The Pittsburgh Steelers and the San Diego Chargers put all they’ve got on the table for the chance to go to the AFC Championship. Broadcast on CBS and set in swirly snowflakes of Heinz Field, the first quarter bolted out–no pun intended–with a Chargers touchdown by wide receiver Vincent Jackson. San Diego 7 and Pittsburgh 0. Minutes later, Steelers wide receiver Santonio Holmes returned a punt for sixty-eight yards, flew into the end zone, and toppled a photographer on the sidelines. It was such a beauty. The snow, his running–like a bumble bee or yellow jacket into the night. Another Fortune Cookie moment. Both teams tied 7.
One of the cameras cut to an extreme close-up of Chargers punter Brett Scifres (pronounced “sigh-fruh-ss”) after that TD. He wore the look of shock and irritation.
The second quarter continued beyond seven minutes and then Vincent Jackson made a job-dropping leap of a forty-three yard catch. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin challenged the complete pass call. He won the challenge. Jackson caught the ball in mid-air, but upon hitting the turf, the ball bounced out of his hands. The Chargers had to punt the ball away. Nate Kaeding attempted a forty-two yard field goal with two minutes on the clock. He did it. San Diego 10 and Pittsburgh 7. Steelers running back Willie Parker was able to zip across the front, left corner of the end zone with fewer than seventy seconds left in the quarter. Thus, going into halftime Pittsburgh 14 and San Diego 10.
The third quarter started with Steelers on offense. That drive, consisting of thirteen plays, ticked all the way to seven minutes for a touchdown by tight end Heath Miller. Pittsburgh 21 and San Diego 10. The Chargers shoved back with a sixty-three yard kick-return by running back Darren Sproles. One play later, Steelers linebacker Larry Foote recovered a loose Chargers ball (technically, his teammate James Harrison got to the ball first but Foote came up with it). Chargers head coach Norv Turner challenged the interception ruling. He lost the challenge. Towards the bottom of the quarter, Steelers punter Mitch Berger kicked the ball down the field, which bounced off Chargers strong safety Eric Weddle’s helmet. The Steelers got the ball back.
The fourth quarter lashed out without a TD or a field goal by the Steelers…as the previous plays had suggested would surely happen. But they got that missed score soon enough. Running back Gary Russell broke the plane sufficiently for a TD. Pittsburgh 28 and San Diego 10. Steelers defensive end Brett Kiesel sacked Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers a couple plays later. After he got up, Kiesel took three to four steps while doing a downward figure-eight, row-row-row-your-boat movement with his arms. The Chargers got a TD on the board courtesy of wide receiver Legedu Naanee (the first of his career) with about nine minutes on the clock. Willie Parker got his galloping legs into the end zone some five minutes later. Pittsburgh 35 and San Diego 17. Byron Leftwich stepped in as Steelers quarterback for Ben Roethlisberger in the bottom of the quarter. With under two minutes to play, Darren Sproles ran sixty-two yards into the end zone for a TD. Pittsburgh 35 and San Diego 24. Final score.
Observations & Miscellania:
1. Jim Nantz and Phil Simms were the commentators. They both wore dark suits, light blue button-down shirts, and v-neck sweaters. Nantz wore a silverish/blue tie and a bluish-gray sweater, Simms a silver and bluish-gray, fat, diagonally striped tie and a dark blue/or black sweater.
2. What’s this? While Nate Kaeding was putting up the extra point in the top of the first quarter, the commentators mentioned something about Vincent Jackson’s DUI from the past week.
3. The Steelers wore yellow pants–black stripe down the outer leg–and black jerseys with yellow sleeves. The Chargers wore blue pants with–white/bolt stripe down the outer leg–and white jerseys. The uniforms made me think of yellow jackets and blueberry muffins.
4. Read more about The Fortune Cookie here.
6. Chargers linebacker Shaun Phillips got elbowed in the adam’s apple/throat area in the bottom of the second quarter. He walked off the field a couple minutes later. To his left? An Asian man. A Dr. Calvin Wong, methinks. The Chargers’ opthamologist is Dr. Mihir (Max) Parikh.
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