The Steelers finally put it all together to crush the much improved Oakland Raiders 35-3, but must keep it all together as they face the hot Buffalo Bills 2-8 who demolished the Cincinnati Bengals 49-31 after spotting them a huge first half lead.
The Raiders were 4-1 in their last five games, but despite a record 14 penalties for 163 yards Pittsburgh whipped Oakland like they owned them jumping off to a big first half lead and coasting for the victory as the defense shut down one of the league’s best rushing attacks, holding Darren McFadden to just 14 yards on 10 carries, 94 below his average.
|PHYSICAL GAME—Ben Roethlisberger is helped from the field by Steelers guard Willie Colon, left, after being hit late by Oakland Raiders defensive end Richard Seymour Nov. 21, at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
They kept pressure on quarterback Jason Campbell all day to the point where he was pulled in favor of Seton LaSalle grad Bruce Gradkowski whose stats looked better but really didn’t do anything either. James Harrison led the defense that had the Raiders so confused that Oakland star Richard Seymour shoved Ben Roethlisberger to the ground with an open hand to the face that got him ejected. “I don’t know why he ran up on me,” Seymour said after the game.
Harrison did much of the damage with five tackles, two sacks, an interception and a forced fumble. He also took one of the Steelers’ six personal foul penalties for slamming Campbell to the turf as the quarterback threw a pass, which prompted announcer Dan Fouts, who was a great quarterback, to say maybe quarterbacks should be wearing skirts, as he disapproved of the call.
“We didn’t worry about the calls,” Harrison said about all the penalties. “When you’re getting a lot of penalties against you, it brings you together.”
Meanwhile Mike Wallace had another outstanding game picking up 116 yards on just three catches as Roethlisberger distributed the ball to 8 different receivers. He was 18 of 29 for 275 yards and 2 touchdowns, as well as one touchdown running. Rashard Mendenhall wasn’t able to break any big runs leaving him with just 59 yards on 23 carries.
The Steelers (7-3) are tied atop the AFC North with the Baltimore Ravens who beat the Carolina Panthers 37-13, and one game behind the Patriots and Jets for the best record in the AFC.
Oakland averaged 458 yards and 38.6 points during its three-game winning streak, but had only 52 yards—11 rushing—as the Steelers opened a 21-3 halftime lead.
“We played against a really tough defense today that got after us,” said Campbell, who was 7 of 19 for 70 yards and an interception. “Once we got behind the 8-ball and they got all the momentum, they just kept bringing it and bringing it.”
Campbell never had a chance against a defense that forced three turnovers, two that became touchdowns, and had six sacks. The Steelers have allowed only one 100-yard rusher in 44 games.
The Steelers outgained the Raiders 431-182 as Roethlisberger threw touchdown passes of 52 yards to Mike Wallace, 22 yards to Emmanuel Sanders and 16 yards to Isaac Redman. He also scrambled 16 yards for a touchdown.
Down 31-14 at halftime, something happened to the Buffalo Bills (2-8) as they came out fired up in the second half and outscored the Bengals 25-0. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick matched his career high with four touchdown passes, and the Bills rallied for their second straight win on Sunday, 49-31 over the bumbling Bengals.
Buffalo took advantage of Cincinnati’s depleted secondary for its biggest comeback since it overcame a 26-0 deficit and topped the Colts 37-35 on Sept. 21, 1997.
Fitzpatrick took advantage of a defense down to four healthy defensive backs by game’s end. Steve Johnson caught three touchdown passes, including an 11-yarder that put Buffalo ahead 35-31 early in the fourth quarter. Johnson finished with eight catches for 137 yards.
With the collapse, the Bengals secured their 18th non-winning record in the last 20 years. Fitzpatrick’s homecoming got off to a miserable start—three first-half interceptions, though one of them was nullified by a penalty. He was Carson Palmer’s backup for two years, before the Bengals let him go.
Once he settled down, he outplayed his mentor. Fitzpatrick was 21 of 34 for 316 yards and his second four-touchdown game of the season. He has thrown touchdown passes in 11 consecutive games, the longest streak by a Bills quarterback since Flutie did it 12 straight games in 1999.
Running back Fred Jackson ran for 116 yards and two touchdowns, and star wide receiver Lee Evans had four catches for 72 yards. The Steelers will play in Buffalo this week at 1 p.m.