This was a throwback championship bout between two heavyweights- fifteen rounds, not the wussy twelve round max they impose nowadays. This was Ali-Frazier; the "Rumble in the Jungle"; the "The Thrilla in Manilla"; "The Bout in the ‘Burgh"…
Blow after blow was landed and absorbed. Knees buckled; standing eight counts were answered. Black and blue bruised; this was football the way the gods intended it to be played.
For the neutral fan, wow, what a treat- one of the best games of the year! Nothing left on the field. For Baltimore, the sun is out today, temperature rather mild for this time of year and the Ravens went 2 – 0 against the hated squeelers!!! Is it Christmas?
And what a great subplot to the bout- Torrey Smith. He gets victimized by a veteran dive move on the first play from scrimmage that the refs fell for hook, line and sinker, drops two passes, one of which would have been the game winning touchdown, and then does indeed catch the game winning touchdown from QB Joe Flacco. Somewhere, Jerry Maguire is chuckling because even Hollywood couldn’t have written the "Torrey Smith Story" from last night. I cannot imagine the emotional rollercoaster the rookie was on last night.
Have to start with Joe Cool. He still has ball security issues. But that winning drive. Needing a touchdown. In Pittsburgh. Can he get a break from the critics? Just for a little while? So, let us review: "Joe has never beaten Ben" –check, Week1; "Joe has never beaten Ben in P-burgh" –check, last night. Take a wild guess what Joe’s regular season record is against the squeelers. 1 – 7? Oh, at best it has got to be 2 – 6, right? BBZZZTTTTT!!! 4 – 4. Not great, but not too shabby either considering the competition. Know what? That is fine. Oh, not even going to mention the fact that Joe was the victim of "Hands of Kiln Fired Clay" by his receivers –at least four that I can recall and maybe even one or two more- two by the rookie Torrey Smith and one by Boldin late in the game. Boldin, you have *got* to make that catch in that situation –no excuses.
The Twin Tight Ends. We all said our TE’s are a huge asset against the P-Burgh defense and we must leverage that –and we did. Very good game from both of them.
Cam. He catches it when he does bad and rightfully so; so I have to give him props when he does well. I felt that Cam was feeling the rhythm of the game much better than previously. Took good shots deep and seemed to dial up a good play when needed.
Cundiff. Missed one, but made up for it by making the rest, including a fifty yarder that was dead center, and then burying the kickoffs late when he had to. Last thing you want is Brown taking one back. Launch that puppy into orbit late in the fourth quarter and he did. NASA would be proud.
Suggs. How the heck did he read that play when he picked it? If only he could have kept his feet… Suggs may not have had his most dominant pass rushing game last night, but last night was a prime example of why I believe he is the most complete OLB in the game right now. He covered, he rushed, he tackled, he absolutely never ever loses contain, and his backside pursuit is the best in the business. And he made a big play when the defense needed it. You can have Troy, Woodley, Farrior, Harrison –I’ll take Suggs, this season. DPOY right there. Book it.
Cary Williams. Had some HUGE PD’s. When our secondary is on, as a unit, one of the best in the league, and without Jimmy Smith. Can’t wait ‘til he gets healed and up to speed.
Pass blocking. Amazing what a difference Grubbs makes. Ravens have a "good problem" –I don’t know that they can let Grubbs go at the end of the season- I think they have to pay him. And it won’t be pretty. How much for a guard? A GUARD?!?!? But, he is a difference maker. Yeah Joe was sacked a couple of times and the strip-fumble, but it is still the P-burgh defense- they are going to get theirs no matter what. In my book, last night, in P-Burgh, is about as best you can hope for.
Michel Oher. Two solid games in a row (I’ll wait for Filmstudy’s confirmation, but he appeared to pass the sniff test). For someone who started the season out fairly badly, he seems to have gotten it together. Whatever clicked, Hallelujah! Maybe we are still a game or two away, but if by game 11 or 12 the O-line is clicking on all cylinders, ya gotta start to believe…
Nice bounce back for the Special Teams. Okay coverage, but definitely better blocking on returns. Reed looked like he a little extra step last night, fumble not withstanding (thanking my Vonte Voodoo doll on that one…).
Run blocking. Funny how Grubbs seemed to not miss a beat on pass blocking but yet the unit was pu-doo run blocking –I figured it would have been the other way around. Rice had room on the first play from scrimmage and his touchdown run and that was it. The O-line gave him and Ricky nothing to work with. There were times when Rice had two or three (ugly, btw) jerseys in the backfield and he still made one or two yards, on his own.
Look, I am happy that the Ravens got some calls their way that maybe could have gone either way. What I cannot stand, and what pretty much every other fan cannot stand, is when the refs insert themselves in a game, especially like this. I do not know what the overnight numbers were last night, but they had to be off the charts for NBC. Fans wanted to see two heavyweight contenders slug it out- cutmen working overtime in each corner, big doofs launching haymakers; not a bunch of zebras parsing the rulebook. Let them play! Yes, call the encroachments and false starts; but anything else, unless it is a blatant take down, let ‘em play. Again, even though it benefitted the Ravens, I really *hate* the defenseless receiver rule. That is football-! Separate the man from the ball. How can you not appreciate a good snot-bubble hit-? Instead Goodell is attempting to neuter like it is some feel-good useless liberal, feminist, seminar on "Lookism" (that is an actual liberal term that I had to learn the definition of, I kid you not). A game like last night should have had the NFL’s "A" crew –that crew was not the "A" crew. More like the "A-Team" after a drunken bender… HOW IN ALL THAT IS RIGHT AND GOOD CAN YOU CALL A FIRST AND GOAL ON A DEFENSIVE PI WHEN A TOUCHDOWN IS SCORED?????????????????? Yeah, they corrected it, but if ever there was fodder for the tinfoil conspiracy set about helpin’ out the Rooneys at the expense of the Ravens… I guess spotting the ball on the one would have been a little too obvious, given the Holmes TD, the
dive holding call to start the game; the quick whistle on the Rice touchdown tackle. Shall I continue? Worse than a Clinton Press conference- "...wait a minute, let me follow the script here… What? We off-script now? Oh jeez, have to make some stuff up to achieve desired result…"
What I would give for a healthy Lee Evans. With this offense, having both Evans and Smith, with Boldin, the TE’s and Rice –Flacco’s head would probably explode. Either that, or all the lamps would be knocked over in the Flacco household because of the state of Joe's excitement... If, IF, Cam can get all the pieces ever in the right place, and healthy, look out.
The endorphins are still coursing through my veins. What a high, what a freakin’ high right now. I cannot recall who is up next for the Ravens and "Frankly, Scarlett…"