Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 11/5/12
Superstorm Sandy caused a lot of damage in New York and New Jersey last week, leaving many residents without power and causing the cancellation of the New York City Marathon.That, however, would not stop 80,000+ fans from packing MetLife Stadium on Sunday to cheer on their beloved Giants.There is no shortage of spirit in New York City, often using a sporting event to uplift their collective spirits.NFL Commissioner Rodger Goodell was in attendance to meet and congratulate many first responders who have done so much in the wake of the storm.There was no shortage of storylines in the game that eventually broke out during this showcase: Referees, Big Ben vs. Eli, top defenses collide, Giants' pass rush against a battered Steelers' offensive line among others.Here are my top five things we learned from this classic matchup. Replacement Referees or Not, Problems Still ExistIt was enough to force my wife from the room and probably raise her blood pressure to dangerously high levels.In a span of about five minutes, three questionable (at best) calls went against the Steelers that gave the Giants 14 points and nearly cost the Steelers the game.Late in the second half, a bogus pass interference call against cornerback Keenan Lewis gave the Giants 41 yards.A few plays later, it was third-and-goal and the Steelers’ Ike Taylor (swagger) batted down the pass to force a fourth down. However, another phantom personal foul was called against safety Ryan Clark for a hit on Victor Cruz.The hit was called a “blow to the head of a defenseless receiver” but replay showed it was a clean hit on Cruz to the arm and torso. The penalty gave the Giants a first-and-goal and two plays later Andre Brown broke in for a score.On the ensuing drive, a controversial call came on a play where Roethlisberger seemed to have attempted a pass but lost grip and threw a duck into the ground. The Giants’ Michael Boley picked up the ball and returned it for a touchdown, and replay confirmed it was a fumble.Three very questionable calls that made a huge impact on the game.With all the flak replacement referees got for plays like the “Immaculate Deception,” less attention is being paid to bogus calls like these. I hear the old arguments like “it happens really fast and its hard” or “they do the best they can.”At what point are these excuses no longer good enough?  For the Steelers to Win, They Must Run the FootballFor the third consecutive week, the Steelers rushed for over 100 yards, this time from third-string back Isaac Redman. The Steelers’ return to the ground-and-pound game has resulted in a three-game winning streak.It would seem they have found the missing piece to their offensive puzzle and the cause of their early season woes.The surge of Redman and Dwyer in the absence of injured starter Rashard Mendenhall has given the Steelers the stability they need moving forward.The black and gold still need to face a tough Baltimore team twice down the stretch as the two teams fight for the division title.With an improved rushing attack going against a Ray Lewis-less Ravens defense, the Steelers should be able to go into those games with more confidence than just a few weeks ago. The Giants Have the League’s Best Pass RushAgainst any other quarterback, the Giants’ pass rush in this game would have been paralyzing. Fortunately for the Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger is the best in the business at evading pass rushers and making a play.Even in this game, the pass rush was stifling for Big Ben and had him on the ropes for much of the game. The rotation of Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck are seemingly able to get to the quarterback at will and accumulated four sacks on Roethlisberger between them.There is more raw athleticism at the defensive end position in 2012 than ever before in league history, and the Giants understand this is a key to success.Pierre-Paul, Umenyiora and Tuck were all drafted by New York and have become the most dynamic defensive line in the league. Since 2003, they have a combined 144.5 sacks. This is a Matchup We Should See More OftenEli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger were both drafted in 2004 (1st and 11th overall, respectively) and have four super bowl wins between them.In a league built on TV ratings and the teams generally close proximity to each other, I’m surprised we have only seen this matchup twice before.While Ben and Eli are among the league's elite quarterbacks, there is a lot more talent on these two teams that shined during this game. Both are physical, defensive-minded teams and are among the most stable franchises in the league.The next guaranteed head-to-head will come when New York visits Pittsburgh in 2016.I very much hope the league looks at the great game that was played Sunday and elects to put these two head to head at least once more in that time. It’s not just about the Ben vs. Eli storyline, but because both teams represent classic football. Momentum Means Everything in the NFLAs much as we want to give these guys credit for being professionals, it would be foolish to deny that emotion plays a big part in sports.This game was a good example of how momentum swings – whatever the cause – can make a big difference.The beginning of the game was all Pittsburgh.While the first quarter was scoreless, the Steelers managed to win the coveted time of possession battle handedly 10:30 to 4:30.A strong rushing attack and two third down conversions had Pittsburgh poised to take control of the game.The then zebras took over.The aforementioned phantom penalties against Keenan Lewis and Ryan Clark followed by the arguable fumble recovery turned a 7-0 lead into a 7-14 hole within minutes.All of the momentum was on the Giants’ side and it looked like Christmas would come early for New York.Give the Steelers credit, however. They kept battling, stuck to the rushing attack that was working and scored 17 points in the second half, holding the Giants to just two field goals.What momentum boils down to is confidence. If something has been working well, you become confident it will continue to work and you will likely be successful. If you are doubtful, the outcome is less likely to be in your favor.These guys are pros but they are still human, and are just as vulnerable to “Big Mo” as we all are.
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