Sunday, October 7, 2012

PITTSBURGH -- Honestly, 30 of the worst minutes of professional football I've ever watched. The Pittsburgh Steelers lead the Philadelphia Eagles 10-0 at halftime of a game of which neither side should be proud and for which Eagles quarterback Michael Vick should be getting screamed at by teammates and coaches throughout the intermission. Vick has fumbled the ball away twice in the game, raising his personal turnover total for the season to 11 and the team's to 14. Both fumbles were on runs up the middle on which he chose not to slide and demonstrated a continued refusal to prioritize protection of the football. Earlier in the drive that resulted in the first fumble, he made a rotten decision to throw a ball up in the air and nearly saw it intercepted, and he fumbled on another run only to have the play overturned when it was ruled that a Steelers player had touched his foot while he was on the ground. More than once, he has thrown deep downfield into double coverage, and in general he has looked nothing like the responsible quarterback who went turnover-free in last Sunday night's victory over the Giants. Each team has been penalized five times -- the Steelers for 56 yards and the Eagles for 35. But the difference in the score (which could have been worse, had Jerricho Cotchery not fallen down just short of the goal line on a catch he made just before the half) is the two turnovers and the mastery of the quarterback position the Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger showed while orchestrating a 12-play, 75-yard, 7:21 touchdown drive in the second quarter. Roethlisberger was ducking blitzes, faking pitches and managing to keep plays alive while also appearing to play under control and managing to read the field and the difference. If Vick was taking notes, he could come out and be a different guy in the second half. And if the Eagles' defense can keep the score close, it would give Vick a chance to win the game with his fourth fourth-quarter comeback of the season. But the way he played in the first half makes it feel as though the Eagles are very far from being able to even hope for such a thing. The Steelers get the ball back to start the second half, but Vick will get it back eventually. The difference in this game might come down to whether he's able to keep it.

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