The headline of this game was the performance by Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco late in the 4th quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
With just 37 seconds left in the game and trailing by 4 points, Flacco led the Ravens final drive and capped it off with a beautiful 21-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Housmandzadeh. Ironically, this is the type of win that suspended Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger has had against the Ravens many times. The tides have now turned in this AFC North rivalry.
5 Great Things
- Derrick Mason had 4 receptions (1 of them being a spectacular catch) on just the opening drive. He showed that he’s not ready to let ‘Q’ take the show. Mason led the day with 6 catches for 80 yards and had the best game of the season so far.
- Willis McGahee is still a touchdown machine. Did you see that juke!? He ran a crucial 10-yard touchdown to tie the game 7-7 in the 2nd quarter. While he may have fumbled the ball late in the 3rd quarter, it’s easy to look past that since he was hit hard with a helmet-to-helmet collision. McGahee finished with 39 yards on 14 carries.
- Haloti Ngata shut down Rashard Mendenhall. Granted, Mendenhall had 2 touchdowns and 79 yards, but Ngata had 8 tackles, 3 assists, and 1 sack. I suspect every one of his tackles was against Mendenhall; he was all over that guy the entire game. Ngata was huge in containing the run and preventing big plays.
- Lardarius Webb is going to be a really good cornerback. Even though he didn’t record any tackles, he had a solid game. He covered well and most importantly, he broke up a potential touchdown play by Mike Wallace in the endzone. He reminds me of a guy with the name of Nnamdi Asomugha.
- Ray Lewis, 15 years and running, is still a play-maker. Similarly to last year in week 2 against the San Diego Chargers, Lewis sealed the deal in a game-ending play. While he made a critical 4th down tackle last year, Lewis decided to go a different route and closed the game with an interception. That surely made him the defensive MVP of this game with 7 tackles, 2 assists, and 1 interception.
5 Not So Great Things
- Field goal accuracy. I don’t know if any of you are noticing, but Billy Cundiff has missed quite a few field goals so far this year. If this was last season when the Ravens were losing games by 3 points or less, Cundiff would surely be on the hot seat. It’s not acceptable for him to go 1 for 2 every game, he needs to get better. However, there is a positive side to him. Cundiff has a strong leg and is consistently able to place his kickoffs deep in the endzone.
- Turnovers. I’m talking about turnovers on both offense and defense. The Ravens need to stop turning the ball over on offense and force more turnovers on defense. 5 fumbles and 6 interceptions on offense, whereas just 2 forced fumbles and 1 interception on defense. That’s a -8 turnover differential, a sure way to start losing games. Running backs need to work on ball security, while Flacco needs to make better decisions. On defense, the secondary has had plenty of opportunities to make plays, but they simply can’t catch. I mean, how is Ray Lewis the first Raven to make an interception? C’mon man.
- 1st quarter play. Just like last season, the Ravens have been lacking offensively in the 1st quarters of games. I don’t know exactly what the problem is, but it’s hurting the team. If you combine all the 1st quarters of this season, the Ravens have only managed to score 3 points on a field goal. Head Coach John Harbaugh preaches the importance of starting fast and scoring first, but why is that not happening after 2 years?
- Injuries plague the 3-headed monster. Starting the year with 3 great backs, everyone thought the Ravens run game was invulnerable. Now all of a sudden, all 3 backs are heading into week 5 with injuries. Luckily, none of the injuries appear to be major. All 3 should play next week against the Broncos.
- Poor punt returns. I think it’s time for someone else to start returning punts. Tom Zbikowski is an awesome safety, but a less-than-average punt returner. But it’s not just him; the coverage unit does not block well enough to buy Zbikowski some time. There needs to be some personnel change because good punt returns are crucial in giving Flacco and the offense good field positioning.
Overall, this was a huge win for the Baltimore Ravens. With the Cincinnati Bengals (2-2) losing to the Cleveland Browns (1-3) during the weekend, the Ravens now sit atop the AFC North.
The Ravens will head back home to face a struggling Denver Broncos (2-2) team.