Yeah, he had that ugly interception. But the argument could be made whether that was Joe’s fault, D-Mase’s fault; did Joe make the right decision, did Mason run a wrong route –was D-Mase out of position, did Joe put the ball in the wrong place, was there miscommunication, etc, etc… BUT other than that, how can you find fault with Flacco? Joe Cool showed why he should be considered a legitimate franchise QB and the detractors should just go back to pounding salt.
Seriously, what other QB currently in the NFL would you rather have? Peyton, okay, Rogers, yeah, Brady or Brees –yes. But other than that, would you really want Ben with all that baggage? I think I would still take Flacco over Schaub (injury bug), Rivers (head case). McNabb, Vick, Orton, Cutler? No, no, no and no. Favre? At this point in the season and his career, he is not even worth mentioning. By that calculation Flacco is a top five current NFL QB. Yeah you can throw stats and numbers, but Flacco did the near-improbable (at least according to many detractors): he went into a hostile environment, on the road, against a very solid divisional opponent (arguably the best defense in the NFL) and pulled out a come from behind victory to close out the fourth quarter. About the only thing left for him to do is a Festivus Maximus victory…
The beauty of Sunday’s victory is that we won at Pittsburgh. If we hold serve against Pittsburgh and Cinci at home, and just match P-burgh stride-for-stride the rest of the way, we win the division and P-burgh is struggling to qualify for a road playoff game while we get a much easier path. I would much rather face the Squeelers, the Rex Ryans or Cinci in Baltimore than on the road in the playoffs. San Diego does not count because we play them very well at their place and KC is playing wwaaaaayyy above their heads and will not sustain.
And I like our chances against the Dolts and the Patsies *this year*, especially in light of recent events. I really like a repeat in two weeks at NE. Webb is the perfect CB to shut down Welker. The Patsies have zippo running game. That leaves them, what, their sensational rookie TE? If a rookie TE beats us, even with Brady pitching to him, we have bigger issues…
Now, back to the matter at hand: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Joe Cool. What a statement game for him in his young career. He has truly arrived. Now do not blow it and lay an egg against Denver. The O-Line. Wow, picked up just about everything LeBeau threw at them and asked for more. I think Flacco was officially sacked once and hurried only a few other times. Yeah he got hit a few times, but it was the garden variety, “…okay, I am going to release the ball now, you can hit me on the follow through so that you make the highlights…” –nothing special. Blocked just well enough in the run game to keep Pittsburgh honest and off balance. The D. Front seven really picked it up from last week –got good pressure on Batch, kept Spin-n-fall bottled up for the most part. Yeah he scored two TD’s, but it did not appear that he could get into any kind of rhythm against us. And what can you say about the secondary? Yeah, two PI’s and the Randle El bomb, and really only one of those PI’s was legit, the other was a bit of a P-burgh homer call. But other than that, pretty much shutdown. And the Webb play on Wallace was truly game-saving.
I know I will catch flak for this but Kruger. Yes he had a nice strip (that was nullified) and he had some non-stop motor-inspired plays, but the ST penalty and the offsides penalty were horrid –he has to correct that like yesterday. Plus, he was out of position/took bad angles more than once. Not inspired by his body position/technique on a lot of plays. Yes, I know he is young, still learning the pro game, yada yada yada, but still… He is a second year DE/LB, not QB, not WR, not a rookie. His play should be more consistent. At times, it looks like he is in over his head. I acknowledge that there is still a boat-load of potential with this kid, but he needs to step up his play. And I hope he has not “topped out”. Just not sold on him, yet, like some folks. But I could be if he starts turning in solid, consistent games. Does not have to be spectacular. The spectacular can come with experience. I want to see consistency first.
Play calling. Okay, they had an answer for the Pittsburg vaulted defense –absolutely. And the two minute drill was a thing of beauty –a well composed orchestration if you will –props all around. Heck, Cam was awarded a game ball. But the third and short roll out at midfield, the nightmare at the Pittsburgh endzone and the end around to Boldin. First, the third and short. I agree you cannot run the ball *every* time in that situation –you have to mix it up. Fine, pass the ball, but do it smartly –an outlet to McLain, a quick slant to Heap, a shovel pass to Rice. When you roll Joe out, you eliminate half the field that the defense has to cover. Unless that was some poorly executed run-pass option for Flacco, I really have to criticize that play call. Enough with trying to do end-arounds to Boldin. Even with Clayton’s speed, that was an iffy proposition and give Boldin credit for turning it inside to turn nothing into two or three yards, but Boldin was brought here as a RECEIVER, not a gadget play specialist. Play to his strengths… And finally, I do not want to beat a dead horse but not one, but two lob passes into the endzone??? Are you kidding me??? Again, quick slant, run that quasi statue of liberty play that the Ravens sometimes run. Here is a novel idea –POUND THE BALL-! Heck maybe even a “Suggs package” option play or as many have suggested: four-wides and laser it. It either will be good or no good. I would rather try these things, get stopped than “give up” by running two lob plays out of four…
The Ugly gets a bye this week. I am tickled “pink” (BTW, the color pink brought to you by the NFL & its breast cancer awareness month –see Bruce, I worked a sponsor into my post) by the victory in P-burgh so death takes a holiday and no ugly this time.