2005 AFC Playoff Steelers 21 at Colts 18
January 15, 2006
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2005 AFC Playoffs Steelers 21 at Colts 18

A game for the ages. Pittsburgh totally dominates for 3 quarters, building a 21-3 lead as Ben flawlessly executes an aggressive pass-first game plan while the defense overwhelms Peyton Manning with a dizzying array of blitzes. Pittsburgh appears to salt the game away on Polamalu's diving interception at midfield with 5:26 remaining, and that's when things get whacky.

Polamalu gets up to run and fumbles the ball, but falls on it - only to have the play mysteriously overturned by referee Pete Morelli (apparently, the NFL's only "legally blind" official). Given new life, Manning immediately hits Harrison for 20, Wayne for 24 capped by Edgerrin James' 3-yd TD run and a 2-point conversion pass to Wayne, narrowing the score to 21-18.

Pittsburgh is forced to punt after a 3-and-out but again, Manning is engulfed by Steeler blitzes. Twice, Joey Porter blows around the edge virtually untouched and nails Manning for sacks, including on 4th down to give Pittsburgh the ball at the Colt 2 with only 1:20 remaining.

Game over, right? Wrong.

In one of the most shocking plays in NFL history, the normally surehanded Bettis coughs up the ball on a textbook perfect hit by Gary Brackett. Safety Nick Harper scoops up the ball and sprints toward the opposite end zone with a convoy of blockers and nothing but green in front of him. But Ben Roethlisberger -- brilliant all game with his arm and mind -- had begun running backward the moment the ball popped out and put himself in perfect position as the Steelers' last line of defense. His miraculous turning, twisting, diving ankle tackle of Harper saves the game for Pittsburgh and is now the stuff of legends.

But the game doesn't end there. Two Manning passes move the ball to the Pittsburgh 27, and Mike Vanderjagt -- most accurate kicker in NFL history -- lines up for a 46-yd FG to send it to overtime. After a Pittsburgh time out to ice the kicker and a brief exchange between Cowher and Vanderjagt from across the field, Vanderjagt hooks his kick badly to the right (it never has a chance) and the Steelers storm the field in victorious jubilation.


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