The Ravens walked into Heinz Field ready to take on their arch rival Pittsburgh Steelers in what projected to be the game of the year in not just the AFC North, but in the NFL. The game would live up to the billing, but end in heartbreak for Baltimore.
Start of Game
Pittsburgh would defer to start the game, and a Chris Boswell kick that went out of bounds se the Ravens up with great field position. The Ravens, per usual quickly went to the pass. Flacco found Mike Wallace over the middle on the first play from scrimmage for a first down. But the offense would not be able to provide anymore production, as Pittsburgh quickly forced a Ravens punt.
The Steelers quickly looked to their work horse back, Le’Veon Bell, and the Ravens struggled to stop him, as Bell would pick up 39 yards on just six carries. On the back of Bell, Pittsburgh quickly moved the ball down the field, and finished off their 87 yard drive, despite being aided by a 15 yard penalty on C.J. Mosley, with a 20 yard pass over the middle to Xavier Grimble for a touchdown, giving Pittsburgh an early lead.
The Ravens would not fail to respond. Steve Smith Sr. took a short pass over the middle, and broke a potential tackle from guess who, Mike Mitchell. Smith would continue down field, stiff arming defenders on his way to a 44 yard gain. In addition, a penalty on Artie Burns of the Steelers added 15 yards onto the play. The Ravens were only able to capitalize with three points, as the offense gained a net of negative one yards after the big play from Smith. Tucker would easily drain the 41 yard field goal.
The Ravens defense needed a shut down drive, and were able to make the plays they needed upon the Steelers regaining possession. The Ravens forced a third and four from the Steelers 31. A false start of Bell moved the Steelers back to a third and nine. From their, Ben Roethlisberger would look deep to Antonio Brown down the right side. Brown made the catch and took the ball down field for a 67 yard gain, except for the fact that he pushed off of Tavon Young. The officials called offensive pass interference, and the Steelers were moved back yet again. This time, the Steelers were not called for a penalty, and the Ravens stopped them short of a first down.
Baltimore would get the ball back at its own 27 yard line. Flacco first looked short to the sideline for Darren Waller for a first down. Two plays later, Michael Campanaro took an end around 23 yards and onto the Steelers’ half of the field. The Ravens quickly would be forced into a third down. Flacco looked short in front of the sticks to Kyle Juszczyk, who was shoved out of bounds by Ryan Shazier. However, a fairly questionable personal foul call on Shazier helped the Ravens convert what otherwise would have been an failed third down as the first quarter expired.
Start of Second Quarter
Again, the Ravens failed to take advantage. Lawrence Timmons was able to sack Flacco, unblocked for a 10 yard loss. On the ensuing third-and-21, Flacco would look over the middle to Dennis Pitta, who was just unable to haul in a spectacular diving catch.
The Ravens would then attempt at 45 yard field goal. However, Morgan Cox’s snap was high, and Sam Koch was not able to handle it. Burns was able to fall on the ball, and the Steelers took over, still leading 7-3.
Ravens have been on the wrong side of three key plays so far. Perriman end zone breakup, Pitta one-hand near catch, snap/hold error.— Ryan Mink (@ryanmink) December 25, 2016
The Ravens defense, despite continuing to be unable to stop Le’Veon Bell, were able to get Pittsburgh off the field. To this point, Bell is averaging six yards per carry (10 carries for 61 yards). The Ravens run defense woes from last week against the Eagles have continued into this week against the Steelers.
The Ravens would turn to the run upon regaining possession. A spectacular spin move by Terrance West on a third-and-one from the Ravens 24 would keep the drive alive, and a 17 yard carry by Kenneth Dixon, in which he literally carried Steelers defenders for at least five yards down field, and into Steelers territory. However, the Ravens would again come away empty, as a second down sack by Bud Dupree pushed the Ravens to a third and 23 following an earlier penalty. The distance was too much for the Ravens to overcome, and Sam Koch would come on to punt.
As the Steelers came back on the field, the Ravens run defense came back as well. The Ravens were able to bottle up Bell, or at least relatively speaking compared to the rest of the game so far, highlighted by a third-and-three run where the Ravens stopped Bell behind the line of scrimmage, forcing a Steelers punt. Earlier in the Steelers drive, Jerraud Powers was beat over the middle for a first down by Eli Rogers. However, Shareece Wright and Tavon Young have did a strong job in the absence of Jimmy Smith so far, as Roethlisberger only has 60 yards of passing so far.
The Ravens would pull out the two minute drill in a last attempt of the first half to put up points. Highlighted by a great play by Joe Flacco, where he avoided a sack, and found Breshad Permian on the sideline for a first down, the Ravens offense moved down the field, and into the red zone. Dennis Pitta had two plays which he was unable to convert into completions, that would have set the Ravens up on the door step of the end zone. The Ravens again were not able to get in the end zone, and were forced to kick a field goal, this time with no hassle.
The Steelers would take a knee, and the first half came to a close.
End of First Half
First Half Notes
Offense - The Ravens offense out gained the Steelers in the first half, but were unable to take the lead. The Ravens were an abysmal 0/2 in the red zone in the first half. The Ravens continued to use a heavy dose of the pass, 22 passing attempts compared to just 12 rushing attempts.
Defense - Easy analysis here: great against the pass, terrible against the run.
Special Teams - The botched snap on the Ravens field goal attempt in the second quarter looms large, and is the difference between the Ravens leading and trailing in this game. Those three points may come back to haunt the Ravens
First Half Winners
Tavon Young/Shareece Wright - The cornerback duo have done a stellar job in the first half keeping the Steelers passing game in check, as Roethlisberger only threw for 60 yards in the first half.
