Prior to last nights 20-17 overtime victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Baltimore Ravens had lost five of their last seven games, some of them in classic 2009 Ravens' frustrating fashion. Therefore, winning a game, any game, much less one over their hated AFC North division rivals, feels pretty good by my standards.
Even without their top offensive and defensive players, Pittsburgh is still a tough team and played well enough to keep the game close and even had a chance to win it in the extra session. But the Ravens, faced with certain elimination from any real chance at playing in the post season, persevered and with a little help from a couple of rookies and a couple of second year players, pulled out the win off the foot of new kicker Billy Cundiff.
Rookie CB,Lardarius Webb, pressed into starting due to a season ending injury to Fabian Washington last week, almost ended the game with an interception but just couldn't hold onto what would have been a pick-six. Seldom used rookie LB Paul Kruger, who is also getting playing time due to Terrell Suggs' injury, made the totally unexpected interception in OT and ran the ball back deep into Steelers territory. From there, it was just a matter of seconde year QB Joe Flacco handing it to 2nd year RB, Ray Rice, to get the ball into better field position centered for the game winning Cundiff FG.
A lot of fans will say the team looked boring and flat and should have won this game going away. Remember, other than Troy Polamalu, this was the same Pittsburgh defense that shut down the Ravens three times last season and would know they needed to have a solid game to help their offensive issues. Third string QB Dennis Dixon had a great game up until that final interception, passing for one TD and running for another. Overall, the Steelers offense moved the ball pretty well, especially on the ground. One might have thought that the Ravens defense would do whatever it took to shut down the Pittsburgh running game and force Dixon to beat them through the air. However, that didn't happen as the Steelers ran for 153 yards, with 95 from Rashard Mendenhall.
Offensively, the Ravens might have looked boring and inefficient, but they still racked up decent yardage on the ground (132 yards), led by Rice's 88 yards and through the air on Flacco's 23 for 35 for 289 yards and the one TD pass to Derrick Mason(7 receptions for 62 yards). Wide receiver Mark Clayton had one of his best games of his career, catching seven passes for 129 yards, including a great catch off of a long bomb of 54 yards.
All in all, the win keeps us int he playoff hunt and looking at our competition for the post season, we now have the ability to control our own fate. Continuing the progress will require going up to Green Bay to face the Packers next Monday night in what will be the first night game in December in Green Bay history. Why is this? Because it's so damn cold there this time of year, so why do our Ravens get the honor of dealing with those elements? That should be a great game against a very good offense and a Packers team that has played pretty well the last few weeks and are chasing a post season berth themselves. More will follow on the Packers game but for now we can dissect and debate the Ravens win over the Steelers last night, a phrase we haven't uttered for well almost two years now.