What went right, wrong at Denver

Bob Labriola with his thoughts on "what went right, wrong" at Denver.


Game action from the Steelers' AFC Divisional Playoff game against the Broncos.

* Make them kick field goals instead of score touchdowns. The Steelers defense took the field at their own 30-yard line after a big punt return. On a third-and-5 from the Pittsburgh 14-yard line, Peyton Manning threw a pass into the flat for running back C.J. Anderson, but Ryan Shazier came across the field quickly to make the tackle for a 4-yard gain. The Broncos settled for a 28-yard field goal from Brandon McManus for a 3-0 lead with 11:21 left in the first quarter.

  • It was just a 6-yard pass from Ben Roethlisberger, but Sammie Coates turned it into a 37-yard gain to the Denver 41-yard line with some nice running after the catch to convert the third down midway through the first quarter.
  • Broncos try a direct snap to RB Ronnie Hillman on a third-and-2, but William Gay is there to stop him for no gain. Denver punts.
  • Again, the Broncos are forced to settle for a field goal following Jordan Berry's 27-yard punt late in the first quarter. Three Denver offensive plays gained 8 yards, and Brandon McManus kicked his second field goal for a 6-0 Broncos lead.
  • The Steelers took a 7-6 lead with an 80-yard drive on five plays that ended with a 1-yard run by Fitz Toussaint with 1:22 left in the first period. Other big running plays on the drive were a 40-yard reverse by Martavis Bryant behind a nice block by Ben Roethlisberger, and a 15-yard run by Toussaint behind a nice block by Darrius Heyward-Bey.

* In the first quarter, the Steelers had 133 yards of offense, the most allowed by a Denver defense since Nov. 16, 2014 when St. Louis had 138.

  • Credit where credit is due. After his second 27-yard punt, Jordan Berry hits a 50-yarder that pins the Broncos at their 5-yard line with 3:14 left in the second quarter.
  • On the Steelers opening possession of the second half, the offense drove 69 yards in eight plays to extend their lead to 13-9 on a 28-yard field goal by Chris Boswell with 9:32 left in the third quarter. Martavis Bryant caught two passes for 64 yards on the drive, and he should've gotten a pass interference penalty on Aqib Ralib in the end zone.

* The Steelers' first offensive possession ended in a three-and-out, and the Broncos made the first big special teams play of the game. Jordan Berry's 52-yard punt was returned 42 yard by Omar Boldin to give Denver the ball at the Pittsburgh 30-yard line to starts its first possession.

  • Fourth-and-1 from the Denver 32-yard line. Ben Roethlisberger goes deep to Markus Wheaton in the end zone. He doesn't make the play on a pass that got through Aqib Talib and hit Wheaton on the shoulder pad. Without Antonio Brown, those are plays that have to be made.
  • Field position can be so important. A Britton Colquitt punt traveled 57 yards and was downed by Aaron Brewer at the Pittsburgh 3-yard line. The Steelers offense followed with a three-and-out, and Jordan Berry's punt traveled 27 yards to set up Denver at the Steelers 31-yard line.
  • Not a good game for Jordan Berry. On his first three punts, two of them go for only 27 yards apiece. The second gives Denver the ball at its 41-yard line with 6:48 left in the first half with the Steelers holding a 10-6 lead.
  • It sure looked as though Peyton Manning gave himself up on a play that began with a blitz by Robert Golden and ended with Manning getting up and completing a pass to Emmanuel Sanders for a 34-yard catch-and-run to the Steelers 46-yard line.
  • Don't know which part of the punting game is worse – Jordan Berry's punting or Markus Wheaton's work as the returner. Wheaton muffs a punt at the Steelers 7-yard line, but Stephon Tuitt saved the day with a recovery right at the goal line. By rule, it's a touchback and the Steelers' ball at the 20-yard line. Got it at the 25-yard after a penalty on Denver, with 11:33 left in the fourth quarter.
  • The first turnover, and it's a killer. Fitz Toussaint apparently had gained first down yardage around the Denver 30-yard line when the ball was popped out by Bradley Roby and recovered by DeMarcus Ware at the Broncos 35-yard line.
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