Offensive Line - Three Ravens offensive lineman were in the Ravens top four graded players in the first half for the Ravens by Pro Football Focus. Flacco has seen a lot of pressure, however, only after sitting in the pocket as he wasn’t able to find open receivers. The line however has done great job opening up holes in the running game.
First Half Losers
Morgan Cox/Sam Koch - See “Special Teams” in the First Half Notes section.
Defensive Line - Roethlisberger only had nine passing attempts, and was only pressured on one of them. More importantly, the interior defensive lineman were completely unable to stop the run.
Start of Second Half
The Steelers would start the second half with the ball, but it was the Ravens who would start the second half with a bang. Roethlisberger would throw over the head of his receiver on the Steelers first play from scrimmage, and waiting were the hand of Zach Orr. Orr made the interception, and gave the Ravens the ball in great field position.
The Ravens offense finally would take advantage. Flacco would find Steve Smith on a fantastic throwing over the middle for a Ravens touchdown, giving Baltimore the lead. Flacco would then find Smith in the front of the end zone, completing the two point conversion.
Zach Orr INT— Kyle P Barber (@BMoreBeatdown) December 25, 2016
Steve Smith TD
Carried by a 39 yard gain by Eli Rogers, the Steelers quickly moved into the red zone. The Ravens defense would sure up from there, as spectacular coverage by Shareece Wright on Antonio Brown forced the Steelers to kick a field goal.
The Ravens would look to its running backs on its ensuing possession. Dixon carried Steelers defenders down field on multiple touches. West would show his speed in taking a screen pass for a 16 yard gain. A great run by Dixon set the Ravens up on the doorstep of the end zone, but a costly holding call on Jeremy Zuttah negated the field position. The penalty set the Ravens up with a first and 20, and were unable to convert. Tucker would make the ensuing 46 yard field goal.
The Steelers would make yet another huge mistake, as a Roethlisberger pass again found the arms of a Ravens linebacker. This time, C.J. Mosley would come up with an interception, and return it to the Steelers 11 yard line.
Start of Fourth Quarter
The Ravens again failed to punch the ball in the end zone. Flacco found Darren Waller in the back corner. Waller was able to get two feet down, but never had complete possession of the ball, and dropped it while falling.
Waller has to make that play. That was nice throw by Flacco.— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiecsun) December 25, 2016
The drop came on a third down, and forced a 23 yard field goal from Tucker.
The Ravens were not able to maintain the momentum they had built. After keeping the Steelers in check to start the drive, Tavon Young made a brutal mistake in getting called for a pass interference call inside the Ravens 10 yard line, giving Pittsburgh life. Le’Veon Bell would take a handoff into the end zone for a Steelers touchdown, cutting the Ravens lead to three.
The Ravens would go three-and-out on their ensuing drive.
Pittsburgh would take the momentum they had built, and turn it into another touchdown. The Ravens would revert back to being unable to stop the run, and allowed Antonio Brown to make plays, something he hadn’t done throughout the rest of the game. Roethlisberger would dump a pass off to Bell after being flushed out of the pocket, and Bell would take it in for a touchdown.
Unflappable Joe Flacco would lead the Ravens on the biggest drive of the season. The Ravens converted four third downs on their way to a 14 yard, 75 yard drive, eating 5:58 off the clock. Flacco consistently looked to Pitta and Juszczyk to drive down the field. Juszczyk would break a tackle on a third and one, and power his way into he end zone, giving the Ravens the lead.
The Ravens defense, after the great season it has had, was not able to finish job. Pittsburgh quickly drove down the field, scoring a touchdown as Antonio Brown’s outstretched arm reached across the goal line. The Steelers took the lead with just nine seconds remaining.
The Ravens would get one last chance to get in the end zone. However, even in situations where the Ravens needed deep passes, the dink and dunk offense prevailed, as Flacco threw short passes over the middle on two straight plays, and the Ravens were unable to get in the end zone. The Ravens would lose the game, and be eliminated from the playoffs.
End of Game - Final Score: 31-27 Steelers
Second Half Notes
Offense - Flacco made clutch plays, but was consistently hampered by the play calling. The running game was spectacular in the second half, Kenneth Dixon and Terrance West made play after play. The offense only converted nine of 17 third downs. The dink and dunk offense continued to hurt the Ravens as they were not able to move the ball efficiently. Tonight proved once again that averaging 5.6 yards per pass is not enough to get it done. Trading touchdowns for field goals haunted the Ravens.
Defense - The defense gave the Ravens to opportunity to take the lead with two interceptions. But it was the defense that failed to make the plays late, allowing Pittsburgh to score 21 points in the fourth quarter, including the game winner at the last second.
Special Teams - Tucker was perfect, no gaffe’s like in the first half.
Second Half Winners
C.J. Mosley/Zach Orr - Both had an interception that helped the Ravens build a lead over the Steelers.
Kenneth Dixon - Dixon finished with 57 rushing yards, and had many bruising runs where he carried Steelers defenders downfield.
Dennis Pitta - Pitta had a huge drop in the first half, but was clutch for the Ravens in the second half, converting multiple third downs.
Second Half Losers
Defensive front - The Ravens brought pressure throughout the game, but were never able to get to Roethlisberger.
Darren Waller - His drop in the end zone looms large for the Ravens. Going from a near touchdown to a field goal was a crucial four point swing in a game that the Ravens lost by four.
The loss dropped the Ravens to 8-7, and eliminated the Ravens from playoff contention. Losing in this way to the Steelers hurts, and is a brutal end to what has otherwise been an exciting season. The Ravens travel to Cincinnati next week in what is now an irrelevant game.