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Fast start, strong finish key 37-27 win

Posted Nov 17, 2013

STEELERS 37, LIONS 27

Steelers’ record: 4-6
One year ago: 6-4
Series record (including playoffs): Series tied, 17-17-1

STORYLINE
When the schedule was released last April, there was little thought given to the issue of the game against the Lions in mid-November being the Steelers last best chance to make themselves relevant in terms of the playoff picture in the AFC. The challenge to be posed by the Lions was going to be one of a division leader, with all of those high first-round picks accumulated during years of double-digit loss seasons having brought the team some dynamic talent on both sides of the ball.

Coach Mike Tomlin talked about the general play the day before the game. “That we work to eliminate negativity that their scheme and their players up front defensively are capable of creating, and obviously we have to minimize splash plays by their offense. There has been a lot of talk about Megatron, but they have other guys who can produce splash plays. We have to minimize splash plays by that group, whether it’s Megatron or Reggie Bush. We have to make them earn drives if they put them together.”

WHO’S SPECIAL ON TEAMS
It’s always simple to identify a team’s go-to players on offense and defense, but what of special teams? With the exception of the returners and the specialists, who are the Steelers’ go-to guys on special teams?

Here are some names to consider: Robert Golden, Antwon Blake, Terence Garvin, and Will Allen.

Golden came into the game leading the Steelers in special teams tackles with eight; Blake had six even though he had been inactive for two of the first nine games; Garvin had five; and Allen had been asserting himself on both the return and coverage units since being brought back to the team a month ago.

“(Golden) has been an awesome contributor in that phase of our game,” said Tomlin. “We have given him some very specific jobs to do. He’s the personal protector – the quarterback, if you will – of our punt team. He’s an integral part of all of our coverage units. It’s what you expect of a second-year safety. Second-year safeties should be at the top of your tackle chart from a special teams standpoint.

“Will Allen has provided everything we have looked for from him since he has come back from Dallas, not only in terms of production but also veteran leadership and know-how. We like what we’re getting from Antwon Blake. I think he quickly has established himself as a legitimate gunner to be reckoned with, and we have a young linebacker in Terence Garvin who’s growing week in and week out and showing that he’s capable of being highly productive and a reason why we are successful in that phase.”

The Lions finished the game with a total of 17 yards on four punt returns, plus 92 yards on four kickoff returns. Blake was the Steelers’ leading tackler on special teams with two, which now ties him with Golden for the team lead.

TURNING POINT
A fake field goal? With a 27-23 lead? When the gimme field goal would have restored the lead to seven? That was Lions’ Coach Jim Schwartz’s decision, though, and the fake called for the holder – punter Sam Martin – to run the ball up the middle. There he met Steve McLendon, who stripped the ball loose for Ryan Clark to recover. The Steelers took the ball and marched 97 yards on 16 plays to score what turned into the game-winning touchdown on a 1-yard pass to Will Johnson.

STAT THAT STANDS OUT I
For purposes of statistics, the NFL designates runs of 15-plus yards and receptions of 25-plus yards as long plays. In the first half, the Lions had five long plays, one of which was a run. Included among the four long plays through the air was a 79-yard touchdown catch-and-run by Calvin Johnson.

STAT THAT STANDS OUT II
Calvin Johnson was targeted three times and had no catches in the second half.

STAT THAT STANDS OUT III
The Steelers’ three takeaways against the Lions tied for their season high, which previously had come in Oakland vs. the Raiders. The Steelers were plus-3 in turnover ratio against the Lions, which was a season high. They were plus-2 against the Jets.

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