Reality: Mike Tomlin said crowd noise was a factor Thursday night on the botched field goal by the Steelers.
Perception: The thought is that Suisham couldn’t hear cadence properly and started too soon, which resulted in the bad play. I was at the game Thursday, and it was stinkin’ cold! But I thought the crowd did a really good job of being loud, even with being all bundled up. It’s days later and I still am hoarse… and I’m okay with that.
Reality: In the 3rd Quarter, on 3rd down and 6 yards to go from the Ravens 7 yard line, the Ravens handed the ball off to Ray Rice.
Perception: Overall, I thought the Ravens did a nice job on offense and defense with their play calling. But that series just left me scratching my head. Rice has averaged 2+ yards per carry all year and continued to Thursday night. So what are they doing giving him the ball with 6 yards to go on 3rd down in the Red Zone? Of course they were left to kick a field goal.
As much as I like Ray Rice, it was interesting to hear the stadium chuckle every time Bruce Cunningham (Ravens PA Announcer) would say “Ray Rice with the carry… gain of 2 yards.”
Seriously, every single time Ray ran the ball it was for a gain of two yards, and every now and then there was a three yard gain. One time there was bigger gain, you could hear the crowd sarcastically cheer in shock. If this continues, it will be very interesting to see what happens in the off-season. I know that a lot of the struggles come from the offensive line, but still. Rice is an All-Pro running back who has just not looked good.
Reality: Justin Tucker made 5 field goals Thursday night and has now hit 27 straight this season.
Perception: As I said in my previous Perception is Reality column… there is not a better kicker in football right now. Through 28 career games, Tucker has hit 92% (59-64) of his field goal attempts, and 100% (64-64) of his extra point attempts. That’s a total of 96% accuracy in his young career. He is on a tear, and the Ravens have been blessed with great kickers in their history… namely Matt Stover and now Justin Tucker. Not many other teams can claim that. Right now the Ravens know if they get to at least the 35-yard line, they are guaranteed 3 points. That is huge for a team struggling offensively.
Reality: Joe Flacco was 24-35 for 251 yards and a TD.
Perception: Joe had a few struggles Thursday night, but overall played well behind a poor offensive line. I loved seeing them take shots down the field. Like I’ve said before, with the wide receivers that we have, you have got to throw it downfield. There’s a good chance they’ll make the catch or get a pass interference penalty. We saw that play out against the Steelers. The ref’s missed a pass interference on the first offensive play for the Ravens, but we still were able to capitalize on going downfield. That needs to continue.
Reality: If the playoffs started today, the Ravens would be in as the 2nd Wildcard and the #6 seed in the AFC.
Perception: The Ravens are in the driver’s seat now, but it’s not going to be an easy road. Yes, they play the Vikings next and at home. It should be an easy win, but watch for the “trap game”. If it was on the road, I would be more worried. At home, I think we’ll be okay. But following that game, we go on the road to Detroit, who is playing very well, especially at home. Then we face the Patriots at home, who are always tough. And then Cincinnati on the road… and as much as many of us thought the division was out of reach, it’s not. That game could be for the division crown.
I could see us being 8-7, going into Cincinnati. The Bengals are 7-4 and play at San Diego, at home against the Colts, at Pittsburgh, and at home against the Vikings before we play them. I could see them also being 8-7 going into the final game of the season. If we are 8-7, and the Bengals are 8-7 or 9-6 headed into the final week of the season, a Ravens win would give Baltimore the division title and (more than likely) the #4 seed in the playoffs, and a first-round home game.
I know just last week I was conceding the division, but I can admit when I might be wrong (just don’t tell my wife). If the Ravens take care of their business, they could make the playoffs either as a division winner or as a wildcard. And I don’t care what anyone says… anything can happen in the playoffs, and I would take the Ravens over many of the AFC contenders come January.