Though their edge was not great, the fact that the Pittsburgh Steelers held the advantage over the Carolina Panthers in Thursday’s massive victory was in itself somewhat remarkable, when you consider the fact that they were disadvantaged one whole possession, and also had two of 10 possessions that lasted 15 seconds or less.
Those, of course, were all good circumstances, and obviously contributed tremendously to their victory, but the fact that they could experience those quirks in possession and still have controlled the ball for 70 seconds more than the Panthers is a testament to how well they controlled the game when it served their purpose.
And that was all after the Panthers opened the game with a four and a half minute drive. The Steelers responded with an 11-second drive, both of which provided the exact same outcome: seven points. But the Panthers had two possessions of under 15 seconds as well.
The first was their very next drive. Cam Newton was under pressure on the first play of the drive by T.J. Watt, and in order to avoid a safety he got rid of the ball, only to see it intercepted by Vince Williams, who turned it in for a touchdown. The Panthers obviously got the ball back, but could only muster a three-and-out that gained an entire one yard and took up a little under 70 seconds.
Then they had just an eight-second drive at the top of the fourth quarter, never even touching it on offense. That was when return man D.J. Moore tried to outmaneuver Roosevelt Nix, who got a hand underneath the wide receiver’s frame to pop the football loose on a kickoff, Anthony Chickillo recovering.
That sequence took just eight seconds and put the football on the nine-yard line. The Steelers’ offense responded with a 15-second drive that took two plays to score their seventh and final touchdown, after which many starters were pulled from the game.
From that point on in the game, the Panthers had control of the football for over nine and a half minutes, while Pittsburgh had about five minutes and 20 seconds of additional possession time, so if you only go by when the Steelers pulled their starters, their control of the time of possession becomes even more impressive.
They had two short drives that ended in touchdowns of 75 and 53 yards. But they also had long scoring drives, four of which went on for over four minutes. One nearly reached seven minutes in length and traversed a full 75 yards, as did three of their touchdown drives.
The week before, the Steelers held possession against the Baltimore Ravens for 36 and a half minutes, and against the Cleveland Browns, over 32 minutes. It was nearly 35 minutes against the Cincinnati Bengals, so this has been a positive growing trend for several games now.