A normal day includes a fair number of expletives.
This was much worse.
The Ravens managed to cough up a game they appeared to control thoroughly in the last 10 minutes. The Steelers had given them the game several times over with Sanders’ fumble and Batch’s overthrow of Wallace, but it still seemed unlikely Pittsburgh would muster the touchdown necessary to win the game.
But the signs were there previously. The Ravens allowed too many big opportunities in the passing game. Let’s review:
(Q1, 3:37) Brown had a step on Graham down the right sideline. Batch overthrew the ball OOB, but had the ball been underthrown Graham probably would not have found the ball and it might well have turned into pass interference.
(Q2, 1:10) Batch threw deep down the right sideline for Wallace who was open behind Brown. Wallace dropped the ball and stepped out, but he might have been unable to drag his feet inbounds had he caught it.
(Q2, 0:43) Batch overthrew Wallace all alone in the back of the end zone.
(Q3, 12:44) Batch hit Heath Miller on a deep crossing route behind McClain and McClellan. Miller would race 43 yards to set up the Steelers first TD.
(Q3, 7:11) Batch, again with lots of time, threw deep middle for Sanders who was wide open for an apparent TD. Without contact, and just 3 steps later, the ball was out and Reed recovered.
(Q3, 4:06) Batch was forced from the pocket to the left, typically a disaster for a right-handed QB, but he had time to reset quickly and found Brown behind Ed Reed down the left sideline for a gain of 34.
(Q4, 11:59) Batch found Miller on a pass short middle and the Steelers’ TE split McClellan and Pollard for a 23-yard gain (2 + 21 YAC).
(Q4, 9:01) Batch hit Sanders between the hashes with Williams trailing, Reed moving up, and McClellan unable to get in the passing lane. This was a case where a high throw might well have resulted in a pick. The Steelers were set up with first and goal at the 7 and would score to tie the game.
(Q4, 4:52) Ngata delivered a crushing hit on Batch, but he delivered the biggest first down of the game with a 15-yard pass to Wallace on the right sideline.
Excluding Kruger, the Ravens’ linebackers did very little in the passing game. They contributed no pass rush and provided little coverage of the passing lanes. This was a game where the Ravens wanted to trust their pass rush to provide pressure, particularly given the Steelers problems on the line. They provided 9 QHs, including a pair of sacks, but the pressure came very late. When the Ravens rushed numbers (see below), they were even less effective. Batch had good time to throw and converted enough of the opportunities created by the 4 primary receivers (Wallace, Brown, Sanders, and Miller) to win the game for Pittsburgh.
The Steelers out-snapped the Ravens 65 to 57 (excluding Flacco’s kneel). That includes a 36 to 22 edge in the 2nd half:
- Versus the Run: 26 plays, 96 yards, 3.7 YPC
- Versus the Pass: 39 plays, 270 yards, 6.9 YPP
- Overall: 65 plays, 366 yards, 5.6 YPPA
By number of defensive backs:
- 3 DBs: 3/0, 0.0 YPPA. These all occurred as the Steelers ran out the game clock for the game-winning FG.
- 4 DBs: 35/254,7.3 YPPA, 1 sack, 2 TO
- 5 DBs: 24/91, 3.8 YPPA, 1 sack
- 6 DBs: 3/21, 7.0 YPPA, 1 TO
By number of pass rushers:
- 3 or fewer: 2/0, 0.0 YPP
- 4: 28/179, 6.4 YPP, 2 sacks, 2 TO
- 5: 7/66, 9.4 YPP, 1 TO
- 6: 2/25, 12.5 YPP
- 7: None
- The Ravens ILB rotation took another twist this week. With Dannell Ellerbe sidelined, the Ravens started Brendan Ayanbadejo. Brendan would play just 21 snaps. His highlight was a diagnosed screen to Dwyer (Q2, 1:52) where he took down the Steelers’ big back for a loss of 3. McClellan (35 snaps) was the primary ILB next to McClain. Bynes accumulated 9 snaps including a burst off the right edge to take down Dwyer for a 2-yard loss (Q2, 6:03).
- When Suggs left (Q4, 4:52), the Steelers would immediately convert a crucial 3rd and 7 during their game-ending drive. McClellan substituted for the DPOY and lined up in a 3-point stance. Albert was stonewalled by Starks, but Ngata slammed Batch just after he released for a 15-yard conversion to Wallace on the right sideline.
- Chykie Brown was a little soft on Wallace on the latter conversion. It was his biggest play allowed, but not his biggest mistake. He allowed Wallace to roam free in the back of the end zone (Q2, 0:43) where Batch overthrew him. The Steelers would settle for a FG. Brown has played well in his time as the Ravens’ nickel and the team can ill afford another serious injury in the secondary.
- The emergence of Arthur Jones has been sudden and welcome. He bulled Foster to share a QH with Cody (Q2, 3:07). Foster pulled, but Jones pushed off Beauchamp, then bulled Legursky and finally took down Batch for the QH (Q3, 8:06). Kemo had driven Pouncey 6 yards into the backfield across the face of the Steelers QB and Batch barely released in time to avoid the sack. Kemo was incorrectly credited with the QH in the Gamebook, but he did create the opportunity. Harbaugh challenged the play and the Ravens lost a timeout. He beat a double team from Beauchamp and Redman to sack Batch (Q4, 12:38) for a loss of 3. Jones fought through a triple team from Foster, Beauchamp, and Paulson to deliver a QH on Batch’s game tying TD pass to Miller (Q4, 7:37).
- Terrence Cody made 3 contributions as a pass rusher. He shared the aforementioned QH with Jones (Q2, 3:07) when he slipped off Legursky’s right side and took down Batch by the ankles as Jones hit him high. Jones got exclusive credit for the QH in the Gamebook (I have never seen one shared like a sack), but it was his first time taking the QB to the ground (sack or QH) in his 3-year career. He then registered a PD just as the ball left Batch’s hand when he bulled Legursky (Q3, 14:54). He beat Legursky to the left side for a pressure (Q1, 4:22), but Batch was able to short-arm the ball to Wallace for a 6-yard gain.
- Despite dropping to coverage on most of the 4-man rushes (the role typically played by McClellan), Upshaw had a disappointing game that included a big missed tackle at the LoS on Dwyer’s TD run (Q3, 11:14).
- Bernard Pollard took down Dwyer 3 times, twice for gains of just 1 yard and once for a 3-yard loss (Q3, 4:50) when he beat Johnson from the offensive right side to spin Dwyer towards his goal line. Pollard’s highlight was his tooth-rattling hit on Sanders to dislodge the football (Q3, 2:05) and deny a 3rd-down conversion.
- Do you get the feeling that might be the last time (Q4, 11:17) we’ll see Ed Reed emerge from the end zone for one of his spectacular returns? Except for a lateral, it had most of the elements of a classic Reed return with Upshaw vainly waving him to accept the touchback, Reed ignoring him, the near fumble, near tackle, and miraculous escape from Dwyer at the 1-yard line, a diving missed tackle by Legursky (who had all the grace of a TV Batman villain), and a takedown 34 yards downfield. Reed has averaged 25.3 yards per interception return for his career.