Yea, though the Ravens walked through the Field of Heinz, they feared no Steeler. For they knew that they were the baddest *expletive* in the stadium.
The Ravens got (relatively) healthy at the right time, and are headed back to Baltimore with a 26-14 victory over the hated divisional rival Steelers. Two ‘good guy’ touchdowns in the first six minutes made this game feel like a blowout was coming, but after an Alex Collins fumble, a typical Antonio Brown touchdown and two-point conversion to tie it up, and an overthrown pass by Flacco deflated the momentum going into the half, my heart rate skyrocketed, and my heart dropped.
But, as Eric Weddle stated.. This ain’t the same, old Ravens.
Joe Flacco.. Again. He completed 66.7% of his passes (adjusted completion % is probably closer to 75%), 28 of them, to be exact, for 363 yards and two touchdowns. That was good for a 109.5 rating. The offensive line gets part of the credit, as they kept Flacco upright for most of the night, allowing just two sacks. Flacco having time in the pocket meant he could pick apart Pittsburgh’s suspect secondary, or ‘Cotton Curtain,’ as I call them. He hit 11 different players for completions, and finished the game frustrated because he felt that the offense left a lot of points on the field – something you love to see from your signal caller (and he wasn’t wrong).
The nine other players who caught passes. The passing offense went ahead and had themselves a day. The tight ends combined for 99 yards. Tim White had a big catch. De’Lance Turner. Chris Moore had a 4th down conversion on the ground, and added a grab to that. The only wideout I won’t include is Michael Crabtree, who is underperforming to say the least (more below).
The offensive line.. in pass protection. I touched on it earlier. The pass protection has been better than average – maybe even good. James Hurst has been a pleasant surprise at right tackle, especially given the nightmare that was 2015. Matt Skura has exceeded expectations thus far. All-in-all, Flacco has time and space to make the necessary throws.
The coaching. Marty and Wink pulled out all the stops for this one. Maxx Williams lined up at left guard.. as an eligible receiver. End around carries on 4th-and-2. Four different looks for Lamar Jackson. Disguised blitzes. Cloud coverage. Man/Zone combos. They found a way to stifle the potent Steelers offense, and pick apart the secondary.
Justin Tucker. That’s it. All I have to say.
Yes, there was some bad. And the first part breaks my heart.
Alex Collins needs to stop fumbling. If you glance at Collins’ season stats, they aren’t horrendous – 45 for 158, 3.8YPC, and a couple of scores. But he’s put the ball on the ground twice this season, including on the 1-yard line last night, which deflated the momentum, and let the Steelers crawl back into the game. I once said that I would take Alex Collins over any rookie prospect from the 2018 draft, but he’s doing his best to make me regret that.
The offensive line.. run blocking edition. For all the happiness that the offensive line has given me in pass protection, any time they run block, it gives me a twitch. They’re ranked 31st by PFF in the category, only better than the Buffalo Bills. This needs to change. The team can’t be one-dimensional, and it almost has to be, with the lack of run support that the OL is providing.
Michael Crabtree. King Crab hasn’t been game-breaking bad. He has modest statistics, and has made some good catches, including an unreal toe-tap touchdown in Week 1. However, he has a handful of drops on the season already, including a would-be first down last night. He’s had drops throughout his career, but it’s a shame to see them so plentiful, so quickly.
Steelers fans. I struggled to find something about this team to place in this category, and so… the hometown fans get the honor. Not only was the stadium empty midway through the third quarter, but the ones that were left were fighting with each other in the stands. Steeler Nation has fallen into Civil War (much better Avengers reference than the one previously heard this week).
Penalties. The team needs to be more disciplined. Unnecessary penalties will kill the momentum every time. Like, say, Ronnie Stanley with a false start that negates a big play? Yeah.
The Megan Fox
John Brown.. Again! I think we’ve answered my previous question. There isn’t anything Brown can’t do. He only had three catches on the day, but certainly made the most of them, racking up 116 yards and a score, including a beautiful 71-yard catch. Smokey boasts an impressive 22.5YPC average, a quarter of the way through the season, but it hasn’t been all deep shots. Brown seems to work himself open (even when triple covered) to provide the kind of ‘security blanket’ label that’s usually handed to Baltimore tight ends. I really enjoy watching the fiery (smoky?) wideout express his emotion after a big catch.
If the Ravens can harness this momentum going forward (especially against an improved Browns team), they can make a bid for the AFC North, and a playoff berth for the first time since 2014.