Am I dreaming? Where was this team week 1? I had basically written this game off, and then they come out and turn what has historically been a gross mismatch on its head. I wanted to see quick-hitter passes underneath, using plenty of Miller, and enough running game to keep the chains moving, and BAM! Arians basically does that, some late-game shit aside. I want us to go fast, go man cover, and emphasize some of the younger players, and BAM! LeBeau does that.
Hard to find much fault with Ben's play. He was getting the ball out quickly, finding the hot reads and not going for the deep kill shot every time. As noted, as crisp and smart a performance as perhaps ever seen from #7. The RBs got positive yardage, no big tears, but kept chewing clock and matriculating. No fancy-assed dancing or holding the ball like a fucking discus. Miller was killer. Can't find much to bitch about as far as the wideouts, either. Cotchery makes his first catch, and it was clutch. But this is all about the next gen, all respect to Hines. Still want to see Sanders step up a bit more, but overall, the dynamic of Wallace, Brown, and Sanders as your WR1-3 is zippy.
OL was mostly good. Still think Legursky should start over Kemo when healthy. Kemo is just not as aware, and I think his knee is making him lose power battles. Which makes him good for what, exactly? Having the Gator trio man the middle and ends is working pretty damned well though, and Foster is doing fine.
I was very pleased with the front 7, getting pressure without having to blitz. Hood and Keisel really kept the heat on, and Woodley continues to excel playing alongside Hood. That’s a nice combo. Stevenson Sylvester came in and really did nothing to embarrass himself. Farrior’s got the wily vet experience, but Sly has some long-missing speed. Foote actually played a solid game, though.
The DBs continue to impress me. I thought Ike, Lewis, and Gay are beginning to gel, even though Lewis got burned on the one TD, but he and Ike form a nice outside duo, and Gay is excelling inside. Pola was a pure freak as usual, but LeBeau using him closer to the LOS was great. I basically called for him to play ILB in the dime, and that’s sort of the zone he patrolled. Ferociously. Clark was Clark. Bryant McFadden, nice knowin’ ya. Cortez Allen even made some playing time, so McFadden is done here. Enjoy playing special teams.
The kickers were less spectacular. Suisham continues to drive us all slowly mad. Sepulveda was not impressive either.
BA called one of his best games, as did LeBeau. To what extent the playcalling on offense was Ben and to what Brucie, I could give a fuck. He needs to get rid of those hitch passes into the flat that go nowhere, and the playcalling at the very end was shaky, but this was Bruce at his best, so I’ll take it. Some clock issues continue to haunt Tomlin, but that’s never been his strength. His job primarily takes place during the week, and he had all the players and coordinators on the same page.
Long view: Probably the best game this team has played since 2008, and certainly the one of the nobler efforts versus the Patsies. We seem to be improving each week, so the idea that we were winning against the chumps of the league no longer computes. On the flipside, the Ravens’ offensive shitfest becomes clearer by the week, so as we progress they devolve. Still, next week will be a tough-fought test against the despised Rattie defense, and then the following week we get the 5-2 Bengals, who are also in the division race thanks to a good defense, solid running, and competent rookie QB play. To go into the bye 8-2 would be sweet, and would put us in a good spot for the post (Ravens and Bengals at best 7-3 when we come out of the bye). Seems to me as we explore the how well some of the younger players fit (K. Lewis, Z. Hood, M. Gilbert, E. Sanders, A. Brown, S. Sylverster, K. Lewis) we’re seeing the future of this team emerge from the old. Kudos to Carnell Lake for really getting the DBs to ratchet up their play. Kugler has also again gotten an average group of talent to mesh. Steelers definitely emerging as one of the better AFC teams again.