Looking ahead to this weekend's 2011 NFL regular season opener for the Baltimore Ravens hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers, we take a look back at the 2010 season where three plays, one in each game, defined the entire season. Take away or change one play in the those three games and the end result could have, would have and should have been a lot different that it did. Of course, that is in the past and while we can't lament about it and must only look forward to Sunday's match-up to begin changing the trend, we will just take a glance at those three plays.
1. Game 4: Ravens 17, Steelers 14
With 34 seconds left in the game and the Ravens trailing 14-10, QB Joe Flacco hits WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh with an 18-yard scoring pass to win the game (Video). The Ravens beat the Steelers who were playing without starting QB Ben Rothlisberger due to his NFL-mandated four game suspension. Key play(s): The Ravens failed to score on their previous drive, ending on a missed fourth down pass from Flacco to Anquan Boldin from the Steelers 2-yard line. However, the Ravens defense stiffened forcing the Steelers into a three-and-out, punting from deep in their end zone, allowing the Ravens to start their game-winning drive from midfield.
2. Game 13: Steelers 13, Ravens 10
Baltimore is protecting a 10-6 lead with 3:22 left in the game when on 2nd and five, Flacco takes a three-step drop to throw the ball to the right flat when out of nowhere Pittsburgh All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu flies in to sack and strip the ball from Joe, which is then picked up by LB LaMarr Woodley who rumbles down to the Ravens 9-yard line before being caught and tackled by TE Ed Dickson (Video). The Steelers score on a third and goal from the nine and the Ravens do not convert a fourth-and-two from the Steelers 31-yard line to seal their doom.
3. Divisional Playoff: Steelers 31, Ravens 24
The Ravens have a 21-7 commanding halftime lead only to fall apart in the third quarter, making inexplicable mistakes to give the Steelers the lead in the 4thquarter. Baltimore ties the game up but with 2:07 left in the game and the Steelers facing a third-and-19 from their own 38-yard line. Roethlisberger heaves a long pass down the right sideline that is hauled in by WR Antonio Brown against his helmet at the Baltimore 4-yard line (Video). Mendenhall goes onto score and the Ravens season is over in their 2nd playoff ousting by the Steelers in three years.
Three plays that could very well have changed the outcome of not only that specific game, but the entire 2010 season for both teams. Sure, each game is made up of sixty minutes of plays but if you had to pick one in each game that might have been the most pivotal, these were them. As it proves in such close, tense games that these two teams have now routinely had in their bitter rivalry, one play can make the difference. This Sunday is the first step to redemption for the Ravens and as in the past, there is surely going to be that one play that could define this first game, and perhaps the 2011 season as well.