BY SEAN DONOVAN
In a game between two slug-it-out, defensive minded teams, the outcome of the New York Jets' Week 2 27-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers was very much in balance midway through the third quarter.
New York had an opportunity to stem the Steelers' momentum and take the ball back down just one score.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers were driving into Jets territory nursing a 13-10 lead, with 9:10 left in the period. Earlier on the drive, they had been aided by a LaRon Landry personal foul but now faced a third-and-16 situation after a 6-yard loss on a running play.
Stop the Steelers here, and the Jets get the ball with a chance to re-take the lead.
As Roethlisberger took the shotgun snap, New York fired off an exotic blitz call that over-loaded the right side of Pittsburgh's offensive line. The Jets dropped one of their down defensive lineman into coverage and sent Landry and linebacker David Harris into the pass rush.
The blitz worked to perfection. Almost. The right side of Pittsburgh's protection couldn't handle all of the rushers, and Harris was left with a clear lane for the would-be sack. The loss would have not only killed the Steelers' drive but given Mark Sanchez and the Jets' offense better field position.
Instead, Roethlisberger executed a brilliant move to evade the takedown, reset his feet and heaved a pass toward the end zone.
Despite the blown opportunity for the negative play, the Jets were still in good position to to force a fourth down. The pass is intended for Mike Wallace on a deep fade route, but cornerback Antonio Cromartie was in perfect position to prevent the touchdown.
Instead, in a poor display of field awareness, Cromartie overran the route as if Wallace was still going, headed out of bounds. The pass was hauled in and Wallace just barely got his feet inbounds. The play was reviewed and upheld.
Wallace deserves all the credit for a sensational catch, but the defense was in perfect position to prevent the score. Cromartie's error, combined with Harris' poor angle on the elusive Roethlisberger, helped the Steelers extend their margin.
Pittsburgh went up 20-10, and the ineptitude of the Jets' offense made this touchdown pass the game's deciding play.
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