When the Pittsburgh Steelers scored a touchdown towards the end of the third quarter in last night's 31-25 loss to the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLV, most Baltimore Ravens fans got a sickly feeling in their collective stomachs, thinking that they have seen this happen before.
A team jumps out in front of the Steelers in the first half and then as the game clock ticks down into the fourth quarter, Pittsburgh makes its move and rips your heart out of your chest as they find a way to come back and win the game. However, while that was the trend in all five of the Ravens losses combined in the 2010 regular season and 2011 playoff loss to these same Steelers, it didn't repeat itself in last night's game.
Why did it happen to our Baltimore Ravens, yet not to the Super Bowl 45 Champion Green Bay Packers?
The title of the post says it all: 4th quarter points. The Packers knew if they stood pat and tried to run out the clock with a vanilla, ball control offense, they would not get the first downs they would need to keep the Steelers offense off the field and ultimately out of the end zone. Green Bay had the guts to keep their game plan flowing, rather than take the conservative approach to focus on just running down the clock and hoping your defense can do their jobs.
Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay coaching staff worked the 4th quarter last night to perfection. They knew running the ball would be a impossible task, as it had been all game long, and all season long for the Steelers opponents. In fact, the two teams combined for the fewest rushing attempts in any Super Bowl in history, 36 (Green Bay: 13, Pittsburgh: 23). Therefore, the Pack did what it did best to get them where they were in the first place. They dropped Rodgers back into the pocket, protected him long enough to find one of his many targets and he moved them down the field and ultimately into the end zone to push the lead beyond what Pittsburgh could come back from.
However, not until that fourth down pass fell incomplete to you hear two completely different sounds at Texas Stadium and around the world, the sound of cheers rushing out of the lungs of Packers fans and Steelers haters versus the sound of deflating hope from the "black & yellow" rap song faithful.
If the Baltimore Ravens can learn from this experience and focus on the fourth quarter as an opportunity to go for more points instead of how to get that elusive first down to work the clock, that change in mentality might just be the difference needed to give QB Joe Flacco the chance to be celebrating the Lombardi Trophy on the field in Februry next year and also give LB Ray Lewis one more chance to get there.
Of course, that is if there actually is a 2011 season....