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News » Big Ben produces his own Drive

Big Ben produces his own Drive

Big Ben produces his own Drive
BALTIMORE -- Not to be smug about it or anything, but I had no doubt the Steelers could go 92 desperate yards against the Ravens' defense.


I just thought it might take 92 plays.

Spread over two seasons.

"The best thing about this offense," Nate Washington said in the locker room of the 2008 AFC North Division champions, "is that we forget."

That happens to be too true. In what was perhaps as great a triumph of selective amnesia as of athletic heroism, the Steelers behind Ben Roethlisberger repressed their collective memory of the game's first 561/2 and carved out a monument to themselves.

Washington forgot that he dropped two passes and had his hands on a third that would not have been a terribly remarkable catch. Santonio Holmes forgot that he dropped one right in his belly, that he fumbled another right into the hands of Baltimore's Ed Reed, that he had played most of 60 minutes as though he had no fingers and few clues. And Big Ben forgot those things, too, throwing with typical bravado at his two least reliable wideouts six times in the final 3:36.

It's a matter of NFL orthodoxy, if not actual copyright law, that "The Drive" belongs to John Elway, the Denver legend who is Roethlisberger's idol, the reason he wears No. 7. "The Drive" was Elway's masterpiece, the precise dimensions being 15 plays, 98 yards, in 5:02 to pull the Broncos into a tie with Cleveland Jan. 11, 1987. The touchdown came with 37 seconds left.

But this is about Ben's Drive: 12 plays, 92 yards in 2:53 to beat Baltimore, 13-9. He went 7 for 11 (including a spike) for 88 yards. The touchdown came with 43 seconds remaining.

"Seven delivered," said an emotional Mike Tomlin of his Elway. "He's done it time and time again. A lot's been said of our offensive struggles, but when we need a play, when we have to move it, we have. Against San Diego, last weekend [against Dallas], and now today."

So brilliant were both defenses yesterday, and for most of this season, that it appeared the Steelers and Ravens could play until St. Patrick's Day without scoring a touchdown. In what might have appeared an interminable tug-of-bore to the untrained eye, the teams collected only five field goals over the majority of three hours, and Baltimore led, 9-6, when Holmes made a fair catch of Baltimore's seventh punt at the Steelers' 8 with 3:36 to go.

It was the fifth time the Steelers would start inside their 10, and if anyone in the huddle of white shirts thought they had 92 yards in them against a defense that had allowed exactly one touchdown in the previous 15 quarters, no one was saying it out loud.

"We were just sayin', you know, 'keep workin,'" said right tackle Willie Colon, part of an embattled offensive line that kept Roethlisberger essentially untouched in the final minutes. "But look, if you don't believe, it's pointless to go out there."

Ben's Drive started with a crossing pattern to Hines Ward, who made a great fingertip catch for 13 yards with Corey Ivy hanging on him like purple drapes. Ward caught another 13-yarder on the next play. It was first-and-10 at the 34.

Ben threw incomplete to Washington, and then to Holmes, but on third down, with Heath Miller inexplicably on the sideline and Limas Sweed inexplicably not, Roethlisberger threw hard into the left flat at Washington, who was going to be tackled short of the first-down marker until Reed fell down in front of him. It was first-and-10 at the 50.

"The prevailing mentality," said Tomlin of these moments, "was not so much that we can do it, but more that we have to do it."

Ben found Washington again on the next play for 9 yards, and Mewelde Moore got the call on second-and-1 -- the only running play of Ben's Drive -- and slithered for 3 between the tackles. It was first-and-10 at the Baltimore 38. Ninety seconds remained.

With Ward drawing coverage toward the post, Washington got lonesome on a deep out to Ben's left. Twenty-four yards later, it was first-and-10 at the 14. Seventy-two seconds left.

Ben threw quickly to Ward on first down, good for 10 more to the 4. On first and goal, Roethlisberger spiked it.

"I looked to the sideline and said I wanted to clock it," Roethlisberger said. "He [Tomlin] nodded. I just wanted everything to calm down right there."

Probably a mistake. They wasted a down, and wound up saving the Ravens some time on the final possession.

The second-and-goal play was a slightly panicky pass to tight end Matt Spaeth, who didn't get his hands up in time to snare it.

Third-and-goal found Ward split wide to the right, the primary receiver.

"I was looking for Hines on a quick curl," Roethlisberger said. "Then Mewelde was the second option. I looked up and it looked like there were about seven guys with Hines and by that time I had to scramble to the left. When I got over there I knew Tone [Holmes] was dragging across to the right, and I started back a little because you know I hold onto the ball too long.

"I was about one half of a second from throwing it away."

Instead he whipped it at Holmes just inside the middle of the end zone, and Holmes caught it at the goal line. Not an inch past it. Not an inch short of it. At the goal line.

Touchdown. Division title. Home playoff game Jan. 10 or 11.

"It's a special team," Roethlisberger said.

Yeah. With a special quarterback.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 16, 2008

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