To start, a PSA:
Please step back from the ledge or the edge. Keep the pistol holstered. Etcetera and so forth.
Yes, it was a tough loss. A very tough loss. But keep in mind that the Pittsburgh Steelers did pretty much the exact same thing the Baltimore Ravens did to them early on in the season. The problems we saw yesterday are the same problems we’ve been seeing all season, unfortunately. The Ravens simply have come into glaring relief in such a spotlight game, what some have called an instant classic. I won’t even lie, it took me awhile to even collect my thoughts to start writing this. Disappointment abounds. And unlike last week when I was very glad to be right, this week I take no pleasure in having predicted a Steeler win. No joy in the bad feeling I had which bore fruit come the end of the game. Time to second guess.
He Can’t Drive 55
Especially when Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron seems absolutely committed to taking his foot off the pedal. The second half for the Ravens offense was a bit on the disappointing side, and by a bit I mean nauseatingly. They were moving the ball much better in the first half, (though not much to show for it) but in the second, once again, Cameron has showed why Ravens fans have been putting his photo up on the dartboard. Beyond the obvious tactical move of attacking CB Bryant McFadden all night long, the offense might as well have been a high school team with the plays being called. It’s also quite disturbing that many sources have claimed that Cameron has a fairly tight leash around Ravens QB Joe Flacco. If this is the case, then the critical strip-sack by Steelers SS Troy Polamalu is an even worse play overall for the Ravens. It means that with an obvious blitz coming from his blindside with Polamalu hugging the line of scrimmage, Flacco could only go forward with the called play and hope that RB Ray Rice would pick up the blitz. No audible to change the protection or the play. What’s even worse is that calling a passing play makes very little sense in that situation in the first place.
You Can’t Stop Him…
…and you know the rest. Lost in the, well, loss, is one of most spectacular games of Ravens LB/DE Terrell Suggs’ career. T-Sizzle was absolutely ablaze, and cut a swath of destruction on his way to the ball carrier. Yes, his tenacity at the end may have been costly, as his desire to strip the ball out of Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger instead of bringing him down ended up costing the Ravens a few essential yards. But other than that (and how can you really blame him with the offense looking anemic), he was the Steeler O-lines’ worst nightmare last night. He may have not seen a team win come about, but definitely a statement game from Suggs.
Stop the Hatin’
I’ve seen a LOT of criticism by Ravens fans of NBC game analyst Cris Collinsworth— mostly revolving around how much he loves Big Ben (answer, according to them: More than Joe Thiesmann loves Matt Ryan). I’m here to say…stop. What I heard last night was a national analyst (at multiple levels) following the story. Had Flacco’s nose been broken early on, while he was already playing with a foot fracture, spending most of the game trailing, only to start engineering a comeback in the 2nd half… Well, let’s just say that this morning, Steeler fans would be wondering where Collinsworth and Flacco spend their holidays together. As for the people moaning about his bemoaning the lack of a flag called on the hit on Steeler TE Heath Miller (and also the shot from Ravens DE Haloti Ngata that led to the aforementioned broken nose), I hate to break this to you but he’s absolutely right. Those hits should have been flagged. They weren’t, and that’s why the NFL is having tons of problems with this crackdown, but that doesn’t discount the fact that, by their definition, those hits were illegal. Even if they aren’t on purpose.
Oh, speaking of the broken nose, I have some advice for the Steelers organization: don’t lie about the injury of a player when the injury is clearly seen on TV multiple times. Claiming that the nose wasn’t broken simply makes you look stupid, as everyone watching the game got multiple looks at a nose that bent at a near 45 degree angle. Either his nose was broken, or he has silly putty on his face. In other news, Big Ben has been cast in Wedding Crashers 2.
You’re KILLING me, Smalls!
Penalties, penalties, penalties. They were absolutely critical last night. Probably the most obvious was Ravens S Haruki Nakamura jumping offsides on a hurry-up offensive set on a 3rd down, giving the Steelers a first down right when the Ravens were on the verge of holding back their tide once again. LT Michael Oher was obviously trying to cheat on the snaps to make up for his injury, and drew several false starts. Over and over again, the Ravens may have well proved that their toughest opponent isn’t the Pittsburgh Steelers, but the Baltimore Ravens. Right there with the penalties is the sloppy tackling. All season, we’ve seen the Ravens defenders throwing arm-tackles instead of wrapping a ball carrier up. Last night, the touchdown scored by the Steelers to take the lead was a prime example. Steelers RB Isaac Redman probably had half a dozen sets of hands on him, but slipped off all of them for a relatively easy TD. Had the defenders actually tried to tackle him, they may have held the Steelers to a FG there, dramatically changing the course of the next couple of minutes of play. Harbaugh, Defensive Coordinator Greg Mattison and All-World LB Ray Lewis need to really crack down on the defense for not finishing their tackling. Pronto.
To Kick, or Not to Kick. That is the Question that Preoccupies the Fans’ Mind
Shakespeare was kind of a requirement at my school. Anyway, one of the biggest talking points was the decision to go for it on 4th and 2 at the end of the game. When Flacco short-hopped a ball incomplete, the Steelers took over on downs and ran out the clock for the win. I didn’t need to hear Head Coach John Harbaugh’s explanation. I knew what was going on when it happened, and I agreed with his thinking. I had seen just how the strong the wind was at the kickers backs, and I knew K Billy Cundiff would be kicking in to that strong wind. You had to put at least 10-15 yards on to the real distance, and that turned the try in to a very low percentage chance compared to a 4th and 2 conversion. No, it didn’t work out. However, this was the kind of call that makes most people very thankful to not be head coaches in the NFL. The ONLY way Harbaugh avoids intense scrutiny is if whatever he chooses works. Had he decided to call for the FG, and Cundiff’s kick were to be no good, the collective fan base would scream about letting Cundiff kick in that condition. He would only be right if he was right. The usual conundrum of the head coach.
That about does it for me. I could probably write about a thousand more words about this game, but I really don’t want to re-hash a bunch of stuff already covered. The Ravens definitely made their playoff lives difficult, but not impossible. However, they really do need to address their obvious problems if they have any hope of getting passed the first round of playoffs.