Resilient Steelers rally past erratic Lions 37-27

The Pittsburgh Steelers aren’t quite ready to say they’re in the
playoff hunt.

They’re also not quite ready to say they’re out of it
either.

Ben Roethlisberger passed for 367 yards and four touchdowns in a
37-27 win over the Detroit Lions on Sunday, including two in the
final 5 minutes as the Steelers (4-6) rallied to win their second
straight and keep the unlikely notion of a run at a postseason
berth alive.

At least for another week.

”We’ve got to keep this thing going,” wide receiver Jerricho
Cotchery said. ”Our margin for error is nonexistent right now. We
feel good about this team and we’re going to keep grinding.”

So do the Lions (6-4), who played brilliantly for 15 minutes and
befuddled for the other 45 to fall back into a tie with Chicago for
first-place in the NFC North. Matthew Stafford threw for 362 yards
and two touchdowns to Calvin Johnson but struggled in the second
half as Detroit struggled late.

Stafford completed just 3 of 16 passes in the second half, none
of them to Johnson.

”I missed some guys,” Stafford said. ”We had drops. We had
miscues. We had all sorts of stuff that we can’t do on the road
against a good team.”

Even if the Steelers have hardly resembled one for long
stretches of this unpredictable season. Five things we learned as
Pittsburgh took another tentative step toward digging out of a
massive hole while the Lions fell flat.

ROETHLISBERGER KNOWS WHAT HE’S DOING: The Steelers opted to use
an up-tempo, no-huddle offense to keep the Lions from substituting
frequently. The plan included giving Roethlisberger the freedom to
call the plays. Pittsburgh responded by posting its highest point
total in more than two years behind a quarterback who insists he’s
not nearly ready to give up.

”We are out to play every game like it is the most important,”
Roethlisberger said. I told you guys awhile ago that I wasn’t going
to quit. There was no quit in me or from anyone on the team
today.”

JIM SCHWARTZ LIKES TO GAMBLE: Up four points in the fourth
quarter, the Lions could have attempted a short field goal to pad
their lead. Instead, coach Jim Schwartz called for a fake. Rookie
punter Sam Martin, who also serves as the holder, tried to gain the
5 yards he needed by rushing over the right side. He fumbled after
getting hit by Steelers nose tackle Steve McLendon and Pittsburgh
took over.

Looking back, Schwartz doesn’t think he made a mistake.

”I don’t regret anything that happens in the game,” Schwartz
said. ”We’re going to do our very best to win the football game.
We didn’t make enough plays to win this one, including that
one.”

PITTSBURGH’S DEFENSE LIVES: The Lions posted the highest
second-quarter total in team history when they scored 27 points.
Stafford hit Johnson for touchdowns of 79 and 19 yards and did it
with ease. Yet a late stand forced Detroit to settle for a field
goal at the end of the first half and set the tone for a second
half in which the Lions could muster little.

”We knew they’d make plays and get yards,” Pittsburgh safety
Ryan Clark said. ”We just wanted to make plays and stop them when
it counted and we were able to do that.”

ANTONIO BROWN MIGHT BE MINI-TRON: Johnson might be the best wide
receiver in the NFL, but Brown is having the best season of any
receiver in the league. He finished with seven receptions for 147
yards and two scores, including a crucial third-down grab that
kick-started the game-winning touchdown drive.

”We knew run after the catch was going to be key to this
game,” Brown said. ”We knew their pass rush was going to try and
heat us up.”

Brown’s 74 receptions are a career high and lead the league.

STAFFORD IS A RECORD HOLDER: Stafford’s lights out second
quarter allowed him to climb a major rung in the Lions’ record
book. He surpassed Hall of Famer Bobby Layne as the team’s all-time
leading passer and has 16,005 yards passing in his career, more
than Layne’s total of 15,711. Stafford’s touchdown pass to Johnson
was also the 100th of his career.

The former No. 1 overall pick only needed 55 games to reach the
milestone, the fourth-fastest quarterback to do that in league
history.

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org