Defense Leads The Way to a 21-14 Win
If you happened to NOT be watching the Ravens v. Steelers on Sunday and checked in on your smart phone for scoring updates, you probably thought that a 7-0 game late in the first half meant it was just another of those typical, physical Baltimore/Pittsburgh slobber-knockers indicative of this bitter rivalry.
And you would be wrong.
It was a game that featured two offenses that were about as cutting edge as The Leatherheads. The first half featured 13 first downs v. 11 punts. The teams were a combined 2 for 16 on third-down. They were 16 accepted penalties for 143 yards against a combined total net offense of 298 yards on 61 total plays.
In other words, there was an accepted penalty on every 3.8 plays in the first half. For the game there were 23 penalties for 193 yards.
To say it was ugly is an insult to all things ugly.
What’s happened to this rivalry?
What’s happened to these teams?
What’s happening to the NFL?
This game was as riveting as a weekend at Bingo World without alcohol.
But a win is a win (repeat this to yourself often) and the Ravens are technically in first place in the suddenly horrific AFC North where they now control their own destiny.
Mike Wallace set the tone for the game with a 95-yard pitch and catch from Joe Flacco. It was a great catch on a slant that Wallace finished off with 86 YAC. He had 4 catches on the afternoon good for 124 yards and a score. Wallace is on pace to haul in 78 passes for 1,228 yards and 8 TD’s…Rick Wagner was solid at right tackle and is quietly paving his way to a healthy raise in 2017.
[Sidebar: This from John Harbaugh immediately following the game]:
“I think our offense won the game today. That’s the No. 1 thought. I felt like Joe [Flacco] figured out, especially in the second half … [He] played the game to win the game. He didn’t really try to force any balls in there. Even some passes that you’re going to look at and say, ‘You know what, he could have completed that pass.’ He chose not to a few times, I think. I think he understood the situation of the game, so I’ll give him credit for that.”
Was coach concussed at some point during the game?
Brandon Williams, Tim Jernigan, Michael Pierce, Terrell Suggs and Lawrence Guy did a nice job containing Le’Veon Bell allowing the inside backers CJ Mosley and Zach Orr to clean up while limiting Bell to 32 yards on 14 carries…For about 50 game minutes the Ravens secondary was outstanding. Lardarius Webb rebounded with a fine effort after two very lackluster games in The Meadowlands. It was by far his best outing of the season. Eric Weddle policed real estate like we’re now accustomed to seeing and nearly had a game-clinching interception. Jimmy Smith added to his string of plus games at corner while Jerraud Powers made some surprising contributions both in coverage and as a pass rusher…Team tackling was fast and sound and that helped limit the Steelers to 4 of 16 on third down…
Justin Tucker was perfect, again while Sam Koch’s directional punting eliminated a big play special teams weapon of the Steelers – namely Antonio Brown while fighting some challenging winds. It was a remarkable effort. Koch averaged 42.2 yards on 9 punts but netted 41.7 yards…Buck Allen and Chris Moore teaming up for the score on a blocked punt was critical given the ineptness of the Ravens offense in the second half.
Darren Waller could have made a better effort on the pass from Joe Flacco to finish off a nicely designed wheel route that resulted in the mismatch the Ravens hoped for – Waller on James Harrison. Harrison got away with an arm bar but Waller’s effort was weak. It’s possible that the converted wide receiver momentarily lost the ball in the sun. Waller also made a bone-headed play making contact with Brown following a fair catch…Coaching decision to play passively in the secondary in the fourth quarter. Both safeties were so deep they were off the TV screen but some credit has to be given to Roethlisberger’s ability to move a defense with pump fakes. It’s nice when a QB has time to employ them, but I doubt Flacco would anyway…Devin Hester is ridiculous again – ridiculously mediocre.
There’s no denying that Joe Flacco is having an awful season. He continues to throw off his back foot; has no sense of urgency; his execution of a 2-minute offense is on a high school level and he still can’t read a defense allowing free blitzers off the edge, AND he predetermines where he’s going with the football with no apparent regard for the defensive alignment. On the Ravens second possession they faced a 3rd and 5 from the Steelers 17 with 6:17 left in the first. With time left on the play clock the Ravens receivers shifted to the right side of the formation yet before they were set Flacco started his cadence and the ball was snapped, negating an 8-yard completion to Kamar Aiken to set up a first and goal from the Steelers 9.
First and goal is something the Ravens haven’t experienced since the game against the Giants. That streak remains intact and the Ravens have had only 2 offensive red zone plays in the last 8 quarters of football against the Jets and Steelers, the then 24th and 27th ranked defenses in the league, respectively. Let that marinate for a moment!
