RAVENS REPORT CARD: Ravens 22 Steelers 20

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens

It was a well played, closely fought contest, particularly given the short week, which often leads to sloppy football. Perhaps the stakes, being as high as they were, helped both teams maintain focus (unless of course your name is Michael Oher).

It was a tale of two halves – the first half won by the Ravens and after the break the Steelers held the upper hand, aided in part by their answer to the Ravens boisterous 12th man, a 12th man of their own in the form of head coach Mike Tomlin.

 

 

It’s important to note that once again, when the Ravens needed the defense to step up, they failed. It has happened against Buffalo, Cleveland, Green Bay, Chicago and Pittsburgh. It almost happened again.

That said, no matter how you look at it the game was pivotal for both teams, the loser pinned to the wall and losing control of their own destiny. The win allows the Ravens to control theirs and hopes for an AFC North title remain intact.

 

OFFENSE

Quarterback: B+

Joe Flacco has clearly improved this season with his ability to extend plays, keep his head up and produce positive results when options appear limited. Last night he did that with his feet, once running 9 yards for a key first down and also sliding in the pocket to enable receivers to work their way free down field. He misfired on a couple of key third downs yet it’s hard to complain about a 10 for 17 performance when attempting to move the chains. Torrey Smith didn’t help with a couple of drops that could have led to more points. Penalties also forced Flacco into uphill battles. His passer rating was a crisp 98.6 connecting on 24 of 35 passes for 251 yards and 1 score.

Running Back: C-

Ray Rice sure does miss playing the Bears. He did make a couple of nice plays in the passing game but he lacks vision, explosiveness and is too often indecisive. He just looks like a MLB hitter in a slump who’s just pressing too much. His unnecessary emotional outbursts leading to a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty could have been very costly in more blustery conditions, as he forced Justin Tucker to kick a 38-yard field goal instead of a 23-yarder. He was even warned on the previous play. If Bernard Pierce was a little less injury prone, he’d be a better option as the featured back right now.

Receivers/Tight Ends: C+

Torrey Smith had a rough night after that first series ending in his 7-yard TD catch. He dropped two passes and also committed a false start, the team’s 5th of the game.

Jacoby Jones continues to get open deep and unfortunately Joe Flacco struggles to connect. Nice job by the pitch and catch tandem continuing to work the field when given all day to throw by the offensive line. It led to a 34-yard connection and a first down at the Steelers 24. Brandon Stokley in limited play was effective moving the chains. Marlon Brown showed explosiveness on the flanker screen.  Dallas Clark and Ed Dickson punched the clock with 1 catch each. Dickson was decent in pass blocking support later in the game.

Offensive Line: B 

If not for Michael Oher’s horrific night with 3 false starts and being beaten like a drum by Jason Worilds (10 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 FF, 3 QB Hits), the Ravens offensive front had one of its better games. Marshal Yanda looked lost on a third and goal run that went nowhere but other than those miscues, Joe Flacco’s protectorates were stout as pass blockers and they did a fine job run blocking, an effort that won’t show up on the stat sheets due to Rice’s inability to convert.

Front Seven: C

The Ravens did a nice job in the first half containing Le’Veon Bell but they failed to create any pressure rushing Ben Roethlisberger and often looked rather tired in doing so. Terrell Suggs for the fourth consecutive game was a non-factor contributing just 1 tackle. He has just 8 tackles and 0 sacks during the last four games combined. Elvis Dumervil was slowed by a slightly sprained ankle. Arthur Jones was a bit quieter than usual as was Chris Canty. On Bell’s 43-yard run on a third and 2 from their own 49 the Steelers doubled on Ngata and for some reason Josh Bynes was on the right edge. The result was a gaping hole for Bell and it led to the Steelers’ first points of the game.

Secondary: B

Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith have played like the best corner tandem in football over the past few weeks. Last night was no exception as both covered well and supported the run, particularly Webb. Corey Graham was a different story and when Roethlisberger defined him as the weak link, Graham’s number 24 morphed into a bullseye. Once again the Ravens gave up a touchdown pass on a simple criss-cross at the goal line, this time Jerricho Cotchery cashing in. We’ve seen this in the past against the Patriots on multiple occasions, and against the Broncos. When will they get it right? Chykie Brown was embarrassing trying to cover Antonio Brown and whiffed on an attempted jam, leading to an easy 19-yard completion. James Ihedigbo played another solid game but we’re still waiting for his sidekick Matt Elam to make a splash play.

