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