This was the game all Ravens fans were waiting for this year – a game in which the Ravens put their collective foot on the necks of their opponent and didn’t take it off until the final whistle. Sportswriters sometimes use the term “imposing their will” to describe how one team dominates another. However, in the case of the Ravens and Chiefs, the term doesn’t begin to do justice to what the Purple and Black did in Kansas City. We took away their will to play the game.
After a bit of sputtering in the first-quarter both offensively and defensively, the Ravens took control of the game in the second quarter, made their half time adjustments, and then dominated the Chiefs for the rest of the game. Although the contest was well in hand by the beginning of the 4th quarter, the 10 minute, 80 yard drive culminating in the Ravens’ final touchdown by Willis McGahee was the coup de grace. By that point, all the Chiefs wanted to do was get off the field.
What a way to prepare for Pittsburgh.
Very quickly, here are the Studs and Duds.
Here’s my Stud for the game – Cam Cameron and the Offense: You won’t see this very often in this column! It was only a few plays into the first series when, after Todd Heap caught his second, wide-open pass across the middle, I said to a friend, “They’re on to something.” The middle was wide open for Joe Flacco pretty much all day. I have to give grudging respect to Cameron for quickly adjusting to the stout run defense of the Chiefs, and crafting an offensive plan that took advantage of their poor coverage. The Chiefs put 3 different players on Heap and none of them were completely successful.
The Defense played its best game of the year as they held the Chiefs to under 100 yards rushing and 70 yards passing. They harassed Matt Cassel into 3 interceptions and 5 turnovers overall. It was their most complete game of the season as they dominated a division-winning, playoff team.
No Duds this week!
Now, onto the matter at hand……….
It’s Slobberknocker Time
The Urban Dictionary defines it as a “fierce and violent fight amongst two people, or a number of participants that eventually turns into a full-fledged donnybrook.” Whatever you call it – World War III, Armageddon, or the Big Pain, this one is going to hurt.
· Keep Joe Flacco upright – and mobile. Joe showed surprising mobility against the Chiefs. At half time, he was the Ravens leading rusher. Flacco will need all of his pocket presence to avoid a fierce Steelers rush. Dick LeBeau will cleverly disguise his blitzes, but he shouldn’t bring anything the Ravens haven’t seen before.
· Conversely, the Ravens need bring it to Ben Roethlisberger. Greg Mattison needs to cut his men loose like we did in Kansas City. We will get to him, but we can’t let him wiggle out of tackles like he did in the second game in Baltimore. Ben won’t miss like Matt Cassel did.
· Be Aware of the Big Hair. The Ravens and Joe Flacco need to be aware of Troy Polamalu at all times. The Ravens cannot allow him loose in the backfield. If he moves to the line of scrimmage, check off. He’s a safety that plays and hits like a linebacker.
· Take advantage of the Steelers’ offensive line. This is their weak link. Look at their tackles. Flozell Adams is playing out of position on the right side, and he’s not the player he used to be at Dallas. He’s slower, he’s not as athletic, and he’s getting beat more. They have journeyman Jonathan Scott on the left side. The tackle position is where the Ravens should attack them with Terrell Suggs and Paul Kruger. Also, take advantage of rookie center Maurkice Pouncey, who’s playing his first playoff game.
· The addition of Todd Heap and Le’Ron McClain will be huge. In the second game McClain was out with an injury and Heap pulled a hammy on the first play and it really affected both the playing calling and execution. Both are excellent run and pass blockers.
· John Harbaugh should consider keeping the challenge flag in his pocket. I’m not kidding. According to CBSsports.com, he’s just 2-for-11 on challenges this year, a success rate of just 18.18 percent which is third worst in the league. I’m tired of screaming at the TV set every time Harbs makes an ill-considered challenge.
And finally, it’s Steelers week for the 3rd time this year, so I can’t let it go by without at least one dig about the big Rapistsberger. Here’s a byline from Deadspin.com last week:
“Big Ben Reportedly Engaged to Human Female. So this is how it goes. Mike Vick can’t have a dog, but Big Ben can have a woman?”
This game will be same as the two earlier this year, as it has been since the turn of the century, it seems. Low scoring, lots of big hits, with the outcome of the game turning on a special teams play and/or a big turnover. The Ravens relish road games with high stakes. This is as high as it comes.
Ravens 16, Steelers 14.
May the Festivus Continue……..
Note: All stats courtesy of NFL.com, CBSsports.com, and the baltimoresun.com.