Special Teams: A

Kick coverage could improve a tad and there’s no excuse for Justin Tucker kicking off out of bounds, but given his 5 field goals and Jacoby Jones’ return capabilities, special teams in many ways won this game for the Ravens. When is the last time Sam Koch punted only once in a game? His only chance pinned the Steelers at the 15 yard line.

Coaching: B

I will never understand why a defensive coordinator will go with a 3-man rush from inside the 10 yard line. Pees did it from the 8 and it led to the Steelers first TD. The Ravens did little to disrupt Roethlisberger in the pocket. John Harbaugh’s clock management at the end of the first half looked confused. They call a timeout at 1:04 left after a first down conversion. They then throw a 7-yard pass to Rice to their own 33 but don’t stop the clock. Then a false start by Michael Oher makes it 2nd and 8. The Ravens could have used a timeout to prevent a 10 second run off but opted not to. They then throw another short pass to Rice and then let the clock run out with 2 timeouts in their pocket. Jim Caldwell called a nice game. If the team executes in the red zone, we may be talking about a double digit Ravens win today.

PLAYER OF THE GAME

John Madden got it right (by the way where was he?) when he (allegedly) picked Jacoby Jones and Justin Tucker as co-players of the game and therefore deserving recipients of a drum stick on Thanksgiving. But I’m going with only 1 and this week it goes to Tucker who has 29 of the Ravens’ last 41 points.

GIFs c/o Gordon Dixon

21 Raves on “RAVENS REPORT CARD: Ravens 22 Steelers 20

  1. SDOT on said:

    I’m so happy to be a Ravens fan. They have definitely improved across the board especially in our Pass D and our Offensive hustle. I too however am baffled as to why Dean Pees comes out calling aggressive plays and then after it works we get ultra conservative. We almost quit blitzing in the 3rd and 4th quarter and as a result the Steelers started making a come back. We are so talented but talent only takes u as far as your coaches will allow so I’m hoping the coaches adjust in time for the playoffs. The playoff picture (minus the broncos) is looking pretty sweet for the ravens as long as we just get in.

    • RJ on said:

      SDOT, you have hit the nail on the head with us going into “conservative” mode with a slim lead, though I would expand that from the defense to the entire team. It’s pretty much our M.O. to do this in almost every game, despite the fact that we stop doing the very thing(s) that got us the lead inthe first place, or that most other teams are far more agressive and don’t let up until the game is over. I think the buck starts and stops with Harbaugh, though and he needs to learn to be agressive for the full 60 minutes, even if we are up by two TD’s.

  2. joe d on said:

    Few comments Tony. J Tuck is the best kicker in the league and I predict he will join Stover in the Ring of Honor one day. I can’t wait till we say adio to Michael Oher. Since 2008 he has been the most penalized player in the NFL. Finally it’s a shame Stokley can’t stay on the field. In fact I heard he may miss the Vikings game due to a torn uterus :0)

  3. JerryB on said:

    Viewing the tape of Tomlin’s “interference” with Jacoby Jones’ runback clearly disputes any notion that it wasn’t intentional! The guy deliberately steps into the playing field right in front of the streaking Jones causing him to veer off path giving the defender a better angle and then has the arrogance and audacity to smile about it!! Not only should he be fined, but the “Side Judge” who witnessed the play deserves to be summarily….fired! As he has over his abbreviated career, Flacco continues to rise to the occasion in “crunch time” despite being handicapped by a dearth of surrounding talent! This team is not capable of dominating, but as long as Flacco remains standing in the pocket, the Ravens can beat anybody!

    • anonymouz on said:

      Yep, the ref should be fined or penalized.. just like how players are when they do something wrong..
      you can clearly see that he had to run to the left of tomlin, so he had to see him unless he mistook him for an actual player!!

