I'm in a foul mood. My head hurts, my throat is sore and I'm real tired. I'm also not anywhere near satisfied that once again, similar to last season's Patriots' game, we came real close to upsetting the favorite on national TV, only to suffer our 5th straight loss on Monday Night Football, while the Steelers won their 14th straight MNF home game (why do they always play us at home on MNF!?).
No, close is not enough for me, when we pretty much dominated a majority of the game, only to let it slip away on a few really bad plays and some typically stupid Ravens' penalties. The entire league knows that they can get the Ravens undisciplined defense to unravel and lose its cool and the officials are always ready to pounce on us and throw the yellow flags. Not that we don't deserve it, as Jarret Johnson's stupid late hit on Hines Ward cost us an additional 15 yards, but didn't cause us to lose. How come Hines Ward always is able to hit us without getting called on it by the refs? It's because he's more of a pro than our guys are and knows the time and place to take his shots. Most Ravens fans hate him, but I love the way he plays the game with a permanent smile and I'd take him on my team any day.
The first half we looked great, playing solid defense and surprisingly efficient offense. Cam Cameron was calling a great game plan, with even more passes than runs against the stingy Steelers run D. Rookie Joe Flacco looked as poised as he had in the first two games as he calmly found his open receivers and hit them with strong, accurate throws. He even ran around the field on one play for over 12 seconds until he found Derrick Mason down the sideline for a long gain. Gee, think Kyle Boller would have done that? I think not. Flacco even threw his first NFL career TD pass to TE Daniel Wilcox, who made one of his few receptions as he was injured most of last season. The Ravens run game was working a bit, but the passing game was where they made the most headway and Cameron noted and responded in the first half. The Ravens defense was all over Roethlisberger, and he looked absolutely horrible, so much so that the Steeler faithful was booing by the end of the half. I made a note in my Open Thread that he was so hard to bring down by one person that the tag team tackling was probably the biggest reason he was getting injured, as it might not hurt as much by getting tackled by just one defender rather than the entire d-line.
The second half started off decently, but then it seemed to fall apart in the space of a couple of minutes, with the Steelers scoring two TD's within a span of 15 seconds. You can blame it on the dumb penalties all you want, but the pass to Santonio Holmes was dead on and the tackling effort was abysmal. No problem, however, just come back with a sustained drive to quiet the crowd and keep them out of the game. Uh,...sorry, but no, as the Ravens quickly revert to a "McNair-like" effort and Flacco carries the ball like a loaf of bread, showing his lack of understanding of the speed of the pro game and gets it knocked from his hands and BAM! - all of a sudden a 10 point lead turns into a four point deficit and the Pittsburgh crowd goes into the frenzy we hoped to avoid. From that point on, the Ravens seemed to be affected on both sides of the ball. The defense couldn't get a sack or the turnover needed to help the offense as it has when the game was on the line against the Bengals and Browns. The offense seemed to turn super conservative, as the play calling began to be questioned. I didn't understand why Cameron had Flacco throw the ball after the first Steeler TD, when the crowd was going crazy and the Ravens needed a time consuming drive to shut them up. Props to the offense by getting the tying TD back late in the game, especially the efforts by wideout Derrick Mason, who looked super all game long, definitely caught that TD pass in the first quarter and lord only knows why the Ravens didn't throw the red Challenge Flag on it!? Likewise, I was miffed when the Ravens decided not to press the issue in the last minute of regulation and just ran out the clock, waiting for OT to win the game.
As much as I laughed when the Steelers were down to Mewelde Moore at running back, he ended up being one of the stars that put them into position to win the game. Two good receptions in OT put them into field goal range for placekicker Jeff Reed to just get his kick inside the upright when I was trying to will it wide.
The Ravens put a Baltimore Beatdown on the Steelers, knocking out two running backs and an o-lineman from the game. Rookie Rashard Mendenhall, who was replacing an injured Willie Parker broke his shoulder and is IR'd for the rest of the season. Right guard Kendall Simmons tore his Achilles Tendon and also was lost for the season from an already thin and ineffective offensive line. Mendenhall's backup, Carey Davis was hurt as well, paving the way for Mewelde Moore's heroics.
Many people think this game was a positive effort for the Ravens, as they were expected to once again get blown out by the Steelers. Even I predicted a close loss, but never expected it to be this close and certainly a win-able game. However, to get close enough and be in position to put the game away and win it would have been a huge statment to the rest of the league, but it just did not happen. You can blame it on the penalties, luck or even the officials, but at some point in time you have to look at the players as this has been a trend for the Ravens and that looms large in my mind. ESPN analyst and Hall of Fame QB Steve Young reamed the Ravens for their horrible offense over the past five or six years, almost trying to start an issue between our defense and offense. While the offense gave up six points and couldn't put the last few points on the board this team needed to win, the Ravens defense still gave up 16 points and couldn't stop the Steelers when they needed to in crunch time.
You can tell I'm frustrated and angry and am hoping that we regroup and take our revenge out on the unbeaten Tennessee Titans when they invade M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on Sunday. I'll be there yelling like a Raven Lunatic and will also be scoreboard watching, hoping the Jacksonville Jaguars take care of business by dropping the Steelers to put us back into a tie for first place in the AFC North. The Steelers have a hellacious schedule this season and there's no reason why the Ravens cannot compete for the AFC North division title. However, in order to do so, they will have to start pulling out games like these if they want to play football in January.