We thought the table was set. Wild card rivals Jacksonville, Miami, and Houston all lost. The Steelers were starting their 3rd string quarterback. The Ravens were playing at home in a must win against they’re most hated rival. But after a strong start by the Ravens, the Steelers took control of the game in the 4th quarter and it took some late game heroics by Ray Rice and a rookie mistake by Steelers quarterback Dennis Dixon for the Ravens to bring this one home. All things considered, the Ravens were fortunate to win.
Play of the Game: The 44-yard catch-and-run Iate in the 4th quarter by Ray Rice to the Steelers’ 10. Ray broke at least 3 tackles as he set up Billy Cundiff’s 24-yard field goal with 1:51 remaining to force overtime.
Second Biggest Play: Paul Kruger’s interception of Dennis Dixon that set up the winning field goal. The Ravens were waiting all evening for Dennis Dixon to make a rookie mistake and, when Dixon misread a zone blitz, Kruger was in the right place at the right time. He has pretty good hands, too.
Ray Rice: This year’s Ravens Most Valuable Raven, hands down. He gained 155 yards total against the league’s Number One defense.
Ladarius Webb: In his first start, Webb vindicated the Ravens’ decision to draft him in the 3rd round. He was all over the field last night and nearly missed an interception that could have won the game. Webb isn’t big but he likes to hit, runs fast, and closes faster. We may have found a solution for one cornerback position.
Mark Clayton: Mark had his long overdue break-out game of the year with 7 catches for 129 yards.
2009 Draft: How does that April draft look now, Baby? Michael Oher, Paul Kruger, and Lardarius Webb.
Penalties: 9 stupid flags for 80 yards, a few of which helped nullify some fine Chris Carr returns – yes there was a Chris Carr sighting – but at least one penalty was due to referee ineptitude.
Offensive Line: After a relatively strong first half, the O-line fell apart in the final 30 minutes of play. Joe Flacco took a real beating from the Steelers’ linebackers.
Pass Rush: What pass rush? No pressure from the front four against a 3rd string quarterback! If the Ravens play this way in the December 27th rematch, the Steelers and Big Ben will win by 3 touchdowns.
There are many, including the health of Terrell Suggs, and our defensive shortcomings. But for me, there’s one, a BIG ONE. Joe Flacco’s ankle injury is definitely affecting his game. It’s obvious for everyone to see, even when he walks. He can’t scramble and, because he can’t push off his right foot, his passes are sailing. Joe and the training staff have to make this right, and real quick. This is the root cause of Joe’s “sophomore slump “
OBSERVATIONS FROM SECTION 134
Best T-shirt: Stuck the Feelers
Best Hairdo: The guy with the glued-on Elvis pompadour, complete with sideburns and sun glasses (Thank you very much).
Bad Idea: The Ravens “Rally” towel event. Towel-waving is, and always has been, a signature piece of Steelers Nation and I feel that this makes Ravens fans nothing more than copycats. Protect This House? OK, I Will, I Will. I’ll use it to dust the memorabilia in my Ravens den.
Bad Officiating: It’s the Ed Hochuli Traveling Minstrel Show! We were treated first hand to his crew’s dazzling array of blown calls, bad spots, and rule misinterpretations. They missed a pass interference call when Derrick Mason ran a deep rout, and failed to call offensive holding when Hines Ward blatantly mugged Jarret Johnson to the turf. The defensive hold call on Haloti Ngata was inexplicable. I’m still looking for it on my game tape. These guys could screw up a wet dream. How does this crew keep their jobs?
Steelers Fans: Too many of them. I estimate there were at least 5,000 in the stadium last night. I know they travel like cockroaches, but where are they getting all those tickets? Shame on any Ravens fans who sold them to the Squealer Nation.
The Ravens visit Green Bay next Monday and play against their 5th gunslinger of the year in the person of Aaron Rodgers. Reports are that the Packers have made some moves to shore up their pass protection which was among the league’s worst. Given the state of the Ravens pass rush, that’s bad news. But luckily the Packers’ linebackers are not in the Steelers’ class and the offensive line should give Joe Flacco plenty of protection . Once again, it’s a game we gotta have, and we will.
Ravens 24 Packers 21