Throughout any football game — whether a preseason game, regular season game, or playoff game — there’s a handful of plays that make or break the game for each team.
This year, I’m going to take a look at the five most important plays of each game that helped shape the outcome.
Let’s take a look at the five most important plays in the Thursday night preseason game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles.
Play Five: 4th & 16 at PHI 45 (10:09 – 1st) J. Berry punts 42 yards to PHI 3, Center-K.Canaday, downed by PIT-M.Tucker. PENALTY on PHI-A.Maddox, Offensive Holding, 1 yard, enforced at PHI 3
Following Coty Sensabaugh’s interception of Nate Sudfeld on the third defensive play of the game for the Steelers, Pittsburgh went backwards fast on the ensuing offensive possession, losing six yards. From there, the Steelers turned to Jordan Berry to punt the ball away. The veteran punter did his job well, dropping the ball inside the 10-yard line, but it was Marcus Tucker who came up large, downing the ball at the 1-yard line after racing down the field to wait for the bounce.
Tucker helped Berry pin the Eagles deep early in the game. While Philadelphia turned around and marched 53 yards in seven plays to get out of the shadow of their own end zone, Tucker’s play allowed the Steelers’ defense to get a different look with the Eagles pinned up against their own goal line.
Play Four: 2nd & 4 at PHI 37 (1:59 – 2nd) (Shotgun) N.Sudfeld pass deep right to S.Gibson for 63 yards, TOUCHDOWN. J.Elliott extra point is GOOD, Center-R.Lovato, Holder-C.Johnston. PENALTY on PIT-J.Frazier, Illegal Formation, 1 yard, enforced at PIT 2 – No Play. (Run formation) TWO-POINT CONVERSION ATTEMPT. W.Smallwood rushes up the middle. ATTEMPT FAILS
See ya.#FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/4k7jDbbcv3
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) August 10, 2018
After a back-and-forth interception affair between Nate Sudfeld and Josh Dobbs the Eagles possession back late in the first half. Sudfeld found second-year receiver Shelton Gibson deep down the right sideline for a 63-yard touchdown, torching Dashaun Phillips on the play. Phillips was lined up near the line against Gibson and simply didn’t turn and run fast enough, failing to account for the straight-line speed of Gibson. Once the second-year receiver was even with Gibson, he was leaving, running away from Gibson for an easy touchdown, pulling the Eagles within one point.
Play Three: 2nd & 10 at PHI 23 (13:35 – 3rd) J.Callahan sacked at PHI 14 for -9 yards (O.Adeniyi). FUMBLES (O.Adeniyi), RECOVERED by PIT-K.Adams at PHI 16. K.Adams to PHI 16 for no gain (R.Rodgers)
.@Love_Ola_9 showing off them moves. pic.twitter.com/xgV7cBJiAW
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 10, 2018
Ola Adeniyi sure looked like a young James Harrison on this play didn’t he? The undrafted rookie out of Toledo ripped underneath the outside arm of the Eagles’ left tackle, getting past him for a clean rush at Joe Callahan in the pocket. Adeniyi was able to turn the corner quickly, allowing him to slap his right arm behind Callahan’s back at his throwing arm, knocking the ball loose for Keion Adams to recover. Following Adeniyi’s forced fumble, the Steelers tacked on a field goal to stretch their lead to 25-14.
Play Two: 2nd & 8 at PIT 29 (4:13 – 1st) (Shotgun) L.Jones pass deep left to J.Smith-Schuster for 71 yards, TOUCHDOWN. Penalty on PHI-E.Qualls, Defensive Offside, declined.C.Boswell extra point is GOOD, Center-K.Canaday, Holder-J.Berry
.@TeamJuJu gets the preseason started with some ????. pic.twitter.com/tfIWemhUxD
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 9, 2018
Just one series after Tucker downed the punt at the 1-yard line and the Eagles marched out to midfield, the Steelers forced a punt of their own, and took advantage. After drawing Elijah Qualls offsides with a hard count, Landry Jones chucked up a shot to JuJu Smith-Schuster down the left sideline. From there, Smith-Schuster skied over the Eagles’ defensive back for a spectacular catch, before then outrunning another defender to the end zone for the first score of the game. If JuJu doesn’t make that catch, it’s a harmless 5-yard penalty on the Eagles. Instead, it turns into six points. Heck of a swing there.
Play One: 1st & 10 at PHI 29 (0:18 – 2nd) (Shotgun) J.Dobbs pass deep left to D.Patterson for 29 yards, TOUCHDOWN. C.Boswell extra point is GOOD, Center-K.Canaday, Holder-J.Berry.
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 10, 2018
This play right here is about as clutch as it comes for an NFL quarterback and receiver. With just 18 seconds left in the first half, Josh Dobbs slid out of the pocket to his right, buying just enough time for Damoun Patterson to shake free of Rasual Douglas in the end zone. Once he saw Patterson flash open, Dobbs uncorked an absolute rocket into the back of the end zone, where Patterson was able to make a twisting catch, getting both feet inbounds while maintaining possession of the ball. Two plays prior to this throw from Dobbs, he was nearly intercepted on the right sideline trying to force a throw to James Washington. The second-year quarterback totally redeemed himself with this throw, capping off a solid two-minute drill to end the first half.