Top 20 Games of 2010  

 

No. 17: Johnson's drop in OT costs Bills a win over Steelers

  • By Elliot Harrison NFL.com
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As the research analyst for NFL Network's NFL RedZone, Elliot Harrison watched all 267 games in the 2010 season. We asked him to rank the 20 most memorable.

Some of the NFL's greatest games are superb from start to finish. Whether they feature an offensive explosion, like No. 18 on our list, or whether they're back-and-forth volleys like the Packers-Cardinals 2009 wild-card game, they keep you on the edge of your seat for three hours.

Yet there are rare cases when a game becomes more memorable due to one play (Brandon Stokley, anyone?), the ramifications of the outcome, or a big-time gaffe. Count the last two reasons as the impetus to make the Steelers-Bills Week 12 matchup one of 2010's craziest -- and most memorable -- games.

Most OT losses in a single season in NFL history*
Team Record in OT Finished
2010 Bills 0-3 4-12
1997 Cardinals 1-3 4-12
1983 Bucs 0-3 2-14
1983 Oilers 0-3 2-14
1983 Packers 2-3 8-8
*Regular-season OT implemented in 1974

The sad-sack Bills had already lost two overtime affairs earlier in the year but finally seemed to have turned the corner with back-to-back wins over the Lions and Bengals. But those were the Lions and Bengals. Now they were giving the future AFC champion Steelers a punch in the mouth and were on the move in overtime.

That's when it happened. If you follow the Bills, it happens a lot: Wide Right ... O.J ... Music City Miracle ... and, well, J.P. Losman.

What occurred with 10:38 left in overtime was so bad it not only belongs in that sorry group of franchise misfortunes, but it might have been God's fault.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, who did a commendable job as Buffalo's de facto starter last season, flung a perfect pass 50 yards in the air that landed right in Stevie Johnson's bread basket. The former Ivy Leaguer couldn't have thrown a better ball if he was Warren Moon in Tecmo Bowl. It was right there, as was the win.

But it wasn't. Johnson dropped it.

The pass was so perfect that Johnson fooled everyone when it slipped through his forearms. Pittsburgh defenders thought they were now 7-4. Buffalo offensive linemen turned around and celebrated. All of us in the "RedZone" studios freaked out, only to become freaking disappointed.

Pittsburgh would hit a winning field goal on the ensuing drive and be 8-3.

A game is not made in one play. Memories are. This game definitely stuck in the collective football consciousness around the NFL Network campus for longer than just that Sunday.

Game rewind

Boneheaded play of the game

Is there any doubt which play I'm referring to? At least Johnson has moved on with a new attitude, as displayed on his recent appearance on "NFL Total Access."


Questionable call

In this case, it's a questionable non-call. Ben Roethlisberger's 18-yard fourth quarter scramble on third and 18 extended a Pittsburgh drive that led to the tying field goal, which ultimately sent the game to overtime. It was an awesome display of scramble and scamper, and is indicative of why Big Ben has caused so many problems for defenses since 2004.

But watching the replay, it sure looks like Flozell Adams grabbed Bills defensive end Chris Kelsay as he rounded the corner. The only saving grace for Adams might be that he not only whiffed on the block but the attempted hold as well.


Can't-miss play

Some plays qualify as a thing of beauty, especially when they are so well-executed that it appears as though the whole team is in sync. Exhibit A: Fred Jackson's 65-yard touchdown reception to pull the Bills within six in the first half. Fast Freddy made some good cuts on the middle screen, but credit the Bills' offensive line with getting two solid blocks out in front. Jackson's spin move just short of the goal line made this score sweet.


Steelers at Bills: Tale of the tape*
Category
7-3
W-L
2-8
2nd, AFC North
Standings
4th, AFC East
20th (350.5 YPG)
Off. rank
23rd (334.4 YPG)
9th (332.9 YPG)
Def. rank
26th (389.6 YPG)
* Coming into Week 12

Why is this game No. 17 of 2010?

What's cooler than seeing an underdog take on a contender and jack them up? Buffalo gave a Pittsburgh team that had everything to play for all it could handle. That includes Buffalo's suspect defense, which came into the game dead last against the run and poor overall. Yet, time and again, Chan Gailey's unit kept Roethlisberger and the Steelers' offense in check. The Bills were oh so close to pulling off a huge upset, as well as likely giving the Ravens the AFC North. How would that have affected the season? How 'bout the NFL draft?

That said, the case for this game being one of 2010's most memorable presents itself through a bad play, much in the way Super Bowl XIII is always recalled through the prism of Jackie Smith's drop.

Why not higher?

You can make a solid argument that our No. 18 game, the Texans-Redskins Week 2 shootout, was better. Since much of this Week 12 nail-biter was slow, it didn't deserve quite the billing that the rest of our list commands. Still, it's hard to find an NFL fan -- of any team -- that doesn't remember the overtime debacle.


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