Packers' defense comes up empty on two key plays in final drive
GREEN BAY – Any number of plays could have swung the game in the Green Bay Packers’ favor — or at least sent it into overtime — but two plays in the final minute will haunt the defense in the 31-28 loss Sunday to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Starting at his own 30 with 17 seconds left, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger drove the Steelers 35 yards in four plays to set up Chris Boswell’s 53-yard, game-winning field goal with no time left.
Two pass plays accounted for all of the positive yardage the Steelers had, both connections between Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown.
On the first, Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers wrapped Brown in a triangle of defenders to keep him covered. Safety Morgan Burnett cut off the middle, cornerback Kevin King took away the flat and safety Josh Jones played the corner route.
Brown ran the corner and with linebacker Kyler Fackrell bearing down on Roethlisberger, the quarterback threw the ball where only Brown could catch it. He reached high to snare the ball, got his left foot down and then dragged his right toe before going out of bounds, completing a 23-yard catch.
“The very first play we rolled to him, we were rolling to three deep,” Capers said Monday. “That was what that play was designed for, that route that he ran.
“When I saw it from the press box I thought he was definitely out of bounds until I saw the replay of it. It looked like (he was) catching the ball out of bounds. But he got his feet down. He made a tremendous play.”
The Steelers still weren’t in field goal range at the Packers 47, but they had 13 seconds and two timeouts remaining.
All game, Roethlisberger had been free to stand in the pocket and throw against mostly four-man rushes, but Capers decided to put some pressure on him. Slot corner Damarious Randall and linebacker Blake Martinez blitzed as part of a six-man rush.
“We hadn’t pressured them much during the whole game,” Capers said. “We were doubling Brown a lot, so we felt at that point we’d pressure them and we had a come guy from free on the pressure, Ben just got rid of the ball.
“That play is why we didn’t pressure as much because you saw the timing of it to where he was going to throw the ball on the boundary to Brown, and that’s hard to defend one-on-one out there.”
The 14-yard pass to Brown set up the Steelers at the Packers 33. After a 2-yard loss, Boswell came out and provided the winning points.