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Bad Beats

   by Ben Burns - 12/15/2008

Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens

I didn't personally play this game and I know that some Steelers fans may disagree that it qualifies as a bad beat. However, as it was yet another Pittsburgh game with a wild ending, I thought that it should be included in this week's column.

The Ravens, who closed as three point favorites, jumped on top 3-0 early in the second quarter. By the third quarter, they'd extended their advantage to 9-3. Baltimore's lead was threatened, about five minutes into the fourth quarter as the Steelers had a first down inside the red zone. The Ravens' defense stiffened and with 9:29 remaining, Pittsburgh had to settle for a 30-yard Jeff Reed field goal.

That brought the score to 9-6. If it had stayed like that, Baltimore bettors would have done no worse than push with the number and quite a few would have won. The Ravens weren't ready to just sit on the ball though. Starting at their own 25 yard line, they chewed up more than five minutes of clock and marched all the way inside the Steelers' 30 yard line.

With a third and eight situation from the 27, both teams needed a big play. Already in field goal range, the Ravens might have considered just running the ball to try and gain a few more yards. They elected to try and pass for the first down and it cost them. Flacco was sacked for a big loss and that knocked the Ravens all the way out of field-goal range.

No one knows what might have happened if the Ravens had hit that field goal, as there's an entirely different mindset with a six-point lead and four minutes left than there is if that lead is only three points. That being said, the Steelers were still forced to start at their own eight yard line with over three minutes remaining.

No problem for Big Ben. In just over two minutes, Ben Roethlisberger drove the Steelers the entire length of the field, setting up a first-and-goal situation from the four yard line with one minute remaining.

The Steelers failed to get in on second down, setting up a huge third-down situation. Roethlisberger found Santonio Holmes right at the goal line. Homes had both feet in the end zone, however, there was some question about whether or not the ball had actually crossed the line. The officials on the field ruled that it did not, which would have set up a fourth and inches situation.

But, upon further review, the play was overturned and ruled a touchdown.

Down 13-9 with less than a minute remaining, the Ravens were unable to go down and score the winning touchdown. Pittsburgh sealed the deal with an interception, clinching the AFC North title along with the pick.

Later, referee Walt Coleman said, "He had two feet down. When he gained control of the ball, the ball was breaking the plane."

Regardless of whether or not one agrees with Coleman's viewpoint, the play was close enough that it's hard to say the evidence was indisputable enough to overturn the call.

Had the play not been overturned, the Steelers most likely would have gone for it on fourth down and scored. However, against the Baltimore defense, that's certainly not a given.

Either way, Pittsburgh bettors who were on the wrong side of a blown call at San Diego, will surely argue that turnabout is fair play.

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