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The Good, The Bad and The Ugly – Keep Rollin’

Ravens win on the road in the division yet again with a gritty, closely fought contest in Pittsburgh.

Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

All the folks that thought this was going to be blowout or easy win one way or the other were nuts. Doesn’t matter what the records are or who is injured, healthy, etc, it is always going to be a close, in your face kind of game. Beginning to get that “Festivus Maximus” feeling… Especially after taking one in Pittsburgh –never an easy task.

Outside of the first two plays in which Pittsburgh rolled the dice and got lucky and then scored on a busted play, their offense was only worth three points at home against a lower-tier defense for the next 59 minutes. Pittsburgh, I think we have a problem. The Steelers didn’t even come close- at one point Pittsburgh had eight straight drives of six plays or less and only one of those drives went longer than 18 yards. But credit where credit is due- the Ravens did a nice job of keeping Pittsburgh out of the end zone and getting off the field on third down or coming up with a turnover.

The Good

Jacoby. Wow. He is a threat to break one every time he goes back for a return. One of the best off-season acquisitions we have had the past few years.

Special Teams. Coverage has been awesome the past couple of weeks; and the blocking has been outstanding. They have really picked it up this season.

Corey Graham. Now I understand all the good things from Chicago fans I heard about this guy. Definitely a coming out party type of game for him. For what it is worth, lead the team in pass defenses. Where does Ozzie come up with these guys?

Boldin. The focus has been on Rice, but Boldin has kind of been the unsung hero of this offense as of late. Rice may be what makes the offense go, but Boldin in many ways is the glue that seems to be holding it together.

Ngata. When he is healthy, what a difference maker he is in the middle. He is a “force multiplier” in that he makes everybody else around him so much better when he is 100%.

Kruger. I think he is getting it. Continuing his recent trend- he is doing a very good job of not getting caught out of position and is starting to make a name for himself in pressuring the quarterback. With him and Suggs, could get ugly (for opposing QB’s).

Ellerbe. Seemed like he was around the ball all night long. BTW, lead the team in tackles.

Pollard. At least twice he applied the textbook technique of legally separating the receiver from the ball to get the Ravens defense off the field.

Penalties. Whatever was the issue earlier in the season, we seemed to have fixed it. Outside of the opening excuse me penalty by Williams, only three other penalties none of which were stakes through the heart.

Pees. Who would have thunk that moving from the field to the box would make such a difference? That safety blitz he designed and dialed up with Ihedigbo registering a bone-crushing sack was a thing of beauty. Pittsburgh O-line had no clue what to do on that play. You know Big Ben winced and felt that one from the sidelines…

The line-backing corp. First Suggs is out, then Lewis goes down. After the Houston game, the defense has surrendered 15, 20 and 10 points. Three touchdowns in that span. 3’s instead of 7’s. And this is mostly due to improved linebacker play. From left to right, all the LB’s are contributing and they seem to be playing very well as a unit.

I kind of threw the defense under the bus up top. While we were a bottom quarter defense for the first half of the season, we have definitely improved. Not going to strike fear in the hearts of anybody, but definitely moved into the middle third of defenses. They got good pressure on Leftwich and came up with three timely turnovers. Can’t ask for much more.

The Bad

Getting caught napping to start the game. Gotta realize that even with Big Ben out, it is still the Steelers and it is still in Pittsburgh. That coin flips, you better be ready. That first minute of last night’s game will not make the season end highlight real…

Cam called a decent game for the most part and seemed to work with what Pittsburgh was giving us quite well. And admittedly this is nit-picking. But there is definitely a pattern developing here where the Ravens seem to be doing pretty good, and then there are one or two “Cam” moments during the game. Two come to mind. One, sending Boldin deep. Doesn’t work, has not worked and will not work. Boldin needs to work the short to medium field, both middle and outside in conjunction with the TE’s. Sending him deep does not fool anybody and wastes a play. Two: third and two with nine minutes left in the game. Cam calls a deep pass that fooled nobody. Get the ball to Rice someway somehow- misdirection, quick pitch, dump off –you only need two yards and that would have kept the drive going and burned off who knows how much clock. Heck, we might have gone down and at least kicked a field goal in which case the game would have been effectively over.

The Ugly

Pitta. Not his play, but rather his injury. Two weeks in a row with some kind of head/concussion injury. Not a good sign for the guy who could catch every single falling oak leaf in a forest (or my backyard) while blind-folded, hopping on one leg.

Next up is a trip to Sunny San Diego before we host Pittsburgh Redux. Rivers is struggling with six turnovers in the last three games. Heck, the whole team is struggling. But they are coming off a bye so they have had two weeks to fix what ails them and prep for the Ravens. Plus, we never travel well to San Diego, even dating back to the Billick regime. Make no mistake, this is going to be a tough game on the road and could have playoff seeding implications since San Diego is an AFC opponent.

The Ravens have won the first of two from Pittsburgh. That is three in a row against the Steelers with one more at home. Don’t think Ben will play in two weeks, but even if he does, our team is a little better than the average bear this season at home. If we can escape San Diego with a win, continue the sweeping of Pittsburgh, we would head into the last quarter of the season at 10 – 2 with only one loss in the AFC –way better than even the craziest of optimists would have thought. Go Ravens!