NFL Nation: 2013 Week 11 DET at PIT Rapid Reaction

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- In stark contrast to Ray Rice's awkward news conference in May, the Baltimore Ravens running back showed Thursday that he finally understood the weight of his actions from the alleged altercation with his then-fiancée in February.

He delivered the correct message, one the NFL failed to do last week with the two-game suspension, by not only apologizing to his wife, Janay Palmer, but also expressing a desire to become an advocate for domestic-violence causes.

Rice was compelling in his contrition, calling it the biggest mistake of his life. He stood in front of the microphone alone, without his wife standing by his side, and took full responsibility for the incident. Perhaps more importantly, Rice actually said the words "domestic violence," which weren't heard in his statement two months ago.

"My actions were inexcusable," Rice said. "That's something I have to live with the rest of my life."

Before anyone pats Rice on the back, this is what he should have said the first time when he broke his silence in May. Instead, Rice nervously fumbled through notes on his phone and apologized to team officials and his sponsors. That debacle of a news conference came across as damage control to his image.

His 17-minute news conference Thursday hit the right tones. He apologized to all women affected by domestic violence. He accepted the blame for losing the respect of fans. Rice came across as genuinely sorry.

"I let my wife down, I let my daughter down, I let my wife's parents down, I let the whole Baltimore community down," Rice said.

Rice's biggest misstep was not talking about what happened in the elevator. He was asked twice about it and declined to answer both times. His stance against domestic violence would have resonated stronger if he had explained his transgressions.

"I'll be honest: Like I said, I own my actions," Rice said. "I just don't want to keep reliving the incident. It doesn't bring any good to me. I'm just trying to move forward from it. I don't condone it. I take full responsibility for my actions. What happened that night is something that I'm going to pay for the rest of my life."

The only way Rice can move forward from this incident and show he's truly sincere is through his actions. It's not by his words. It's not by a hefty donation, which is merely a gesture. It's by proving this will remain a "one-time incident" and by supporting domestic-violence causes.

Thursday represented a small step forward for Rice. But it was an important one.

Rapid Reaction: Pittsburgh Steelers

November, 17, 2013

PITTSBURGH -- A few thoughts on the Pittsburgh Steelers' 37-27 win over the Detroit Lions:

What it means: The Steelers finally bagged a signature win, and they did it after a disastrous second quarter had pushed their season to the brink and caused more than a few fans to leave Heinz Field early. They improved to 4-6 after blowing a 14-point lead and then rallying from a seven-point halftime deficit. With winnable games at Cleveland and Baltimore next up on the schedule, the Steelers are still in the AFC North race as well as the wild-card hunt. There have been a lot of big wins in the Mike Tomlin era. This has to rank near the top of the list.

Stock watch: The defense pitched a second-half shutout after Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson toyed with it in the second quarter. And the Steelers scored a season-high 37 points because of the brilliance of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and offensive coordinator Todd Haley. Roethlisberger threw for 367 yards and four touchdowns, and he led the Steelers to a win after they trailed or were tied in the fourth quarter for the 32nd time of his career, including the postseason. The oft-criticized Haley called a masterful game; had their execution near the end zone been a little better, the Steelers would have scored a few more touchdowns.

Missed opportunities: The Steelers’ red zone struggles reached a new and almost comical low. The Steelers had to settle for field goals three times after driving inside the Lions’ 15-yard line, and they should have had touchdowns all three times, including late in the third quarter. The Steelers had a first down at the Lions’ 1-yard line, but they couldn’t punch in what would have been a game-tying touchdown. Le’Veon Bell got stuffed twice, and those runs sandwiched Roethlisberger overthrowing a wide-open David Paulson after a perfect play call by Haley.

Déjà vu all over again: It was hard to imagine the Steelers having as bad a quarter then they did earlier this month in New England when the Patriots scored four touchdowns in the final 15 minutes to blow open what had been a tie game. But the defense suffered another epic collapse, and this one allowed the Lions to score 27 points in the second quarter while gaining 280 yards. Detroit’s outburst came despite a lost fumble early in the second quarter and a goal-line stand made at the end of the half by the Steelers. The Lions’ three touchdown drives came on a total of 11 plays.

Next up: The Steelers travel to Cleveland next Sunday. The Browns dropped to 4-6 after blowing an early 13-point lead and getting routed 41-20 in Cincinnati. The Steelers lost in Cleveland last season after losing five fumbles and committing a ghastly eight turnovers.

Rapid Reaction: Detroit Lions

November, 17, 2013

PITTSBURGH -- A few thoughts on the Detroit Lions' 37-27 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

What it means: What a complete collapse for the Lions, a team that had went through every sort of emotion during Sunday’s game. They started off discombobulated in the first quarter, set records in the second quarter, then fell apart in the second half.

It’s tough to explain how the Lions went from an offensive juggernaut in the first half to Calvin Johnson not having a reception in the second half and Matthew Stafford unable to even throw for half a field after halftime. It is, though, a loss that could hurt the Lions down the road. Detroit had complete control over this game before a combination of defensive lapses, dropped passes and a bizarre fake field goal call in the fourth quarter turned a win into a loss and a potential three-game winning streak into a 6-4 record that gives the Bears and Packers a chance to keep pace in the NFC North.

Stock Watch: Rising -- Safety Don Carey. Carey had yet another week of significant playing time with cornerback Bill Bentley injured, and he had a decent game, making nine tackles and two tackles for loss. ... DeAndre Levy had a game-high 12 tackles, including two tackles for loss. Falling -- Detroit’s fourth quarter defense. The Lions gave up a 97-yard drive to Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers midway through the fourth quarter, resulting in a touchdown with 4:46 left to give Pittsburgh the lead. ... Reggie Bush's production. The running back fumbled, ran for 31 yards on 12 carries and caught two passes for 23 yards. Not his best day.

Setting records: Detroit’s typical combination of Stafford-to-Johnson gave the Lions some big records in the first half. Stafford threw for 327 yards in the first half, a franchise record. He also broke Bobby Layne’s franchise passing record of 15,710 yards. With 362 yards Sunday, Stafford now has 16,005 yards. Stafford, though, faded in the second half, passing for only 35 yards.

What’s next: The Lions return home for two games in less than two weeks when they face Tampa Bay next Sunday and then Green Bay on Thanksgiving Day.