Oh what a feeling!!! (Cue the old ‘70's Toyota commercials) From the first snap to the last sack of Ben - just a wonderful game. Lockout? What lockout? Kind of so-so preseason? Pshaw...
I tell the kids on my lacrosse team that nine times out of ten, the game is won even before the first face-off. Blank stares back at me as they are ten and eleven year olds... The point is that many times the team that is more prepared, practiced harder and knows their roles, will win. And yesterday's game was a prime example of that. The game was won before the coin flip. The Baltimore Ravens were obviously so much better prepared, so better coached leading up to the game that the matter was settled before anybody went to bed Saturday night.
It was obvious that the Pittsburgh Steelers were, at best, confused, and at worse ill-prepared to handle us when Ray Rice takes the first snap, a very basic dive play over left tackle, and almost takes it to the house. Reminded me of the playoff game against the New England Patriots, except with a healthy QB...
Could fill eight pages with this portion alone. The O-Line- fantastic! Everything we could have hoped for and more. They have the opportunity this season to be a really special unit. Joe Flacco had plenty of time to throw, solid run blocking for Rice & Ricky Wlliams -what more could be asked for? Vonta Leach, WOW, what an acquisition! Just blowing people up left and right. I think I saw at least three Steelers in fetal positions when Leach was about to light them up. Rice, picking up right where he left off from preseason. Anquan Boldin was outstanding. He was creating separation and when he couldn't separate, he would out muscle his opponent for the ball. Ed Dickson and DennisPitta- ya like NE's two-headed TE monster? I like ours better. Who knew a two-headed TE monster would be so... ...monstrous?
Gushing, just gushing about our defense. The "old" guys, the young guys -they all contributed. Terrell Suggs was DPOY -like; Haloti Ngata more so, if that is even possible. Ed Reed & Ray Lewis were flying around making big plays -in a Pittsburgh game! Pass rush constant. The only reprieve Ben Roethlisberger got was when DC Chuck Pagano called the dogs off occasionally. Note to self: three man rush *still* not working... Jarret Johnson "trucking" Hines Ward -how sweet was that play? Cary Williams had a couple of good plays early which quickly stymied the Steeler offense.
The Fourth-and-one -loved it!!! And here is the reason why: Harbs had to go for it. No hesitation. Would do it again in a heartbeat, no matter the outcome. If we had "laid up" and kicked the field goal, we would be accused of playing ultra-conservative. And if Pittsburgh had by some miracle gotten back in the game, we would have never heard the end of it. Harbs did it for two reasons 1) he had faith (rightly so, as proven out) that his defense would hold if we failed in the 4th-and-1 attempt; 2) more importantly, it sent a message: it sent a message to both Pittsburgh and the league: we are going for the jugular. None of this "turtling" when we get a lead. We are going to step on your neck until you are beyond crying "Uncle!". Same thing with the two-point conversion. Same thing with going for the TD with Boldin that was called back. Those were not running up the score, those were statements that we are going to smack you in the face, and if you get up, we are to hit you harder and keep hitting you harder until you do not get up anymore. No quarter given or expected.
The two-point conversion: not so much rubbing the Steelers face in it, but more that the Special Teams Coordinator saw something and thought he could exploit it. Gives him confidence going forward to try stuff like that in the future -in other words, he confirmed for himself that he is reading the game properly -something some of the other Ravens' coordinators have not been accused of in the past... It may also slow other team's field goal blocking down a bit, especially on a short fourth down. Gotta give credit to Musket Arm- gets it done with his legs this time.
Lastly, Flacco. Joe said it best in a post-game interview when he said "I don't play against Ben, we play against the Steelers". The media loves to create non-existent issues, when there are none! So for their sake, Joe made big throws, he made smart "small" throws. He threw it away when nothing was available and lived to fight another day. Made great decisions, showed good pocket presence - it is really coming together for him. I think you can say the game is "slowing down" for him. And let us give Cam credit- he designed some nice roll-out and fakes to help out the O-line and buy Joe a little extra time. Can we finally put the Joe vs. the
VolcanoBen stuff to bed? Oh wait, he didn't do it *in Pittsburgh* or in a playoff game against Ben... (you know that is coming)
Kind of nit-picking here. Our third-and- & fourth-and- short offense was not very effective. Seemed like Pittsburgh was waiting for Rice or Ricky whenever we tried that. And when Leach catches the ball at the two yard line and can only advance it 18 more inches, something is wrong. He has to get into the end zone on that play. Need to disguise what we are trying to do in short yardage situations better.
Not anybody's fault on this one, but the injury bug is having a field day with our CB's. Domonique Foxworth not 100% -and it showed. Chris Carr apparently re-tweaked his injury; and now Jimmy Smithmay be down a couple of weeks with a high ankle sprain. That leaves Cary Williamsand Lardarius Webb as the guys to mitigate Kenny Brittnext week. Given the way our front seven and safeties are playing, I am okay with that. But it does make us a little shallow in CB depth. Chykie Brown, you're next man up!
"Ugly" gets a reprieve this week. Too many good vibes to go ugly. I could rant about the refs (two games in a row counting preseason, worrisome pattern developing), but I am on too much of a positive high right now for that downer.
Next week, the Tennessee Titans and Chris Johnson - who has given us fits in the past. If we can take away Britt by double teaming him and contain CJ2K by putting a spy on him, I do not believe the Titans have enough other weapons to cause us concern. But if CJ2K rips off a couple of big runs, and/or Britt hauls in some deep bombs, could be an issue. The silver lining is that it appears the lockout and then holdout by CJ2K has not been kind to him. Let us hope he is still two weeks away from being his old self.