What was supposed to be a high scoring game ended up being a classic defensive struggle until Drew Brees put together a classic display of passing while the Steelers offense continued to struggle in the New Orleans Saints 20-10 victory over the Steelers.
The Steelers are hoping that this is not a repeat of last season going into the Cincinnati Bengals game this weekend. The Steelers jumped off to a 6-2 record last season only to lose 5 in a row behind an inconsistent offense.
After just a 6-3 New Orleans Saints halftime lead it became the Drew Brees show in the second half. Brees was 34 of 44 for 305 yards for the game, but 22 of 24 in the second half with a fourth quarter touchdown pass that lifted the Saints to a much needed victory while dropping the Steelers into a first place tie with the Baltimore Ravens at 5-2.
No one on offense had an outstanding game. The line was terrible, Ben Roethlisberger was 17 of 28 for just 195 yards, and Rashard Mendenhall had just 71 yards on 15 carries with the bulk of that coming on a 38-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
“We knew what a big game this was,” said Brees. “There was no better way to get back on track than to beat these guys. I felt like we played as complete a game as we’ve played all year, especially in the second half.”
Brees’ first TD went to Marques Colston for 16 yards and the second went for 8 yards to Lance Moore with 2:37 left, breaking open a defensive struggle in which neither team scored a touchdown through three quarters. Leigh Torrence then intercepted Roethlisberger to seal it for the Saints (5-3), who were coming off an embarrassing 30-17 loss at home last week to the scuffling Cleveland Browns.
“This is definitely a gut check for us,” Roethlisberger said. “We got knocked down a little bit tonight and now it will be interesting to see how we bounce back.”
The Saints came in ranked third in total defense and lived up to it, forcing two turnovers and stopping the Steelers on a goal-line stand in the first half.
The Saints struggled to run against a Steelers defense that came in ranked first in the NFL against the run and allowed New Orleans only 30 yards on the ground. Brees was sacked twice and intercepted once, giving him 11 interceptions and matching his total from last season.
After falling behind by 10 early in the fourth, the Steelers went 68 yards in only four plays to make it 13-10, capped by Mendenhall’s scoring run. Suddenly, both offenses were rolling in time for an action-packed finish. When Brees hit Robert Meachem for a 50-yard gain into Steelers territory, it appeared the Saints would quickly extend their lead again. Then cornerback Bryant McFadden sacked and stripped Brees, and Pittsburgh’s Lamarr Woodley recovered on the Steelers 27.
Pittsburgh quickly moved across midfield, only to lose the ball when tight end Heath Miller fumbled on a head-on hit by linebacker Marvin Mitchell. Sharper scooped it up, returning the ball 11 yards to the New Orleans 45.
With the acquisition of Terrell Owens this season to go with Chad Ochocinco the defending AFC North champs were supposed to be a powerhouse this season. But instead their 22-14 lost to the Dolphins last week dropped them to 2-5, making them one of the worst teams in the NFL. But for some reason they seem to always play their best football against the Steelers, which they will have to do because another defeat will just about eliminate them from any chance of a playoff berth.
Dan Carpenter kicked five field goals for the second game in a row—a rare feat—and the Dolphins overcame another goofy play Sunday, beating the Bengals.
The Bengals (2-5) failed to get a first down in the third quarter and were shut out in the second half. Their final chance ended with Carson Palmer’s interception with 2:43 to go, sending the defending AFC North champions to their fourth straight loss and a share of last place with the Browns.
It’s Cincinnati’s worst start since 2008, when Palmer was sidelined with an elbow injury.
“It is amazing,” said Palmer, who was 17 of 38 for 156 yards. “It’s embarrassing. It’s depressing. It’s every negative word you can think of that we didn’t do our job.”
Owens and Ochocinco combined for just 8 catches for 99 yards, and Cedrick Benson had just 69 yards on 20 carries. The Bengals simply haven’t played very well on either side of the ball this season. They were expected to be among the elite this season.
This is a must win for the Steelers as well, because they face the red hot New England Patriots (6-1) and Oakland Raiders (4-4), winners of four in a row, after the Bengals. They could very easily be 5-5 after this stretch if they lose to Cincinnati.