Steelers Week 3 Turning Point: Field Goal Block

In a game full of big plays and turnovers, it was the last few seconds of the first half that stole the headlines in this week’s Pittsburgh Steelers loss to the Chicago Bears.

In a highlight that you will surely see plenty of times over the next week, Bears cornerback Sherrick McManis sped past Steelers tight end Xavier Grimble on the left side of the line and blocked a Chris Boswell field goal attempt with 6-seconds left in the first half. In a perfect scenario of events (for the Bears), the ball bounced right into the arms of cornerback Marcus Cooper. With nothing but grass in front of him, Cooper was thinking touchdown all the way.

Luckily for the Steelers, Cooper decided to act on that a bit early and in paying homage to former Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman Leon Lett, Cooper slowed up just before crossing the goal-line which started a very odd sequence of events. As a television viewer of the game, you could see new Steelers tight end Vance McDonald and punter/holder Jordan Berry chasing not too far behind Cooper, showing tremendous effort to not give up on the play.

McDonald was able to swat the ball out of Cooper’s hands at the one-yard-line which caused both players to fall and remove themselves from the rest of the play. Much to Berry’s credit, his great effort in chasing the play down from behind put him in position to make a play on the loose football. Due to the speed of the game, I am almost 100% sure that Berry did not have the time to make an informed decision as to what to do.  He quickly dove and punched the ball out of the back of the end zone, which led to an untimed down for the Bears at the Steelers one-yard-line and later the 6-yard line after Bears false start. Ultimately, when everything was settled, the Bears kicked a field goal and were rewarded three points as the first half expired.

This is where the play gets tricky. It is hard to blame Berry for this decision as he had no way of knowing how the game would eventually turn out and that his actions would ultimately cost the Steelers three points in a game that eventually went to overtime. Also, it is fair to say that Berry’s main goal was to make sure that the Bears did not score a touchdown by falling on the football.  His actions obviously support that argument and once again, it is hard to argue against his thinking. Football is a game of inches and a lot of games are decided by just a few points.  If the Steelers end up winning the game by four points or less, the narrative completely changes and we are talking about how Berry’s decision helped win the game.

In a game where the Steelers rush defense got exploited greatly and the offense couldn’t convert late turnovers into points, there are far larger reasons for the loss other than Berry.  Even when just examining this play, it seems the snap, hold, and Boswell’s motion went on without a hitch. Grimble was simply not able to secure the left edge to protect against the rush.  I have watched this play over 20 times already and still cannot put my finger on to the exact reason why.  Grimble most definitely did get off the ball a lot slower than you would like.  Also, it looks as if he may have gotten pulled inside by his right arm from someone in the scrum.  This is something that I will examine more as better camera angles and the all 22 become available.

The Steelers fall to the Bears 23-17 in overtime will hopefully go down as a much-needed wake-up call.  Week 4 will showcase a tough division matchup against the Baltimore Ravens on the road.  With both teams coming off a disappointing loss, this Week 4 matchup should be a very interesting one.

  • pdupuis

    A lot of edges were not secured in the Bears game by the Steelers. Can staff make adjustments (roster or otherwise) AND will this be a wake up call for those who get a helmet on game day?

  • pdupuis

    Watching that replay I’m glad Berry didn’t end up hurting his ankle.

  • Jones

    Not mad at JB. He’s the absolute least of our worries. His options were to punch it out and trust the D, let it roll and risk a Bears TD, or grab it and give up a sure safety. He thought quickly and picked the option that gave the Bears the lowest (although still high) probability of scoring. Good for him.

  • stan

    Lost in that discussion is that Berry hustled down the field at almost the same speed as McDonald in order to do the same thing McDonald did- and that the Bears may well have gotten a touchdown anyway if Berry wasn’t there to make sure the Bears didn’t recover.
    Sure, the Steelers win the game if Berry falls on the ball or flips it out a little less obviously, but that’s still a great play and not one that you’ll often see from a punter.

  • WreckIess

    Still wish Berry could’ve grabbed it. The Martavis TD drop, the blocked kick, the muffed punt, the long Cohen run/blatant hold. That game was just full of tide turning moments and we were always on the wrong sides of them. Ending the half with a touchback could’ve been the thing they needed.

  • LucasY59

    Berry is trained as a punter on botched snaps that go into the EZ to knock it out for a Safety instead of a TD (and even in this situation a FG is better than a TD) but from what I understand him recovering it wouldve made it a Touchback, like I said his instinct/training is to bat it so I dont blame him…and really other than not having the kick blocked, or the idoit slowing down so the ball can be knocked away it wouldnt even matter, but that play was definitely a turning point, a 6 pt swing to end the half

  • LucasY59

    I dont think it would be a safety (but that would be the better option between it and what actually happened 2 pts vs 3) but since the Bears player (idiot) had possession the Steelers were the defensive players so it cant be a safety (and wouldve been the best outcome of all the scenarios)

  • I sure wish someone would explain why the Bears wouldn’t have scored 6 if they fell on the ball in the endzone. Yes, he lost the ball on the one, but it was driven into the endzone due to Mcdonald swatting it–not because Cooper fumbled it forward intentionally. Has the NFL or any former officials commented on this definitively?

  • Uncle Rico.

    Snap to kick was too slow. GIF it at your greatest frames per second and see how many frames it took from snap to kick. Even at 33 frames per second, you can do this precisely. Then go back and do the same for a sample of other kicks this season. And for good measure/comparison, go back to last year to see what it was with Warren. In the NFL, snap to kick is 1.2 to 1.3 seconds. Warren was a little under that. And Canaday is on the high side of that range, normally. On that kick it was 1.39. Might not seem like a big difference, but it is. My gif software caps out at 33 frames per second. Canaday’s sample was 42 to 43 frames. On this kick it was 46. If yours is the same, back up to the 43rd frame and see where McManis is and judge whether you think Boswell gets the kick off. In my opinion, he does.

  • Uncle Rico.

    Doesn’t have to be an intentional fumble. Under 2 minutes, or maybe 4 minutes, can’t remember, fumbles can’t be advanced. If recovered by the fumbling team, the ball goes back to the spot of the fumble. Which was the 1 yard line. Since time had elapsed, the half would’ve been over. Post fumble, the only bad outcome for the steelers was a defensive penalty. But that’s a lot to expect anyone to process in the moment.

  • Thanks! Good explanation–very clear and concise.

  • Good assessment! Question, was this then Canaday’s fault, the holder’s, or the kicker’s? It looks as if Boswell hesitated extra-long before approaching the ball. Berry seemed to secure the snap and set the placement smoothly and quick.