Steelers at Ravens: An Existential Afternoon
This lack of actual knowledge about the game is not for any lack of trying on my part, beginning with ponying up for NFL GamePass before the season began, just for such circumstances.
I am still away from the ‘Burgh, although I’m finally heading home on Tuesday. And while Ravens/Steelers was the 1:00 pm game broadcast in the vast majority of the country, there was a little chunk in the middle in which it wasn’t. Naturally, the little chunk included the bit I’m in.
I had my plan, though, so I wasn’t worried. I would go out for the afternoon with my lovely daughter and we would have some quality time, and then we would come back and I would fire up GamePass and watch.
But unfortunately I couldn’t stop myself checking the score, beginning right after Mike Wallace burned his old team for a 95-yard touchdown. Luckily, the afternoon together with my daughter was antiquing, so I was able to utilize some retail therapy as the score on the Raven’s side of the board continued to go up and the score on the Steelers’ side steadfastly remained at zero. (The picture which heads the article was a comic book I saw partway through the afternoon whose cover seemed as if it was probably all too relevant.)
In due time we went back to the house, and I must confess that I wasn’t necessarily particularly eager to watch what seemed as if it must have been a festival of incompetence. One of the bits I noticed as I checked the progress of the game was that Jordan Berry had a punt blocked and returned for a touchdown. Not optimal.
Another, also to do with our hitherto pretty reliable kick team, was Chris Boswell missing an onside kick. Not as in “not getting the ball 10 yards down the field” or anything as normal as that, but as in “missing the ball altogether.” Pardon the reference, but this had to have been rather deflating for him.
But although I was trying to access the game well after the time it should have been available (which is, according to the NFL website, after all the late afternoon games are complete) I was totally unable to do so.
Somehow this too seems strangely appropriate. It’s hard to imagine there was much to enjoy about the game. I picture it occuring under a Kafkaesque pall of futility. It seems as if the Ravens weren’t vastly more competent than the Steelers for most of the afternoon, just luckier.
Joe Flacco completed a slightly higher percentage of his passes (although he had a great many fewer attempts), but both quarterbacks fumbled the ball (Flacco once, Ben twice,) and threw for a touchdown and an interception. Neither team rushed the ball effectively. If you removed quarterback “rushes” from the numbers, neither team gained over 40 yards on the ground.
And, strangely, looking at the numbers, the Steelers’ defense must have done pretty well overall. They had the same number of interceptions as the Ravens (one, finally by a defensive back, young Artie Burns) and the Steelers actually had three sacks, or over a third of their total (8) in the first seven games.
Hopefully I can get the GamePass problems sorted out and watch later this week (although I have to admit I will be quite tempted to watch the “condensed” version of the game. I’m not sure how much I can bear.) And the bright spot is, garbage time or no, the Steelers did manage a comeback in the waning minutes of the game. You just know the Ravens would have loved the total humiliation of shutting them out. So maybe Ben had knocked some rust off by then, or Terrell Suggs had knocked it off for him. But it’s hard to imagine that’s going to make up for the rest of the game.
This must be the first time in a very long time in which the entire AFC North is at or below .500 after eight games have been played. And speaking of the rest of the AFC North, I just “had a feeling” that somehow or other the winless Browns were going to hand the Cowboys a loss. But, of course, they didn’t. Quite the contrary. Again, only appropriate…
Does this mean the AFC North is in serious decline, or just that years of beating the stuffing out of each other has taken too large a toll? An interesting question, and one to which I probably won’t have an answer either. But you never know, so stay tuned…