Following the Flacco penalty and facing a 3rd and 10, Flacco was picked off costing the team a sure 3 points. His intended target Dennis Pitta was surrounded by 3 Steelers, meanwhile directly in front of him were two possible targets with single coverage on the right side of the field where he was being forced by pursuit – pursuit from yet another free blitzing DB.
Towards the end of the second quarter during a two-minute drive that was essentially a clinic on how not to run a hurry-up offense, Flacco faced a second and 10 from the Steelers 26 with 22 seconds left and no timeouts. He tried to jam it into Aiken running a skinny post, locking in on him from the snap. It drew the attention of 3 Steelers and that pass too was nearly picked after the Lawrence Timmons deflection and it could have cost the Ravens another 3 points.
And then there was the second half.
The Steelers adjusted. Flacco did not. The result was 5 possessions that ended with a punt, three of which were 3 and outs; one possession in victory formation and the other produced just 8 yards following a Tim Jernigan interception of a tipped pass by Brandon Williams, that put the Ravens first and 10 at the Steelers 32. Forty-two yards of offense in the second half – TWO in the final quarter.
And John Harbaugh said, “I think our offense won the game today.”
Rich Gannon, a former NFL MVP was the analyst covering the game and it’s safe to say he knows a little about the QB position. And it’s a fair assumption to think that he would love to see Flacco succeed since both are Hall of Fame Delaware Blue Hens. But consider this exchange between Gannon and play-by-play guy Ian Eagle during the broadcast:
Gannon: “Joe Flacco fading away from throws and still able to get this one in there accurately to Perriman. It’s one of the issues that Joe has had. We talked to offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg who is trying to encourage him to step more into throws and not fade away from throws. He’s got the arm talent. It’s a gift but it can be a curse at times and he can get lazy with his feet.”
Eagle: “How about the communication between Flacco and Mornhinweg and how all of that works? New offensive coordinator, so a new dynamic?”
Gannon: “Communication obviously critical but some quarterbacks want a lot. They want a lot of information in their headset. They want to know why the play is being called. They want to know the tips and reminders. Joe’s not that kind of guy. He doesn’t want to be overloaded with information. He wants to be able to go out and play the game and react to what he sees.”
Read between the lines…
Ronnie Stanley was horrible. The 2016 sixth overall pick was beaten like a Neil Peart drum kit by the 38-year old James Harrison and he was flagged for holding FOUR TIMES. Here’s how that played out:
* Q1 (10:58) 3-02-PITT 45: Holding forces 3rd and 12 and leads to punt instead of a possible FG
* Q2 (9:10) 3-08-BALT 41: Holding negates an 11-yard gain and a first down at PITT 48; leads to punt
* Q2 (0:17) 3-10-PITT 26: Holding undermines TD scoring efforts and prematurely forces FGA
* Q3 (15:00) 1-10-25: Holding on first play of second half and negates an 8-yard run by Terrance West eventually leading to a punt.
Since Marty Mornhinweg took control of the Ravens offense against the Giants they have scored 48 total offensive points in 3 games, 28 of which belong to Justin Tucker. Joe Flacco has 1 touchdown pass and the Ravens have rushed for just 145 yards. AND they’ve averaged just 308 yards per game. The worst offense in the NFL (Vikings) registers 298.8 yards per game. These embarrassing numbers all while facing three defenses ranked 17th (Giants), 24th (Jets) and 27th (Steelers) respectively. For the record, Chris Moore has scored 12 special teams points…The Ravens 3rd down conversion rate on offense is 31.2% on the season and 24.5% over the last 3 games. Both are league worsts. It might help if the primary receiver actually gets beyond the first down marker…By the way, how does Juan Castillo escape accountability? Oh right, the offense won the game.
THE MEGAN FOX
Since his arrival following the 2016 NFL Draft, the game has never appeared to be too big for Tavon Young. He has a knack for making plays and he doesn’t back down from a challenge. And even though he has less than desirable size, he makes up for it with tenacity, efficient tackling, a nose for the ball and excellent technique helped in part but mad change of direction skills. His take down of Antonio Brown while fighting through a blocker on a bubble screen was an All-Pro play. When your front seven isn’t getting to the opposing QB and that guy happens to be named Roethlisberger and a big part of your assignment on the afternoon is the league’s best receiver, it could be a long day. Instead, it was a great day for the Ravens Rookie of the Year at midway point of the season.