the sack for a three-yard loss. A good open-field tackle after a screen pass made it third and eight at the two-minute warning. Flynn scrambled on third down, but Troy Polamalu ripped the ball loose and Keisel recovered on the 17.
The Steelers took over with 1:51 to play, but the Packers retained all of their timeouts. They used their first timeout after a two-yard carry by Bell. On second and eight, they went to the air, but Roethlisberger’s pass was too high. Brown was open in the end zone for a touchdown. On third and eight, five-wide, Roethlisberger’s pass to Bell was well short of the first down.
Amazingly, the Packers were drawn offsides on the field goal attempt, giving the Steelers a first down. Bell picked up four yards down to the one as the Packers used their final timeout with 1:25 to play. Bell punched it in for his seventh touchdown of the season to go ahead 38-31.
The Packers returned the kickoff all the way down to the Steelers’ own 31 with 1:14 remaining. On first down, Nelson gained seven yards and got out of bounds. A 19-yard catch and run set up first and goal from the five. Starks got down to the one on first down. A false start added a 10-second run off, making it second and goal from the six with 10 seconds left. With the clock running, Flynn was forced to snap the ball. His pass with Taylor in coverage was incomplete. The Steelers won, 38-31, and remained alive heading into the final week of the season.