Monday, January 16, 2006

Appeasing the Football Gods:
How the Steelers stunned the Colts

Some say the game of football comes down to skill and athleticism. The better team that day will always win. However, there is one more thing to factor in: The Football Gods.

The Football Gods must be appeased if a team is to win a game. The Steelers did and the Colts didn't, that's what decided the game in the end. Let's study some of the commandments sent down from the gods to see why they favored the underdog Pittsburgh and not the #1 seeded Colts.

1) The Football Gods LOVE the underdog.
The line on the Steelers, I believe, was -9 to lose. That's more than a touchdown, making Men of Steel heavily favored to lose. In fact, probably the only people to think they would beat the Colts was the Steelers themselves. Being the underdog, the Football Gods favored them.

2) Thou shall run the ball when thoust havest a two-touchdown lead.
In the second half, all the Steelers did was run, which burns the clock, leaving no time for your opponent to spare. No time means they have to hurry and are more prone to mistakes. The Colts had to go into the hurry-up offense with 6 minutes left in the game because of time-killing, 8-minute drive. And, on that drive, they face 4th and short yardage twice and converted both times. This leads us to...

3) Thou shall dance with the one who brought you.
The Steelers are all about the run. They started the game passing and got a good lead. Then, they turned to the run to finish the game off. Note, that the gods were not happy with the Steelers for not running the ball earlier. ThatÂ’s why Bettis coughed one up near the end. But, in the end, the gods were appeased with the Steelers running game.

4) Thou gamble big, thou shall be rewarded by gameÂ’s end.
The Steelers faced 4th and 1 yard or less twice in the 4th quarter. Both times, they gambled big to keep the ball out of a resurging, quick-strike Colts offense. The Football Gods like teams that games big. If they Colts get the ball back with 11 minutes or 9 minutes to go, they could have easily rallied. Coach Bill Cowher, with a rep for playing it safe, gambled and by the time the Colts got the ball back, they only had 6 minutes to work with. You think on the last drive that ended in a shanked field goat in with :20 seconds left that Manning couldn't have scored a TD with 3 minutes left? This bring us to another commandment...

5) Thou shall play to win.
To many times, teams play not to lose. Sure, the Steelers could have punted with 11 minutes to go and given the Colts plenty of time to work with. But, why do that when your running game isn't being stopped and you only need a few inches? If you play to win, you want to keep the ball out of the other teams hands. Run the ball and make it, you keep the ball AND the clock moving. It's a WIN-WIN if you make it. The Steelers played to win twice and the Football Gods smiled.

6) Bad calls shall be avenged.
Really, Steelers's Safety Troy Polamalu... That was an INT. Instant Reply got it wrong and the bad call was avenged in the game.

7) Thou shall play the entire season.
The Colts hadn't played a meaningful game in a month. Then, they lost two and barely won an easy game. If the starters would have played more than 3 downs a game, say a full half, they would have no doubt been better prepared. They didn't and they didn't find any groove until the end of the first half.

Now, even with all of these commandments working for the Steelers. The game came down a field goal to send the game into overtime (which a coindetermined have determinted the winner).

8) Thou shall sacrifice one field goal attempt in the regular season to the Football Gods.
Colt's kicker Mike Vanderjagt was perfect at home. Everything he kicked in the RCA Dome found it's way between the goal posts. But, the gods demand a sacrifice during the regular season. If he'd have shanked one in a regular home game, the gods would have been appeased and that 46-yarder (a rather easy one for Vandy) would have split the uprights.

So you can see, the Steelers played right into the Football Gods hands and into the annuals of history. Teams who wish to win should take heed and learn the lessons this game has to tell.

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