Chapter Eight – Bad News On the Horizon

I went into work the next day feeling pretty good about the team. We just upset the best team in football and we held a share of the division. We were set to go to the playoffs in a miraculous turnaround that couldn’t quite be explained. When I got to my office there was a man from the training staff there with the injury report list. I thanked him and sent him back. I knew Brady had taken a bad hit, and he would be out for at least a few weeks, but I didn’t expect it to be as bad as it was. It was a broken collarbone, and he was out for 11 weeks, essentially the season.

I didn’t know how to plan for this week. We played a tough Steelers crew again, and I doubted our defense would be able to pick up three pick-sixes to help our offense. I had to make a decision between Derek Anderson and Troy Smith. Derek disappointed in the last game where he threw 3 picks in a half, and Troy was impressive with his perfect passer rating (granted, it was on 4 attempts). I felt Troy deserved his piece of the pie, and I slated him as the starter for the week. I called them both in and assured them that neither of them guaranteed the starting spot for the rest of the season, and I wouldn’t hesitate to switch them if one outshone the other. And with that, we prepared for our game hosting one of the better teams in football.

~   ~   ~

Heading back into the locker room, we were being handled. Troy couldn’t get anything going, and neither could Jamal. The Steelers run offense held the ball for what seemed like ever. And Troy wasn’t helping our time of possession, he was 0/2 with 2 interceptions. I wanted him to succeed for us, but going into the half down 20-7 I decided on a switch. I sent Derek out for the first play of the half. I told him that the spot was his to lose now, and I’d buy him a steak dinner if he won this game.

The first drive was excellent, Anderson took us down to the 2 where we were scared by a Lawrence Vickers fumble. Luckily, we recovered and scored bringing us to 20-14. Our defense was a different story. We kept holding them to third down and then they’d convert it, no matter how long. Eventually stopping them at our thirty where Mare booted a field goal to make it a 9 point game. On the first play of the next drive, Anderson is flushed out of the pocket and he throws it to Rucker on the run. The ball appears to go through Rucker’s hands (literally… THROUGH) and into Lamar Woodley’s.

We held them to a three and out, and they trotted their FG unit out onto the field. Except this time they missed it just right. It looked good from where I was, but I wasn’t going to complain. Sending out our offense for a big play on the first down was my goal. Except we were met with three straight sacks, even out of the shotgun formation. Knowing we needed two scored in 4 minutes, I sent out an all verticals play, with a tight end posting over the middle. Anderson got it to Rucker after he cut left, and Rucker got down to about 3 yards before the first down and it looked like he would be brought down. But about a second later, you see Rucker breaking through the tackler and sprinting 20 more yards upfield to get to the Steelers 14 yard line. Ecstatic, I sent out another play to Rucker to see if he could keep this up.

Anderson overthrew him on what would have been at least another first down, and threw into triple coverage on the next play. It was quickly 3rd down and I needed 10 yards. Anderson threw it to a wide open Harrison in the flats, but was clobbered and threw a duckball. It was picked off and taken back to our 38. It would have been a touchdown for the other team had Lewis been in. The Steelers quickly drove down the rest of the way and scored to make it 30-14 with 2:21 left. We posted up another great drive down to their 27 yard line, but Anderson threw another pick. The game ended with them running out the clock.

QB Anderson 11/20 182 yards 3 INT
QB Smith 0/2 2 INT
RB Lewis 10 att 38 yards
WR Massaquoi 4 rec 60 yards
WR Rucker 2 rec 73 yards
WR Cribbs 5 KR 206 yds TD

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