While Not Familiar With Making Tackles, Vance McDonald Knew The Man He Tackled

One of the most unusual plays of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ early season—really, of the NFL season so far—was the blocked field goal at the end of the first half as time expired. The Bears were able to block it with pressure around the left wing.

The ball proceeded to bounce directly to the Bears defender on the opposite side of the field, who was able to scoop it up and run with it, setting himself up for an easy touchdown, only to inexplicably let up ahead of the end zone, which led to Vance McDonald chasing him down from behind and knocking the ball loose.

Adding to the oddity of the play is the fact that they player was cornerback Marcus Cooper, who just so happened to be a draft pick in the 2013 class for the 49ers—the same class as McDonald. San Francisco took McDonald in the second round with the 55th-overall pick, while Cooper was their last pick in the seventh round, the 252nd pick in the draft.

Cooper actually did not make the 49ers’ roster, but as a draft classmate, he and McDonald got to know each other well regardless. And while said he didn’t see him after the game, I’m sure he’s talked to him by now.

I didn’t really know what Coop was thinking” by slowing down on that play, he told reporters after the game. “I played with Coop out in San Fran. He’s gonna be looking that one over again and wishing he had it back for sure”.

“As a wing, you never want to hear the double thud” of the ball off the kicker’s foot, then off of another player, “and so I knew there was pressure coming from the other side, my job is just to kind of stop the bleeding if something really bad happens, so that’s kind of what I was thinking”, he recalled of the play.

Mike Tomlin doesn’t like to use defensive players in return roles on special teams because they don’t have a lot of experience handling the football, but offensive players also don’t have a lot of experience chasing people down and tackling them.

McDonald admitted as much, saying that “as an offensive player you’re not really in that position often, pursuing someone, so it just kind of makes running easy when you have someone to catch”. He added, “I was just surprised he stopped and gave me an opportunity to save something really bad from happening”.

“I just hit the ball as hard as I could, I have no idea where it went”, he said, as he tomahawked the ball out of his former teammate’s hand. The ball proceeded to trickle into the end zone where bodies went diving for it. Punter Jordan Berry, the holder on the play, was down there to punch it out of the end zone, which drew an illegal batting penalty—such a rare call that the officials barely knew what to do.

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Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • Charles Mullins

    Hes a punter… he could have been trying to grab it… they don’t use their arms often…

  • LucasY59

    they are taught to knock it out of the endzone on bad snaps (so there is no chance for the opposition to get it and get a TD, so I dont blame Berry at all for what he did, he gave great effort to still be in position to do what he did (not many punters are known for their sprinting ability so for him to not be 10 yds out of the play is impressive IMO) it was a frustrating play all around, but limiting them to 3 pts instead of 7 was a good thing

  • Charles Mullins

    Yeah, he did a great job. Problem is that his great job was the worst case scenario. Owell. If they would have fell on the ball it would have been spotted at the 1/2 yard line and time would have ran out.

  • LucasY59

    If he wouldve fallen on the ball it would be a TB (or a Safety is what the Bears coaches thought on the play) either wouldve been better than a FG, but a FG is better than a TD, and since we cant change the what ifs, I still think what he did was better than nothing at all

  • dennisdoubleday

    I read that only the fumbler could have recovered it for a TD, and he was tackled by McDonald. So Berry really should have tried to fall on it. Ah well, it was just a quick reaction.

  • RMSteeler

    Pretty sure it was a field goal attempt.

  • RMSteeler

    Punters are taught that to take a safety by batting the ball. Don’t know what they tell FG kickers. I did expect to see a safety called for batting the ball out of bounds. Don’t ever recall seeing a kicker run 70 yards to even have a chance do what he did. That was impressive though.

  • Charles Mullins

    Yup. If we cant figure out what it should have been 2 days later you can blame Berry. Still worst case scenario.

  • Charles Mullins

    And the punter was the holder who knocked the ball out of the endzone for a penalty which turned into a field goal on extended play time.

  • LucasY59

    yeah never gonna happen on a FG, unless its something weird like this, but Berry’s punter instinct was to bat the ball

  • LucasY59

    yep he should have and it wouldve been a TB, but it was such a weird play all around that I cant fault Berry

  • razaard2

    He is the punter not the kicker

  • razaard2

    Amazing effort from both McDonald and Berry. Unbelievable that it wasn’t enough to shake the team to come back and snag a win

  • RMSteeler

    Yeah, got mixed up. Forgot he held the ball!

  • RMSteeler

    Yes. Never seen anything like it. Refs seemed to figure it out pretty quickly though.

  • Sdale

    Has anyone figured out why, with the Bears getting a penalty on the one non-timed play after the batting penalty, that wasn’t the end of the half? I didn’t think it mattered if the Bears penalty was pre-snap or post-snap. Why did they get the chance to kick the FG?

  • Kevin Reich

    Pretty bad the bears get rewared for that play. Should be a touchback.

  • LucasY59

    there is still a lot left to figure out on that play imo

  • John Phillips

    Quickly? Half the players already left the field an where in the locker room.

  • John Phillips

    Great question. Wish I knew the answer.