Three thoughts from the Steelers' thrilling 31-28 win over the Packers on Sunday night:
1. How do you stop Antonio Brown?
Green Bay seemed to favor a Cover 2 look where a cornerback would also have safety help over the top. Brown, who caught 10 passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns, illustrated that even the most theoretically sound defenses have no chance of combating his technical expertise. On one touchdown, he glided into an outside release and found just two yards of empty space between corner and safety—a throw he and Ben Roethlisberger have perfected by now. On another, he beats his man to the inside then tiptoes into a fade. His change-of-direction is so sharp he gives himself a yard of space in front of the defender and another yard before the end zone to drag his feet.
Nothing, however, compares to the catch that set up Chris Boswell’s game-winner.
On first-and-10 from the Pittsburgh 30—with 17 seconds remaining and the score tied at 28—Brown weaved his way through the corner/safety coverage and nabbed a pass just before the sideline. The odds of him actually catching it were so small that both of Green Bay’s defenders simply walked away from the area, waving their arms to signal an incomplete pass. The truth? Brown had already planted his lead foot and was dragging the other when the ball touched his fingertips. There are times when defensive coordinators can just hope and pray. Sunday was one of those nights.
2. For those not inside Green Bay’s quarterback room, it was initially difficult to understand the animus from Mike McCarthy when he was asked about finding a quarterback—Colin Kaepernick—outside the organization to replace the injured Aaron Rodgers. On Sunday night against the Steelers, all of the work Brett Hundley and McCarthy put in together finally revealed itself on a grand stage.
Hundley’s first two touchdown passes were impressive, but he made his money during the tiny moments between Pittsburgh coverage breakdowns.
• With seven minutes to go in the first quarter, facing five-man pressure, Hundley rolled away from his strong right side, kept his line of vision straight downfield and rifled a pass across his body to Davante Adams on the sideline for a first down.
• With 12:17 to go in the third quarter, Hundleyexecutes a Rodgers-esque shoulder fake which sells Steelers cornerback Coty Sensabaugh on the stop-and-go, leading to a breezy, 55-yard touchdown pass to Adams. It was almost as if Pittsburgh did not think the move was in Hundley’s arsenal. They were eager to jump on a potential turnover.
• With 2:50 to go in the fourth quarter, after Green Bay burns its second to last timeout to prevent Hundley from facing an uncovered blitz, he lines up in an empty backfield on a pivotal fourth-and-6. As defensive ends crash from both sides, Hundley fires a pass to Adams on an “in-and-out”route. There is almost no other place the ball can be put, or else it is ripe for Steelers corner William Gay to make the pick. Considering the circumstances—down by seven, prime-time game against the 8-2 Steelers—the accuracy was tremendous.
3. An absolute dagger of a kick from Chris Boswell, who had missed an extra point earlier in the night. His 53-yarder, which hooked just inside the left post, was the longest field goal ever kicked at Heinz. Kick-time temperature was just a tad above freezing, meaning the ball takes on the feel of a small boulder.