The Pittsburgh Steelers pulled out a 31-28 victory over the Packers at Heinz Field, Sunday night, thanks to a 53-yard field goal by kicker Chris Boswell on the game’s final play.
- It was certainly one of the greatest finishes in the history of the Steelers franchise.
- And hats off to Boswell, who tied the the mark for the longest field goal in Heinz Field history.
Of course, if Packers head coach Mike McCarthy’s third quarter gamble had paid off, his kicker, Mason Crosby, would hold the Heinz Field record at 57 yards.
Midway through the third quarter, mere moments after the two-touchdown underdog Packers had taken a 21-14 lead on a 55-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Brett Hundley to receiver Davante Adams, Green Bay linebacker Blake Martinez corralled a tipped screen pass that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was tyring to get to Le’Veon Bell that set the visitors up just 45 yards away from another score and a commanding lead.
- But after driving to Pittsburgh’s 31-yard line, the Packers were pushed back to the 39, thanks to sacks by defensive ends L.T. Walton and Cameron Heyward.
Facing fourth and 18, surely McCarthy, one of the better head coaches in the NFL, would send out his punting unit and force the Steelers offense to start from deep within its own territory.
- Surprisingly, however, McCarthy, a Pittsburgh-native, sent out Crosby to attempt a 57-yard field goal.
Perhaps, not surprisingly, Crosby’s kick wasn’t even close, and Pittsburgh took over from its own 47.
Six plays later, the Steelers tied the game at 21, thanks to a one-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown
It’s impossible to say if Pittsburgh would have still scored a touchdown had it been forced to start the drive from even its own 20, but it’s likely Todd Haley’s play-calling approach would have been different.
- It just goes to show you that all NFL coaches–even highly-respected one–are susceptible to lapses in judgment.
It’s likely McCarthy, given Green Bay’s health issues (Aaron Rodgers missed his fifth-straight game with a broken collarbone) and precarious playoff positioning in the NFC, was frustrated with his offense’s inability to capitalize on Roethlisberger’s second interception of the night, and he wanted to give his team a boost (along with a two-score lead).
- Instead, McCarthy gave the home team a boost and allowed the Steelers to quickly get back into the game.
When it comes to kicking 50-plus-yard field goals at Heinz Field, perhaps the toughest place to kick in the history of modern football, there’s a time and a place for everything.
With just four seconds remaining in regulation, it was a no-brainer for Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin to send Boswell out to attempt a 53-yard field goal.
- Worst-case scenario: The kick is blocked and returned for a game-ending touchdown.
- Likely scenario: Boswell’s kick falls short, and the game goes into overtime.
- Best-case scenario is what actually transpired, as Boswell’s kick sailed through the uprights with plenty of room to spare.
A head coach can often be his own worst enemy.
If Packers head coach Mike McCarthy had to do it all over again, he probably would have played it safe and not allowed Chris Boswell to fire the last salvo of the night.