The New England Patriots have perfected the art of the comeback, which has been instrumental in their fashioning of a dynasty over the years. Whenever they miss their shot at the Superbowl champions, the Patriots, usually on the strength of such talents as Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and a formidable defensive capacity, figure out a way to get the job done. It's been a bitter reality for the Pittsburgh Steelers over the years; one they hoped to turn around this time.
Team 1 2 3 4 T Patriots 7 3 6 11 27 Steelers 7 10 7 0 24
It just wasn't meant to be.
In the Patriots' last game, with 5 seconds left on the timer, Ben Roethlisberger was intercepted while in the end zone to secure the Patriots' 27-24 comeback win, thanks mainly to the magic combination of Brady and Gronkowski.
That's their record ninth in-a-row AFC East title, and it comes with another chance at home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, which is always nice. The game even gave us a new term from the NFL rulebook for us to add to our burgeoning, ever more perplexing lexicon - 'surviving the ground.'
In addition, there was the Steelers' quarterback's decision to forgo spiking the ball in order to try for a field goal that would have seen the game tied, and which might have reverberations going well into January.
Brady, whose consistent feeding of Gronkowski was instrumental in setting-up Dion Lewis' 8-yard touchdown with a short 56 seconds left on the clock, acknowledged the close-call that the game turned out to be, but said the difference was the one play they made that the Steelers didn't.
That's not the first time, and it likely won't be the last that we hear those sentiments.
Should the Patriots (11-3) manage to end the regular season by picking up wins over the Jets and the Bills, they will be sitting pretty come January with home ground advantage to further boost their chances.
Brady saw the game off with 298 passing yards coupled with two touchdowns and an interception while Gronkowski, coming off a one-game suspension, lit up the field with 168 yards from nine receptions including the game-winning drive. That drive could have been intercepted had Steelers' (11-3) safety Sean Davis held on to a tipped pass, thus handing the Patriots the chance they needed to get a hold of the game. Brady and Gronkowski saw to the rest.
It might still have been the Steelers' game had it not ben for game official Tony Corrente overturning an apparently sound 10-yard touchdown by tight end Jesse James from a Roethlisberger pass with only 28 seconds left on the clock.
The call brought up a lot of questions regarding the NFL's definition of what constitutes a catch, as Corrente's justification for the call was that James lost control of the ball as he twisted into the end-zone. Roethlisberger could have gone for a spike to set up a short kick that would have seen them remain in the game, but his decision to try and snatch a victory instead sealed the Steelers' fate.
It was a painful way to lose the game, especially for a Steelers' side that has undergone the experience at the hands of the Patriots more than a few times, but the Steelers seemed to take it on the chin. Maybe next time, right?