Farrior: 'I was in total shock'


There was the fumble that caused Steelers fans to come close to tears. Then the game-saving tackle that provided hope. And last, but certainly not least, the missed field goal from a kicker who was considered automatic.

And it all went down in the final 1:20 of one of the most heart-pounding AFC Divisional Playoff games, where the sixth seed came into the home of the two seed and walked away victorious.

It was 10 years ago when the Steelers, the AFC's No. 6 seed coming off an upset win over the Cincinnati Bengals, took on the Indianapolis Colts, the AFC's No. 2 seed led by Peyton Manning, in the 2005 Divisional Playoff game. The outcome, a 21-18 win, advanced the Steelers to the AFC Championship game against the Denver Broncos one week later. But getting there, it had some scary moments.

The Steelers led the Colts 21-3 at the end of the third quarter, the defense keeping Manning in check with 131 yards passing and four sacks to that point. They were feeling good, and rightfully so.

"They had good play action pass, and the blocking scheme they were trying to block us the guard would pop out to try to pick up the outside rushers and we just felt like he couldn't get there," said Joey Porter, the Steelers linebacker coach who played on that 2005 team and finished the game with one and half sacks. "We kept running a blitz pattern we had put in just for that and it was working and they never made adjustments so we just kept coming after them.

View photos from the Steelers 21-18 victory in the AFC Divisional Playoff game vs. the Colts on Jan. 15, 2006.

"Peyton normally doesn't try to let you get hits on him. If he sees that you got him, he would just lie down and you never get to really tackle him. But that game we had him tricked pretty good to where we were actually able to hit him. That's how I knew that our plan was really working. Peyton is sharp enough once he sees the blitz coming either he just gets the ball off or he just lies down. We had him tricked pretty well because he couldn't do either."

Among those also getting to Manning that day was linebacker James Farrior, who led the defense with 10 tackles and two and a half sacks.

"When you go against a guy like Peyton Manning, who's one of the elite quarterbacks in the league and a future Hall of Famer, you have to be on your 'A' game and you have to do everything almost perfect to beat this guy because his work ethic and his study habits and what he puts into each game is above everybody else," said Farrior. "I felt very confident going into the game. Coach (Dick) LeBeau had put together a masterful game plan and we all had confidence that it would work. I felt pretty good that day and you know it ended up being a good day for us."

That confidence never faltered, but it was certainly tested for a while.

The Colts started to muster a fourth quarter comeback, cutting the Steelers lead to 21-18 late in the game. The Colts stopped the Steelers offense, and they got the ball back in Manning's hands. The Steelers defense stepped up as Porter sacked Manning and then Porter and Farrior combined for a sack on fourth-and-16 to give the Steelers the ball back with 1:20 left at the Colts two-yard line.

They were smelling victory when the unthinkable happened. The sure-handed Jerome Bettis fumbled and the Colts' Nick Harper recovered and took off.

"I had my back turned and all of a sudden I just hear the fans start yelling and I turn around and Harper is running with the ball," said Porter. "I'm thinking, not Jerome, not like that. That's our closer, he doesn't do that. He puts the game away and we had him in the situation just do the walk off home run, punch it in the end zone and he fumbles. It was crazy."

Farrior remembers the moment as well, remembers the horrible feeling of his heart sinking after he thought victory was in hand.

"I was in total shock when I turned around and I see Harper running down the field," said Farrior. "I'm like 'Oh my God.' I didn't even know what happened. I just turned around and saw a guy running. My heart just dropped to the ground. I really don't know how to describe it, but it was just like being in a scary movie or a scary dream."

Usually those scary movies have a really bad ending. And it was looking like that was going to be the case, until Ben Roethlisberger somehow caught up to Harper, made an incredible shoestring tackle, and brought him down at the Colts 42-yard line.

"Ben showed how athletic he is by making that tackle," said Porter. "He's a pure athlete. Most quarterbacks can't make that play. It's him versus a defensive back in a wide open field and he kept getting depth to find his angle. We knew he was a heck of an athlete, but for him to make that play really showed how good of an athlete he was."

So instead of kicking back and watching the offense close out the game, the defense was summoned to duty.

"Everybody runs out on the field thinking we have to go win it on defense," said Farrior. "I'm standing in front of Coach LeBeau and he's still looking at the replay and he was just staring into space and I was like, 'Coach what's the call? Give me the call, let's go win the game.' It was like he had to snap out of it. He told me after the game, 'Thanks for snapping me out of my little thing that I was in.' I think he was in shock and disbelief, but we were ready to go."

Manning stepped up, moving the ball to the Steelers 28-yard line. Facing fourth-and-two with 21 seconds to play, kicker Mike Vanderjagt came on for the game-winning 46-yard field goal. The Steelers called timeout to ice him, and whether that did the trick or not, the kick went wide right.

"I was just praying it was in the cards for us," said Farrior. "All you can do is just do your job and go through the process. They had to make the kick, and they didn't.

"I was just relieved. I walked off the field with my arms up. It was just a total relief."

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