4:25 PM ET, December 22, 2013
Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- After an exhilarating win in the snow, Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu got even better news when he returned to the locker room.
Remarkably, the Steelers are still in the playoff chase.
Polamalu's forced fumble set up Le'Veon Bell's 1-yard touchdown run with 1:28 left, then Pittsburgh withstood Green Bay's last throw into the end zone and dealt the Packers' playoff hopes a blow with a 38-31 victory Sunday.
It's a longshot, but the Steelers (7-8), after starting 0-4 this season, are still mathematically in the hunt for an AFC wild-card spot. They need a lot of help.
"It's been a long road for us, but we still have our struggles. We were one play from losing that game," Polamalu said.
It would be a near-miracle if they can get through another week. The Steelers need to beat the Browns in Week 17, and need the Dolphins, Ravens and Chargers -- all 8-7 -- to lose.
"It's irrelevant, to be honest. Nothing has changed from our standpoint," Polamalu said. "Our mental approach to the game has got to be a week-by-week thing."
The loss meant Green Bay (7-7-1) needed Chicago to lose at Philadelphia on Sunday night to stay in playoff contention.
"I'm not into drama," coach Mike McCarthy said. "We wanted to control our own destiny, we let that opportunity out of our hands."
The Packers were back in control by night's end. The Bears lost 54-11, turning next week's matchup with Green Bay into a showdown for the NFC North title at Soldier Field.
Who's in? Who's on the verge of clinching? We break down the playoff possibilities for each team still alive heading into Week 17. Scenarios
Bell's TD came soon after scrambling Packers quarterback Matt Flynn fumbled while being tackled by Polamalu. The Steelers recovered at the Packers 17 and scored five plays later, aided in part by an encroachment penalty by the Packers' Nick Perry, on what would have been a field-goal attempt, to extend the drive.
The last few seconds were marred by a false start penalty that pushed the Packers back to the 6 and included a 10-second runoff down to 10 seconds remaining. The Packers didn't get the snap off until 3 seconds were left, and Flynn said it appeared the umpire was holding up the center but started the clock while backing up.
"I don't know what happened, really," Flynn said. "The operation seemed kind of weird right there," Flynn said.
Just like the rest of the second half.
But a rarely seen illegal batting call nearly spoiled the Steelers night
After the Steelers blocked the kick, a scramble ensued and the jostled ball ended up near the sideline, where Steelers defensive lineman Ziggy Hood poked it out of bounds. After conferring for a few minutes, the officials penalized Hood and gave possession to Green Bay, ruling the Steelers never controlled the ball after the block and that it never crossed the line of scrimmage of the Steelers 5.
Safety Ryan Clark said he could have picked up the ball, but he was slowed after spraining his ankle in the game and tried to lateral the ball, but it squirted free and eventually got to Hood.
"It's human error in this game," Clark said. "The guy didn't see it, he didn't have the opportunity to know if I had possession, so he made the call that he saw and that's part of football. It's no big deal, we won."
Given another chance, Eddie Lacy barreled into the end zone from 2 yards for a 21-17 lead.
Instead of sulking, the Steelers answered quickly.
Ben Roethlisberger found Matt Spaeth for an 11-yard touchdown pass with 2 minutes left in the third. Fourteen seconds later, Allen had his clutch interception.
But the Steelers finally finished things off with Bell's touchdown run and the Packers' failed last-ditch throw into the end zone.
Bell finished with 26 carries for 124 yards. ... Lacy had 15 carries for 84 yards and two scores but later left with a sprained ankle. ... Flynn finished 21 of 39 for 232 yards making his fourth start in place of injured quarterback Aaron Rodgers (left collarbone). ... Packers LB Clay Matthews left following a sack after re-aggravating a right thumb injury.
GREEN BAY, WI - DECEMBER 22: Fans of the Green Bay Packers watch a game on the view screen as players come out for...(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Team Stat Comparison
Passing 1st downs
Rushing 1st downs
1st downs from penalties
3rd down efficiency
4th down efficiency
|Yards per play||5.8||5.1|
Yards per pass
Yards per rush
|Red Zone (Made-Att)||4-5||4-6|
|Defensive / Special Teams TDs||1||0|
|TD||4:06||Jarrett Boykin 5 Yard Pass From Matt Flynn (Mason Crosby Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 13 plays, 87 yds, 5:19
|TD||0:07||Emmanuel Sanders 1 Yard Pass From Ben Roethlisberger (Shaun Suisham Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 7 plays, 73 yds, 4:01
|TD||2:00||Eddie Lacy 14 Yard Run (Mason Crosby Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 7 plays, 71 yds, 2:49
|FG||0:06||Shaun Suisham 31 Yard Field Goal is Good|
Drive info: 8 plays, 32 yds, 1:51
|TD||11:57||Ben Roethlisberger 13 Yard Run (Shaun Suisham Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 6 plays, 75 yds, 3:09
|TD||5:23||Eddie Lacy 2 Yard Run (Mason Crosby Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 4 plays, 3 yds, 1:07
|TD||2:00||Matt Spaeth 11 Yard Pass From Ben Roethlisberger (Shaun Suisham Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 6 plays, 68 yds, 3:24
|TD||1:46||Cortez Allen 40 Yard Interception Return (Shaun Suisham Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 1 plays, 0 yds, 0:18
|FG||12:08||Mason Crosby 22 Yard Field Goal is Good|
Drive info: 6 plays, 19 yds, 2:56
|TD||7:17||John Kuhn 1 Yard Run (Mason Crosby Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 6 plays, 58 yds, 3:13
|TD||1:28||Le'Veon Bell 1 Yard Run (Shaun Suisham Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 5 plays, 17 yds, 0:26
Matt Flynn was 5-of-18 when the Steelers sent four or fewer in the second half Sunday after going 11-of-15 in the first half. The Steelers used such pressure on 19 of Flynn's 22 dropbacks in the second half.[+]
Matt Flynn Facing 4 or Fewer Pass Rushers Sunday
The Steelers ran plays from an empty set on 11-of-59 snaps Sunday, but picked up three of their four offensive touchdowns from those formations. Ben Roethlisberger was 9-of-10 passing from those sets Sunday.[+]
Ben Roethlisberger by Formation Sunday
Matt Flynn posted a 6.4 Total QBR in Sunday's loss, his 2nd single-digit Total QBR game in 4 starts with Green Bay. Since he became the Packers starter in Week 13, he has an NFL-low 17.5 Total QBR.[+]
Packers Starting QB This Season
Ben Roethlisberger's touchdown run in the third quarter was his first rushing touchdown since Week 16 of the 2010 season.
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