Ok I have to admit to an affliction that I’ve had for about 16 years which at this point has no cure and it may be worsening. It’s called Football Tourette’s.
Whenever the Ravens play the Steelers the conditions are nearly perfect for the syndrome’s side effects to really rear their ugly heads. If you need a visual, think back to the movie A Christmas Story and the father’s inability to control his knee-jerk profanity when his furnace acts up.
This is why I turned down several offers to go to take in the game at various establishments around town. I didn’t want to put myself or even more so my wife in an inevitably embarrassing position.
And so I watched from home determined not to allow the relentless persistence of my FT to win. I tried and tried despite the temptations. Yet the syndrome’s will was too strong despite my determination and eventually I succumbed to its force.
The caving was akin to the Steelers’ defense when facing a force named Flacco last night in Pittsburgh.
Despite several key dropped passes and the team’s inability to get a ground attack going, Joe Flacco stood strong, confident and focused and eventually he finished off a 13 play, 92 yard drive capped by a 26 yard scoring strike to Torrey Smith with 0:08 left on the game clock.
Flacco has had his critics and I’ve been among them. But on this cool evening on the shores of the Monongahela River, Joe Cool finally put the team on his back and carried them to victory against a formidable opponent.
THE GOOD: Terrell Suggs was kept in check for the most part but if anyone for a second sees him as simply a pass rushing specialist, that serves only to cheapen his true status as a complete defender. As he has been so often in the past, Suggs was a thorn in Ben Roethlisberger’s side, intercepting a pass deep in Ravens territory to thwart what at worst looked to be a game tying drive to start the second half…Cary Williams and Lardarius Webb were generally in the right area. Williams had a couple of nice passes defended and Webb was excellent in run support. Given the ample time that Roethlisberger had to throw this pair did a nice job particularly when you consider that one safety spent most of his time near the box (Bernard Pollard) and the other (Ed Reed) might as well have been on a Coast Guard Long Range Interceptor II patrolling Three Rivers…
Dennis Pitta was clutch hauling in 5 catches (all for first downs) and having a sense of where he needed to be to convert the drive sustaining plays…Ben Grubbs’ return to the lineup was huge and he provided stability to pass protection missing on the left side since his toe injury first became an issue…John Harbaugh’s challenge of a play ruled a Hines Ward catch on the field was surprisingly successful and forced the Steelers to settle for a field goal and not a fourth and 1 conversion attempt deep in Ravens’ territory…Give Cam Cameron props for moving Anquan Boldin into the slot area and away from underrated CB Ike Taylor. Taking on William Gay, Boldin was able to corral 4 passes for 51 yards during the 92 yard scoring march…David Reed was more decisive as a kick returner this week and Billy Cundiff was clutch with a half ending 51 yard field goal to push the Ravens out in front 9-6…Torrey Smith was plus while showing character and responding to adversity in the clutch.
THE BAD: Chuck Pagano’s second half game plan was one lifted from Greg Mattison’s playbook. Playing with a lead the Ravens have been successful attacking opponents. Instead Pagano seemed fearful of the big play ability of Mike Wallace and the conservative approach opened the door for Roethlisberger to make plays on second efforts. The pass rush in the season opener almost single-handedly ushered in a win; the lack of one nearly ushered in a loss yesterday…The Ravens running game struggled. The Steelers were prepared for the stretch runs and zone blocking and the Ravens couldn’t answer. Twenty-seven rushes for a 2.5 yard average isn’t going to win you many games on the road…Joe Flacco obviously is a better quarterback from the gun and in a no huddle. Why it takes desperate times for desperate measures to break out that part of the playbook remains a mystery…Those bubble screens are missing the bubble (blocking). How about redesigning those Cam and get some blocking out there in space?
THE UGLY: Torrey Smith is an incredible man with off the chart character. If not for the game winner that character would have been severely tested this week because his game was a model of extreme inconsistency. His drops and holding penalty nearly did the Ravens in.
THE MEGAN FOX: Watch and listen to the national sports pundits when the topic of Joe Flacco comes up and common themes surface – inconsistency and an inability to will his team to victory. Consistency happens over time and Flacco still has some work to do there. But yesterday in Pittsburgh Flacco was a prime time quarterback against an elite rival on a national stage in hostile enemy territory. Despite a struggling running game and receivers who just couldn’t seem to make clutch catches (other than Pitta) Flacco was unflappable and determined. He doesn’t talk much, doesn’t spread blame or take credit. His words on this night at Heinz Field were not his sword – his perseverance and big right arm were. Time will tell how much the Ravens offense grew on November 6, 2011 in Pittsburgh but if this season ends with the Ravens making a February trip to Indianapolis, this night for No. 5 just might be the one that the critics point to and say, “This is the day it all changed for Flacco.”
And just maybe that Football Tourette’s will be cured.