  4. festivus on said:

    Huh. I thought Joe was a magician, the way he avoided sacks all night. And when ordinary quarterbacks are throwing it away, he is still finding a man downfield… He deserved an A, I thought.

    • Jrock on said:

      Joe played well. That’s how he plays with a little fire under his butt. I remember when reed called him out a few years ago and flacco went out there and outplayed Brady in the afc champ game. Flacco plays better when the critics are barking.

  5. Nick on said:

    Tony,

    COACHING REPORT CARD SCORE (from me): D

    Up by 8 points with 1:52 remaining in the game and one time out, the Steelers had 1st and goal at around the Ravens 2 yard line. The coaching staff should have instructed the defense to let the Steelers score. Why?

    Because they would have had the opportunity to defend the 2 point conversion. If they had failed and the game became tied, the Ravens would have received the ball with 1:45 on the clock and one timeout. This would have been plenty of time to get into field goal position to win the game.

    The probability that the Steelers would score on 1st and goal from the 2 yard line with upto 4 attempts was high. Had they converted the 2 point conversion, there would have been too little time for the Ravens to score in regulation. In overtime, the odds become even.

    I’m fairly certain Bill Belinchek was sitting on his couch thinking, put the odds in your favor and let’em score.

    • JerryB on said:

      Good cogent observation! Harbaugh has NO CLUE when it comes to game/clock management! He obviously does some things well, but those aren’t among his strengths……

    • Anonymous on said:

      You wouldn’t let them score. Steelers had two timeouts and you risk the Steelers stopping the Ravens getting the ball with 40 seconds and going for the win. You don’t let them score up 8.

    • Nick on said:

      By the way, my comment is not meant to be critical of Harbaugh and his staff. My hope is that someone at least brings it to their attention as food for thought the next time a similar situation presents itself. If Pittsburgh had converted on the 2 point conversion, someone far smarter than me would be calling the coaching staff out for missing the opportunity. However, given the ultimate outcome, my comment is like running the sprinkler while it’s raining; it hardly matters.

    • Ken McKusickKen McKusick on said:

      I understand your argument, but I think the decision was a very close one, Nick.

      There is a pretty good win probability calculator on the Advanced NFL stats site that I used for some of this analysis.

      The Steelers had the ball 1st and goal at the 1 with 1:39 to play. It may seem strange, but their chance to win the game at that point via the ANFL calculator was only 14%. Why so low? Well they really needed a combination of 4 events to occur, none of which were certain:

      1. They had to score a TD. ANFL has that at 78%, but that might be about 7-8% low because they also show a chance at a FG. Let’s say their chance to score 6 was 86%.
      2. Then the Steelers needed to convert a 2-point conversion. That’s about a 46% chance in today’s NFL, but let’s make it 50% to account for failure followed by an onside kick recovery and subsequent FG.
      3. Then they needed to stop the Ravens in regulation which is something that would vary based on the time remaining as you indicate in your argument. Looking at the range of outcomes and the Ravens success driving all night, I would say 75% might be right when adjusted down for the risk of a game-losing turnover by the Ravens or other disaster. Of note is the fact that the Steelers could not afford to manipulate the clock with the value of each down so high, but they had timeouts to force the Ravens into some defensive play calling had they got the ball back.
      4. The Steelers then had to win in OT. Without getting into momentum, etc. Let’s just call that 50%

      I multiply those 4 together and get 16% with my assumptions, very close to the 14% from the ANFL calculator.

      Now you advocated them giving up the TD which changes the probabilities, but it’s still the same problem:

      1: Up to 100%
      2: Still 50%
      3: Is reduced from 75% to some lower number for the additional time on the clock
      4: Still 50%

      Basically, the break-even percentage for the Steelers to stop the Ravens in 90 seconds had to be 64% for the 2 choices (defend normally vs. allow Pitt TD) to be equivalent.

      It’s a close decision, by the math and I know the Ravens have at least 2 good win probability folks on staff in Matt Weiss and Sandy Weil.

      • Nick on said:

        Ken,

        Your analysis is compelling and thorough. Thanks for sharing and I owe the coaching staff an apology as well as a grade restoration.

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