Tuesday, December 21, 2010
AFC East Week 15 decisive moment
By Tim Graham
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The AFC East game with the most on the line took place at Heinz Field between the New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers.
The New England Patriots already had clinched a playoff berth and met a nonconference opponent Sunday night. The Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins game was a formality.
The Jets, though, were in a bind.
"It was damn near a must win for us," Jets defensive end Shaun Ellis told me.
The Jets executed several pivotal plays to beat the Steelers 22-17.
Brad Smith returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown to relieve a strangulating pressure. On fourth down late in the third quarter, Mark Sanchez tied the score on a 7-yard bootleg run for the offense's first touchdown in 12 quarters. The Jets' defense stopped Ben Roethlisberger twice from the 10-yard line in the final seconds.
The most decisive moment, however, occurred when Jets outside linebacker Jason Taylor threw Steelers running back Mewelde Moore for a safety with 2:45 to play.
The Steelers still had a chance to win the game, but Taylor's safety was essential in doing two things:
- It increased the Jets' lead to five points and forced the Steelers to score a touchdown.
- It afforded the Steelers just one opportunity to do so because the Jets received the ensuing free kick and made the Steelers burn timeouts.
The Steelers forced a three-and-out, but Jets punter Steve Weatherford pinned the Steelers at the 8-yard line. Roethlisberger needed to go 92 yards against the Jets' prevent defense but traveled only 82.