Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin didn’t want to go for the tie.
So he went for the win, and with running back Le’Veon Bell lined up in the Wildcat, he got it.
With Bell’s outstretched arms, the Steelers beat the San Diego Chargers 24-20 on the final play of the 2015 Monday Night Football game.
The memorable game will be shown as part of the ongoing series of Monday Night Football classics. It kicks off at 8 p.m. ET Monday on ESPN.
ESPN continues its partnership with the NFL in presenting some of the greatest MNF games in history.
(All games begin at 8 p.m. ET)
May 25: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. San Diego Chargers (2015)
June 1: Seattle Seahawks vs. San Francisco 49ers (2019)
“It was time to go to the mattresses, if you will,” Tomlin said after the game. “We had to do what was required to win. Le’Veon gave us an opportunity to win, and we were trying to do everything we could to move the football.
“We have to run the football. We have Le’Veon Bell. We had an opportunity to win the game. We’re on the road in a hostile environment. We’ve got to play to win, and that’s what we did.”
With five seconds left, the Steelers lined up at the 1-inch line, thanks to a big play by quarterback Michael Vick and tight end Heath Miller and an unnecessary roughness penalty against the Chargers.
The Steelers had one timeout to set up for a tying field goal, but they went with a gutsy, winning playcall instead: Bell lined up 7 yards deep to take the direct snap.
He gathered the ball and sprinted to the goal line, muscling his way forward to fight for the final inch needed to score the touchdown. Diving, he broke the plane as his knee landed on a defender’s arm and time expired.
“I got to get it in,” Bell said in 2015. “We still had a timeout left. I was thinking we still have a timeout left, so I’m thinking, ‘OK, maybe if I get stopped, maybe run like 4 seconds off and get a timeout, and we could kick a field goal.’ I wanted to end the game right there.”
The touchdown gave the Steelers a win over the Chargers — and they did it with Ben Roethlisberger on the sideline.
While Roethlisberger worked through a left knee injury sustained in the third quarter of a Week 3 win against the Rams, Vick took over quarterback duties. His first three quarters were dismal, but a 24-yard scramble — his first rush of the night — on the final drive of the game helped set up Bell’s winning touchdown. Vick also had a 72-yard touchdown pass to Markus Wheaton with 7:42 left in the quarter to tie it at 17.
“It’s not how you start. It’s how you finish,” Vick said then. He completed just 13 of 26 attempts for 203 yards with one touchdown and one interception and was sacked three times.
The game also featured the return of Chargers tight end Antonio Gates, playing in his first game of the season following a four-week suspension for PEDs. He scored his 100th and 101st career touchdowns that night, with the second coming in the high-octane fourth quarter.
The Monday night game marked the Steelers’ first trip to San Diego since 2006 and their final game in Qualcomm Stadium before the Chargers’ relocation to Los Angeles.
With the win, the Steelers moved to 3-2 on the season, and the Chargers dropped to 2-3.