Blame the refs if you want, but the Pittsburgh Steelers’ collapse on Sunday night was much more than that.
The Steelers had never blown a lead of 14 or more points in a regular-season home game to lose. That’s right, the Steelers have played since 1933 and before Sunday had never lost in that situation at home. Now their record in that spot is 220-1-2, according to NBC. When that happens, everyone is to blame.
The Chargers came back from a 23-7 deficit to win 33-30 in an absolute Sunday night stunner. The Steelers offense blew some opportunities when it was playing well early, then just stopped moving the ball for a long time in the second half. The defense suddenly couldn’t get a stop. Pittsburgh’s special teams gave up a huge punt return touchdown, and the Steelers amazingly had three offsides penalties on a pair of missed field goals and then the game-winner at the end of the game. The Chargers declined that last offsides penalty and took the win.
Give the Chargers credit. They pulled off a great comeback and did so without running back Melvin Gordon. Philip Rivers was masterful in the second half, and especially on a game-winning drive in the final minutes. They’re 9-3 and still keeping the pressure on the 10-2 Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West. It was the kind of game the Chargers always seem to lose, blowing a massive lead or having something else crazy happen to turn a sure win into a loss. Maybe they were due to be on the right side of one.
It also was a total meltdown by the Steelers, with some help from the officials too.
Steelers started fast
The Steelers dominated the first half. They were handling the Chargers offense, which was limited withou Gordon, and Ben Roethlisberger had all day to throw. It was 23-7 at halftime, and it would have been 23-0 but officials missed an obvious false start call on the Chargers. The Chargers hit a long touchdown pass on that play. That would prove to be a big missed call.
Late in the third quarter the Steelers still hadn’t put the game away, and then it started to seem like weird things might be happening. Rivers threw a pass into double coverage in the end zone, and it looked like cornerback Joe Haden had an interception. But Steelers safety Sean Davis crashed into Haden, the ball popped up in the air and Keenan Allen grabbed it for a touchdown. After the two-point conversion was good, the Steelers led by only eight points.
At that point, it seemed like we might be watching the type of weird collapse the Chargers have been on the losing end of many times the past few seasons. This time, it was the Steelers collapsing.
Chargers roared back
The Chargers tied the game early in the fourth quarter. Desmond King took a punt return 73 yards for a touchdown (a block in the back by the Chargers wasn’t called when it could have been), and another two-point conversion tied the game. By that point the game really seemed to be out of the Steelers’ control.
Pittsburgh’s offense, which looked great in the first half, had totally stalled. Pittsburgh went three-and-out after King’s return, and the Chargers drove right back downfield and rookie running back Justin Jackson practically walked into the end zone for a go-ahead 18-yard touchdown.
The Steelers were able to pull themselves out of the quicksand. After James Conner went out with an injury, his replacement Jaylen Samuels caught a 10-yard touchdown to cap a 12-play, 78-yard drive. The game was tied again.
But the Steelers defense had to do something it rarely did after halftime, and that was get a stop. Rivers moved the Chargers downfield with little issue. A huge third-down throw to Keenan Allen, who was dominant, gave the Chargers an easy field-goal chance. The Chargers seemingly never have a reliable kicker, and Michael Badgley missed once and had another blocked, but offsides calls gave him extra chances and he nailed his third opportunity to finish the win.
It was a banner win for the Chargers, who at times look like the type of team that could make a deep playoff run. For the Steelers it was a historic night, in the worst way possible.
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