In a game that featured several highs and lows, the Ravens did just enough to beat the Steelers on Sunday to move into first place in the AFC North and end their four-game losing streak.
While Mike Wallace provided the fans at M&T Bank Stadium a memorable moment with his 95-yard touchdown reception to give the Ravens an early lead, it was the defense who stole the show and played a drastic role in improving the team’s record to 4-4.
“We stopped the run, and we didn’t give up any big plays,” stated John Harbaugh following the victory. “I thought we tackled really well – put it that way. We played screens well, we played the check downs really well. We played fast, really disciplined defense.”
For the first time in the last several weeks, defensive coordinator Dean Pees’ game plan paid off. The Ravens limited the big play, as their longest play allowed was 30 yards to wide receiver Eli Rogers. They also held the Steelers’ vaunted running game to just 36 total yards.
“Sometimes you get into those situations where you’re protecting the lead, and you might play a little bit differently because … What you really don’t want to do in that situation is you don’t want to give them an easy one,” added Harbaugh. “You don’t want to give them a quick strike. The clock is in your favor. [Ben Roethlisberger] made a couple of plays against Cover 2, Tampa 2 – that hurt us.”
While Roethlisberger made things interesting in the 4th quarter with a 23-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Brown and a four-yard TD scramble, the defense didn’t break all afternoon. The game was never truly close, though the final score may indicate differently.
“Those are the plays,” said Harbaugh. “It wasn’t anything else besides hitting those seam routes versus Tampa 2 and Ben getting out of the pocket in the high red zone, and the low red zone for the scramble. We’re going to look at that, and we’re not going to like that when we watch the tape, him scrambling around out there. We want to keep him in the pocket, but pass rushers do get tired in two-minute situations like that. The whole fourth quarter was a two-minute drill. We’ll look at it, and we’ll decide if we should have pressured more.
“We’ll probably decide we could have made it on that third-and-15. You don’t second guess it too much. It just felt like we got hit in Tampa 2 twice in two big plays. That’s what gave them their opportunities.”
The pass rush provided just enough to keep Ben off kilter, the secondary covered their assignments well and the entire unit was stout on third down. The only thing to truly gripe about was their dropping of six potential interceptions.
“It was the worst,” laughed Weddle about his dropped pick. “I am such a loser. You know, you just got to keep grinding. If you want to be great you got to make those plays. That’s what I’m all about.”
The Ravens will enjoy this one and the feeling of winning once again. It will be a short-lived feeling though, as the team is already preparing to face the Browns on Thursday night.
“Potentially, [if] we take the next step,” replied Suggs post-game when asked if the victory could be used as a springboard for the defense. “We want to be a veteran team and not make the same mistakes twice. You all know we started out pretty good, 3-0, and we had some opportunities to just take some steps, and we missed those opportunities, so this is a perfect opportunity.
“We got another one to take another step. Veteran teams, good teams, they don’t take steps back, they would take the next step. Unfortunately, that team in Northeast, they would continue to win, as they’ve been doing. If you want to contend, especially in the AFC, as competitive as the AFC is, you definitely want to take the next step, especially against a team in your division, especially against another AFC team.
“So, like I said, we’re going to enjoy this, but it’s going to be short-lived. We definitely have gotta move on, and I’m going to do my part and make sure them guys understand that.”
With just three days in between games, the defense needs to have a short memory, even if the winles Browns are on deck.
They cannot afford to let their guard down. After all, if the Browns come to M&T Bank Stadium and get their first win of 2016, all of the good feelings earned yesterday will be a distant memory.
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