When discussing the Baltimore Ravens 17-14 last minute win in Pittsburgh Sunday, most fans will only talk about the coming-of-age play that won the game , when QB Joe Flacco hit WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh with the game-winning 18 yard TD pass. While that play may end up being the turning point in Flacco's career, it was not the only or even the main reason the Ravens beat the Steelers.
Defensive tackle, or more correctly this past Sunday, defensive end, Haloti Ngata, quietly had his best game in what has already been a Pro Bowl career. Due to the release of Trevor Pryce and injury to Cory Redding, Ngata played a majority of the game at defensive end and literally wreaked havoc on the Steelers offensive line, running backs and especially QB Charlie Batch all afternoon. Finishing the game with statistics like a career-high 11 tackles, one sack, two tackles-for-losses and two more QB hits, Ngata totally dominated the trenches and with that, affected the game from the defensive side of the ball, allowing the offense to finish it off in the end.
Baltimore fans have known all about Haloti since he came out of Oregon five years ago as the Ravens first round draft pick. Earning his first Pro Bowl honor after the 2009 season, Haloti has been a mainstay on the Ravens defensive line since his rookie season. His athleticism has achieved legendary status here, with two interceptions one season to the stories of his rugby days before he hit the NFL.
On Sunday, he sacked Steelers QB Charlie Batch on Pittsburgh's first series, later almost decapitated his own defensive back when he was out in pass coverage trying to dive for a tipped ball and even ran down a running back from behind who had broken through the line of scrimmage. As much of a beast as he is on the field, he is the complete opposite, a gentle-giant, off of it. Regardless of the national television announcers' inability to just say "Nata," as in "not-a-chance" of running against him, instead they continually over-hyphenate his last name, and continually mispronounce it as "Nah-tah."
However, Ravens fans couldn't care less what others call Haloti, as to us, we just call him amazing!
(See more on Ngata's performance in a story by Aaron Wilson at the National Football Post.)