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Steelers Maddox directs 4th-quarter rally as Steelers get 16-13 win in OT

Monday, September 30, 2002

By Ed Bouchette, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

Quarterback Tommy Maddox went from bridesmaid to hero to goat to hero -- and now, apparently, back to the sideline -- as the Steelers and Browns turned their 100th meeting into episode No. 1 of a new series: the Twilight Red Zone.

Quarterback Tommy Maddox hugs Todd Peterson, who kicked a field goal in overtime to give the Steelers their first win of the season, 16-13, yesterday at Heinz Field. (Peter Diana, Post-Gazette)

Coach Bill Cowher set the plot in motion when he told Kordell Stewart he might replace him against the Browns if he did not perform up to snuff. He did just that in the closing minutes of regulation and Maddox drove the Steelers to the tying touchdown when he hit Plaxico Burress with a 10-yard scoring pass with 2:02 to go. They won it in overtime, 16-13, when Todd Peterson kicked a 31-yard field goal with 7:46 left.

And now, for the rest of the story.

"Bizarre," Peterson said.

"That," said Hines Ward, "was one of the weirdest games I've ever been in. But it's a great way we won the way we did."

Afterward, they were still trying to figure out how they did it, putting their season back in gear at 1-2 while dropping the tough-luck Browns to 2-2. Cleveland remains in first place in the AFC North Division.

Peterson's first field goal was blocked, but he got another chance by pure luck and the application of a seldom-used rule. This came after the Steelers won the coin toss to start overtime. On the first play, Maddox threw an interception to Cleveland rookie linebacker Andra Davis at the Steelers' 34.

Things looked bad for the home club about then because the Browns have reliable kicker Phil Dawson.

"I said, this can't get any worse," said Ward, who led all receivers with nine receptions for 104 yards. "The guy made a one-handed catch on the interception. I felt bad for Tommy the way he orchestrated that drive and then comes back in overtime and throws an interception."

More Steelers Coverage:

Browns mixed on Maddox's impact

Pulling Bettis sends message

Play of the Game
The Recovered Block

Report Card
Steelers vs. Browns

Steelers Post-Game Audio
Hear comments from Bill Cowher, Kordell Stewart and Tommy Maddox.

Steelers Report: 9/30/02

Photo journal
Game Three: Steelers v. Browns

By the numbers
Statistics from the game

. . .a word from our columnist

Chuck Finder:

The Big Picture:
Myron copes with back attack


The reliable Dawson, though, glanced his game-winning field-goal try from 45 yards off the front of the helmet of defensive end Kimo von Oelhoffen, and it landed short and wide.

"My head," von Oelhoffen explained. "It hit my head. I jumped, it went through my hands and hit the top of my head."

Cowher was about to use his own head for good use in what would become his 100th regular-season coaching victory. Maddox came back onto the field and, for the second time in three series, he ran the no-huddle shotgun offense with four wide receivers to perfection.

He completed an 12-yard pass to Burress, who recovered his own fumble on the play. On third-and-1, Maddox sneaked and made a first down. He then completed two short passes before firing one of 18 yards to Antwaan Randle El at the Cleveland 9.

Maddox had completed 11 of his 13 passes for 122 yards.

"The way Tommy came in and did what he did in that two-minute drill," Ward said, "I haven't seen that in a while -- like Joe Montana or John Elway."

Jerome Bettis ran off right guard for 3 yards to the 6. On second down, Cowher called for his field-goal unit. Why now, with a new long-snapper in Dan O'Leary?

"I was planning on a bad snap or something of that nature," Cowher said. "Then we could have Tommy Maddox just fall on it and then kick it on the next down."

The snap was good and Peterson's kick from 24 yards was heading down the middle. But 6-foot-3 Alvin McKinley of Cleveland leaped and slapped it back with his hand. Then the fun began. Peterson picked up the ball and ran.

"I got the ball, if I score we win," was Peterson's first thought. "I never thought about the fact that it was second down and we get another chance."

Indeed. Except Peterson fumbled the ball after running 3 yards and Cleveland's Anthony Henry got a hand on it but not enough before Steelers special teams captain John Fiala recovered at the Browns' 13. Because the ball did not advance past the line of scrimmage and because the Steelers recovered it and because they did not kick on fourth down, they had another chance because it was third down.

Cowher asked Peterson if he was OK or if he would prefer they run another play first. Peterson said, let's kick, and Cowher said, "OK, let's get out of here."

Peterson went back out and drilled a 31-yarder to give the Steelers their most important victory in a long time. Without it, they faced a trip to New Orleans next week, dragging an 0-3 record and wasted expectations behind them.

"It kind of gets us on the right track," said Burress, who caught seven passes for 84 yards and the tying touchdown.

The Steelers seemed to be on the wrong side of the track all game. They managed just 93 yards rushing on 34 tries against a defense they ran silly in two games last season.

Browns quarterback Tim Couch threw only 29 passes -- the fewest against the Steelers in three games. He completed 16 for only 144 yards and was intercepted twice. Jamal White ran for 105 yards for Cleveland, but one run consumed 54 yards.

The Steelers' defense also sacked Couch three times as they flexed their muscles for the first time this season.

"We faced a lot of different obstacles out there," said linebacker Joey Porter, who had his third interception in the past two games. "For the most part, we got off field. We did things it takes to win a game."

Yet, the Browns took a 6-0 lead on two 28-yard field goals by Dawson in the first half.

Stewart snappily brought them back and put them in position to score a go-ahead touchdown, but two things turned against them -- a tough 5-yard touchdown run by Jerome Bettis was put instead at the 1 when a replay challenge overturned it, and Stewart then fumbled the center snap from Jeff Hartings.

That was the second time that has happened in two games and the Heinz Field crowd let him have it.

Peterson came on and kicked a 19-yard field goal to cut the lead to 6-3 and added a 27-yarder just before halftime after Porter's interception.

But another special teams gaffe set up the Browns for a go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter.

Cleveland, using a tactic similar to what Jacksonville did against them last year, overloaded the left side of the Steelers' line and rushed six men. One of them, Kevin Bentley, broke through and blocked Josh Miller's punt.

"I have to look at it," Cowher seethed. "I know what happened."

What happened next was the Browns took over at the Steelers' 41 and White ended the series by running untouched 4 yards for a touchdown.

The Steelers had one good chance to tie it in the fourth quarter but Stewart, from Cleveland's 22, threw a pass for Ward into double coverage in the end zone that was intercepted. The crowd booed loudly and Cowher decided to go to Maddox.

"I thought it was just time," Cowher said. "We needed something."

Maddox gave them all they could have wanted. He came in with 4:14 left to a joyous reception from the crowd. He took seven snaps from center, threw seven times and completed six from the shotgun in the no-huddle offense.

His final one found Burress running a slant from the left in single coverage, and he hit him for a 10-yard touchdown that tied the score.

"When I'm in the red zone one on one," Burress said, "a lot of guys think I'm running the fade all the time. "A lot of guys are jumping outside to stop the fade. That's why I ran a lot of inside stuff today."

After the game, Cowher said he was "in no position right now to name a starting quarterback" for next the game Sunday at New Orleans, but said he was leaning toward starting Stewart.

Stewart completed 15 of 25 for 143 yards.

"I don't know as far as a quarterback controversy," Ward said. "I'm glad I'm not a head coach. I wouldn't want to have that decision."

Ed Bouchette can be reached at ebouchette@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3878.

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