Brien had two chances to win game

Heinz Field can be a brutal place to kick, as the Jets' Doug Brien found out Saturday.

Updated: January 17, 2005, 1:02 AM ET
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

PITTSBURGH -- When Heinz Field opened four years ago, a reporter asked then Steelers place-kicker Todd Peterson and punter Josh Miller about how it was to kick along the Ohio River.

"Welcome to hell," Miller said, noting the sometimes unpredictable wind that tends to head toward the open end of the field facing the river.

Well, hell met Jets kicker Doug Brien on Saturday and damned him to a dubious place in Jets history.

Brien, kicking into the wind in the closed end of the field, missed field-goal tries of 47 and 43 yards in the final 2:02 of regulation, allowing the game to go into overtime and the Steelers ultimately to win 20-17 to earn a spot in the AFC Championship Game.

Doug Brien
GettyDoug Brien reacts as his 47-yard FG attempt comes up just short.
"I thought it was in," Brien said of his first miss, which banged off the crossbar. "I was really surprised when it didn't go through. I don't know if the wind picked up or I hit the ball a little fat. I thought I hit it pretty well, but maybe it was just a little cold out there and the ball didn't carry very well. But I thought I was going to make it."

Steelers kicker Jeff Reed won the game with a 33-yard field goal in overtime and he can certainly commiserate with Brien.

"It depends on the day," Reed says of kicking in Heinz Field. "I was advised when I got here not to let the factors mess in your head. Don't let the precipitation or wind bother you. I know the day before a game I live on the Weather Channel. It changes like crazy around here."

Brien was blindsided. With 2:02 remaining and the scored tied at 17, he tried a 47-yarder, which seemed like it might have been a stretch going into the wind. At first, he thought he made it. Then it hit the crossbar and didn't go through.

Brien was stunned. But on the next play, Ben Roethlisberger threw an interception and he prepared to kick into the wind again.

Jets coach Herman Edwards might not have helped his doomed kicker. The Jets were at the Steelers' 23 with 16 seconds left. The Jets called a timeout. The offense came off the field, but Edwards seemed to be more worried about the time on the clock than the kick.

Out came Pennington to kneel for a 1-yard loss to get the clock down to four seconds. Instead of a 42-yard field goal, Brien lined up for a 43-yarder. Critics will ask why he didn't call a Curtis Martin running play to move the ball closer instead of backwards.

"That is what we chose to do so that is how it worked out," Edwards said.

But Brien wasn't even close on this one. His 43-yarder sailed wide left.

"I just tried to kick it," Brien said. "The first one didn't go far enough. I tried to hit the second one too hard."

You have to wonder now how this loss will affect the long-term future of Brien. Bills fans still haven't forgiven Scott Norwood for his miss in Super Bowl XXV loss to the Giants.

Though he didn't name Brien, Martin said how angry he was about the loss.

"I have never been this angry about a game," Martin said. "It hurts. Football is more than a game. You take it so personally if you lose. You can say it's a game and that someone has to win and someone has to lose, but there is so much more emotion."

Martin was professional enough to walk over to Brien and tell him to keep his head up.

"I just feel bad for the team," Brien said. "I'll be fine. But I just feel bad for the guys that played so hard and battled back. The bottom line is that I went and kicked it and I missed them both."

Kicking in Heinz Field is tough. It's hell. And hell welcomed Doug Brien.

John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer

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