The Pittsburgh Steelers enter the second half trailing 7-3, but since the opening drive, the defense has largely kept Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers offense in check, including a number of three-and-outs. But Mike Vick has been limiting the offense, in spite of an impressive showing from Le’Veon Bell.
The Chargers begin the second half with the ball after failing to convert a 60-yard field goal at the end of the first half. First-year kicker Chris Boswell knocked home a 47-yarder for the Steelers’ only points.
Boswell’s opening kickoff was about seven-yards deep. Jacoby Jones returned it, and the Steelers had a chance to make the stop inside the 15, but missed the tackle, and Jones returned it out to the 22 instead. On first down, Melvin Gordon was stopped after a couple of yards off the right side. On second down, Antonio Gates moved the chains complete with a missed tackle by Antwon Blake.
From the 37, Gordon picked up four yards to the perimeter. He got it again, a yard short of the first. On the third try, he picked up the first down, but he fumbled the ball, and Shamarko Thomas, in at safety, recovered. Jarvis Jones forced the fumble.
Taking over at the 48 of the Chargers, Bell got the first touch of the half for about three yards before the play was whistled dead. On second and seven, Vick deferred to Bell again, picking up another three after forcing a missed tackle in the backfield. On third and four, Bell was stopped for no gain off the short-side run right as the offense failed to take advantage of the field opportunity.
Jordan Berry continued to do well, as Ross Ventrone downed his first punt of the half inside the five. Rivers found Gates for about 10 to create breathing room right away. From the 14, Gordon was wrestled down after a short gain by Cameron Heyward. Bud Dupree got off the edge for his third sack of the season, the Steelers’ 16th of the year. On third and 12, Rivers was flushed out under pressure, throwing the ball away. A holding penalty was declined.
Antonio Brown fielded the punt near the 40 with about a two-yard return, but it’s good field position for the offense. On first down, Vick showed his lack of pocket awareness, taking a sack from behind after trying to climb the pocket on first down for a loss of four. On second down, Vick dumped the ball off to Heath Miller for about the yardage loss on the sack. On third and 10, he nearly threw yet another interception for a three and out. Berry got a break on his punt after Jones failed to field it, rolled inside the 10-yard line for a 53-yard punt.
Gordon was stopped after a short gain at the seven. Rivers connected to Gates for a first down to the 16. He found Allen for a gain of six on the next play. On second down, Allen took a screen for 20 yards. From the 43, Rivers grounded it under pressure. Showing blitz, River got the ball out to Allen, forcing Blake to miss yet another tackle for YAC.
Across midfield, Rivers threw the ball away with nothing open. Rivers dumped it off to Gordon under pressure, with Lawrence Timmons making the stop for a loss. On third and long, Rivers looked for Malcom Floyd, but Blake, the goat, cut the route and picked the ball off, returning it for the touchdown to give the Steelers the lead, getting props from his secondary teammates on the sideline.
With injuries mounting along the o-line for the Chargers, Harrison was closing coming off the edge on first down, but Rivers completed the pass for eight. On second and two, he checked it to Gordon to move the chains. From the 33, Gordon escaped one tackle on a screen, with Mike Mitchell limiting the damage after close to 20 yards.
From the 50, Rivers connected down the field, with Mitchell slow to get up after making the tackle for reasons unclear. Gordon took the handoff up the middle for about four yards. On the first play of the fourth quarter, from the 22, threw incomplete to Gates. On third and six, Pittsburgh’s blitz forced an early throw and incompletion, with Golden pressuring and getting his hands up to influence the pass. The Chargers tied it with a field goal.
Dri Archer returned the kickoff from about eight yards deep, getting it across the 20, but not much further. From the 23, Bell was limited by traffic in front of him, but was pushed forward for four. Vick rolled out and threw to Matt Spaeth incomplete, with the tight end not able to hold on. On third down, Vick fired to Markus Wheaton, the pass wide of the receiver, another pass that could have been intercepted. Berry’s punt was not the best, but Roosevelt Nix made the tackle to limit the damage on the return.
The Chargers were flagged for holding on first down. On first and 20, Allen caught the ball for about 10 yards, but fumbled out of bounds to lose a yard or two. Ross Cockrell was flagged for pass interference, however, back to the 40.
On first and 10 from the 41, Woodhead hit the empty space up the left side for nine yards, picking up the extra yard on second down. Across midfield, Woodhead got the carry again for about seven, but another hold negated the run, with Heyward drawing yet another flag.
First and 20 again, Steelers blitzing, Rivers hit Floyd over Cockrell for a big gain to the 27. This time, Woodhead was bottled up for a loss. Spence made the tackle on Gordon after a short gain. On third and 10, Rivers found Gates over the middle with the blitz beater for the first down. From the 16, Rivers threw up the jump ball in the end zone, but out of reach, the throw under duress. On second down, after an offside call, lofted one up to Gates for the score over Golden to take the lead back with 10 straight unanswered points.
Archer returned the kickoff out to the 28-yard line, making one tackler miss. Vick rolled to his left, hitting Wheaton down the field off a double move for the 72-yard touchdown to tie the game. That was the longest reception, by far, of the third-year receiver’s career.
Boswell continued his solid debut with another touchback. From the 20, Rivers took a hit on a short completion over the middle. On second and five, Gordon picked up 14 spinning out of contact. Heyward came off the field obviously grimacing, with Cam Thomas checking in. From the 39 now, Gordon one-cut up the middle to pick up about seven. Harrison, however, stepped Gordon on second down. On third and two, Rivers converted to his tight end.
Across midfield, Cockrell read the screen and hit Allen for a short loss. Gates picked up 10 to force third and one. Gordon converted. Gordon let the pass bounce off his hands on first down from the 38. On second down, Floyd caught the pass on a crossing route, but his gain was limited. On third and long, from the 36, Timmons batted the ball down at the line of scrimmage. Allen was open on a crosser. Josh Lambo‘s 54-yard attempt was good, giving the Chargers a late 20-17 lead with 2:56 remaining.
After a touchback, Vick too the huddle with 2:38 and two timeouts. It was Bell with the first touch of the drive, getting close to seven yards. On second and three, he got it again for five, leading to the two-minute warning. From the 31, Vick badly overthrew a deep shot to Darrius Heyward-Bey, taking a shot in the process. On second down, Heyward-Bey picked up nine yards. Third and short, Vick rolled left under pressure and Heyward-Bey leaped to secure the pass, looking to go down awkwardly, though he seems fine.
After a timeout with 1:04 remaining, from the Chargers’ 45, Brown picked up his first reception of the half, with Jason Verrett right on him after four yards. Vick’s over the shoulder shot to Brown went well out of bounds. On third and six from the 41, Vick scrambled, seeing the opening, for the first run of the game, down to the 17. He clocked it with 17 seconds remaining.
On second down, Heyward-Bey’s catch in the end zone was out of bounds. Now 12 seconds, with a timeout remaining, Vick hit Miller down to the one-yard line, with an unnecessary roughness penalty pushing it to the half-yard line with five seconds. The Steelers ran out the wildcat with the direct snap to Bell, who, after much effort, just managed to cross the plane, securing a much-needed win for the Steelers.