Strip sack, fumble, Safety sealed the win but could have been called back
Troy Polamalu finished off the Patriots game with 5 total tackles, but it was a key play late in the game that helped seal the victory.
With literally just seconds left to go in the game, Tom Brady drops back for what looks to be a final hail mary play in the making. Down by 6 with no timeouts left he takes the snap and drop back, looking and trying to buy time while his receivers get down field. The pocket collapses and Brady moves to his left. Brett Keisel is getting held but relentlessly trying to fight out of it and just at the last second he is able to push through and sack Tom Brady, stripping the ball. As Patriot and Steelers players alike scramble to fall on it amidst a Heinz Field crowd going berserk, Troy Polamalu dives for it and punches it back towards the endzone. Ziggy Hood is sprinting as far as he can to try and jump on it before it goes out of the endzone.
He was able to fall on it inbounds but his momentum carried him out and the officials ruled, after a replay review confirmation, that it was a Safety because Hood didn't have control in bounds. Either way the Steelers victory was assured and Ben simply needed to take 1 final knee to run out the clock.
Keep in mind, Troy could have been called for a penalty for punching the ball, which might have given the Patriots the ball back with about 8 seconds to go. Fortunately amidst the chaos and flying bodies everywhere the officials did not see him do it or otherwise chose not to call it. Either way the Steelers dodged a bullet but nonetheless credit Polamalu, Keisel, and Hood for the game saving play.
Brett Keisel stripped it, Troy Polamalu punched it, and Ziggy Hood chased it down while it rolled out of the end zone.
A loose ball, courtesy of Keisel's strip sack in the waning seconds Sunday, led to a frantic scramble for the ball and a safety that sealed the Steelers' 25-17 victory against the New England Patriots at Heinz Field.
After throwing a 1-yard touchdown pass that brought the Patriots to within 23-17 with 2:35 left, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady got the ball back at his 22-yard line with 19 seconds remaining.
To cover 78 yards in such a short time would have been improbable but not impossible.
On first down, Keisel made the point moot when he crashed in and dislodged the ball from Brady's grasp.
"To come up with a play at the end that helps you win makes you feel good," said Keisel, the only Steelers player aside from LaMarr Woodley to sack Brady yesterday. "I expect myself to make plays. I didn't make very many today, but that was a big play."
The ensuing scramble for the ball evoked memories of the Dave Casper play, a controversial 1978 fumble in which the former Oakland Raiders tight end knocked a teammate's loose ball into the end zone and pounced on it for the winning score.
It resulted in the NFL changing its rules on fumbles advanced in the final two minutes of a game. Only the fumbling player can recover and advance the ball; otherwise, it is a dead ball at the spot of the fumble.
But the "Casper Rule" pertains to fumbles advanced by the offensive team, not the defensive squad.
Polamalu dived for the loose ball amid a scrum of Patriots and poked it toward the end zone. Hood dived on the ball but not before it had rolled out of the end zone, turning a potential Steelers touchdown into a safety with eight seconds remaining.
"I didn't want them to get another shot," Polamalu said. "I saw it was two-on-one, so I tried my best to get it out of their reach."
Did Polamalu intentionally punch the ball, or was it an accident?
The NFL's reigning defensive player of the year smiled.
"Which one would I get in trouble for?" he said, laughing.
Replay officials reviewed the play but not because of anything Polamalu did. They needed to determine whether Hood had recovered in the end zone.
"I had no idea if I was in," Hood said. "But they made the right call."
The play averted any chance of Brady pulling out a last-second miracle.
"We practiced all week about getting turnovers," said Hood about a defense that has been starved for them. "This turnover came at the right moment."
Actually, no turnover was credited. Keisel had a forced fumble, but since Hood didn't maintain possession until he was out of the end zone, the Patriots weren't charged with losing the ball.
"It was crazy because I was lined up on the right side, and I looked to the left and I didn't see anyone over there," Keisel said. "I looked to my right, there was an outside rusher to the right, so I ran over to the left, rushed and was able to get my paw on the ball.
"And that was it."