THE GRAPEVINE: Boneheaded play proves to be huge blow in Ravens’ comeback bid

Lombardi's Way THE GRAPEVINE: Boneheaded play proves to be huge blow in Ravens’ comeback bid

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The play-by-play chart on for the games opening play reads: 6-S.Hauschka kicks 56 yards from BAL 30 to PIT 14. 33-G.Russell to PIT 34 for 20 yards (81-M.Smith). BAL-39-D.Stone was injured during the play. His return is Doubtful.

If we were only that lucky.

You’ve probably heard of Robert “Hands of Stone” Duran.  And unfortunately you are most definitely familiar with Daren “Head of Bone” Stone.

Let’s set the stage…

The Ravens fight and claw their way to a two point deficit against the Steelers during the AFC Championship Game.  Trailing 16-14 the Ravens force a key three-and-out and subsequently the Steelers punt with 7:00 minutes left in the game.  As he’s done so often, Pittsburgh punter Mitch Berger hits a relatively lame punt 38 yards to the Ravens 28 and Jim Leonhard returns it to his own 39.

First and 10 with 6:50 to go.

(Commercial break)

We all begin to feel it.  The Ravens just might do to the Steelers what the Steelers had done to the Ravens twice during the regular season – snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

(Return from commercial break)

Oh, the horror!

Replaying before us in what amounts to the biggest boneheaded play in Ravens history considering the magnitude of the game and the major swing in momentum in the Ravens’ favor, is Daren Stone tossing a Steelers’ player well out of bounds. He’s flagged for a 15 yard penalty for unnecessary roughness from the spot.
Momentum back to Pittsburgh…

The crowd pounces on the shift in momentum as the Ravens now start their drive from the 14 yard line. 

Five plays and 2:11 later, Troy Polamalu picks off a Joe Flacco pass and returns it 40 yards for the score.

Game, set, match, likely end of Stone as a Raven.

That will be the one play that we’ll ponder during the long off-season and ask, “What if?”

It’s tough to pin a loss on one play and Stone’s teammates and coaches will and have said the same.  Yet during the course of a game, there are pivotal plays or mistakes that heavily affect a game’s outcome and clearly this was a mistake of monumental proportions.

How are you sleeping these days Daren?

Yes I did it – I watched that Championship game again.  And here are a few of my notes and observations that unfortunately will linger for a while…

I know all about the rule and its impact on the Santonio Holmes non-catch at the goal line.  And what a great job by Harbaugh’s staff picking up on it.  But I have to say, we got away with one there and I wonder if Mike Tomlin’s flag had beaten Harbaugh’s if the officials would have reached the same conclusion that the pass was incomplete.  Make up call for the TD in Baltimore during the Ravens 13-9 loss in December?…Ed Reed was just a step slow during the 45 yard catch and run by Hines Ward on the Steelers’ first possession. A slightly quicker step on that play and Reed would have been off to the races again…How many were thinking about Larry Fitzgerald on that deep sideline pass that just eluded the outstretched hands of the Ravens of Mark Clayton in the first quarter?…Back to Holmes for a second, he grates on my nerves, you?  To me, he’s a shorter, faster version of Plaxico Burress…Hey Yamon, I hope you are renting…
On third and 1 and then fourth and 1, why did the Ravens empty the backfield? Why isn’t Lorenzo Neal on the field?  And if you wanted to get cute and go downfield, that’s cool but wouldn’t the full backfield draw the desired defenders into the box even more during play action?…Ray Rice was effective in limited action.  I’m wondering why he was so limited…Cam Cameron was outfoxed by the oldest assistant coach in the NFL – Dick LeBeau.  LeBeau used a Cover 2 with press on the edges often and he dropped his linebackers.  That screamed for more rushes off the edge and less of the deep ball activity that the Ravens employed.  That crossing route to Todd Heap in the fourth quarter was exactly the kind of pattern that would have proven to be more successful given the depth in the drop of the Steelers’ safeties.  That said, the Pittsburgh secondary did play a much better game than most of us expected, particularly Cameron…Props to Willis McGahee.  He played with heart that we haven’t seen much if at all from him all season.  He was outstanding picking up blitzing Steelers. Here’s to continuing that in 2009.

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24×7 Networks, LLC’s founder (the parent of and His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan and he hosts “The Fanimal” also heard on 105.7 The Fan, Saturdays from 8-9AM. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, The Godfather, Guinness, orange crushes, meatballs and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi.

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