On Second Thought—Homer J. Opines on Steelers @ Ravens
Photo via Steelers.com
As usual my comments are in italics…Ed.
Steelers – Ravens. Are you ready for some football??? Real football, not flag football…
I will give a very abbreviated version of Homer’s extensive notes:
[First Ravens drive:]
Ravens try the left side with two tight ends taking linebackers and open a big hole…for 22 yards. They are following the Bears’ lead in stretching the defense, successfully. Not a great start. [But as we know in retrospect the Steelers only gave up one other big run, although it was admittedly for 50 yards. Other than that they shut the run down.]
Wounded duck to one-trick pony. [Ah, that takes me back, Homer…]
[First Steelers drive]
[Terrell] Watson bulls forward for the first down at the 25. Watson with two carries this season, both on short yardage, both for first down.
Ben tosses delayed screen to Outlaw [Jesse James] who gallops and galumphs to Ravens 45…
Steelers drive 85 yards. It took up more than half of the first quarter. Picture-perfect drive—just didn’t cross the goal line…Play calling…was excellent—they know the Ravens are going to bring it, so they ran delays, shovel passes and screens and executed well.
[A couple of drives later:]
[Joe] Flacco drops shotgun snap, scrambles, and then he is scrambled by Cameron Heyward and T.J. Watt. [And on the subsequent Ravens drive:]
FUMMBLE!!!!! Heyward stripped the ball, Heyward recovers. Big turnover puts ball on the [BAL] 30.
Ben hits McDonald between the 8 and the 9. Juggles and drops first down pass. That’s the book on him.
[And after the touchdown by Bell:] The best way to stop the other teams’ running attack is to possess the football and run the damned ball down their own damned throats. Steelers totally dominating the time of possession.
[And in the final drive of the half:]
So far, Pittsburgh has 11 plays of 10 yards or more. Baltimore has only one—the first run from scrimmage.
Ben hits Juju Smith-Schuster on delay across the middle for a touchdown. He ran a slant to the center of the field, was covered, Ben scrambled, Juju turned and headed in the other direction…Veteran move by Juju.
[Ravens get the ball back with :38 seconds in the half. A nice kick return puts the ball at the 40, and Ravens get the ball sufficiently near to try a 62-yard field goal, which could have backfired…]
[Justin] Tucker from 62. Short and to the right. [Joe] Haden run it back and is tackled. End of the half.
This is, as Ivan just said, easily the best half of football we’ve seen this season. A lovely half of football in the land of pleasant living. 15 [Steeler] first downs to 4 [Ravens.] Wow. Fire everybody. Time of possession in the first half: 19:12 to 10:48. Steelers have totally dominated here. Bell with 95 total yards in the first half. His season may well be like the folk song “Diamond and Rust.” Up until today, it’s been mostly rust. Today, the diamonds are shining through.
[After the “interception”—and okay, I get that AB lost the ball, but surely it should be a fumble on AB’s resume rather than an interception on Ben’s? Okay, I’ll shut up about this. Anyhow, the Ravens have the ball at the Pittsburgh 18 yard line:]
Big blitz by [Mike] Hilton, Flacco moves up in the pocket, sacked by Hilton. Another big play for him. Tucker field goal attempt is good. Three really questionable points [make it] 19-3.
[Next Steelers possession:]
Ben hits Juju on the right hash mark at the 30 for a first down. This kid is strong.
[Chris] Boswell in for a 44 yard field goal attempt. Good snap, good hold, wind gust pushes the ball wide. Baltimore will get the ball on their own 34. Everything went right in the first half. Now, it seems the breaks are evening themselves out.
Baltimore runs Webb to the right, and [Bud] Dupree was say too far outside. [J.J.] Wilcox missed a tackle. Baltimore gets all the way down to the Steeler 15. This game is turning around in a hurry…Flacco hits Wallace with a laser in the end zone for a touchdown. 19-9. Baltimore going for two. Up the middle to Webb for conversion—19-11.
The first half was heaven, the second half so far has been hell.
But wait!!! Two point conversion under review. Conversion overturned. 19-9.
[On the next Ravens series:]
Flacco finds Wallace between two defenders. First down. Ouch. They have targeted Wallace eight times for five completions, and he has dropped three passes. Steelers have not really been able to cover him.
Flacco burns first time out with :08 remaining in nightmare 3rd quarter. [Which I thought was odd at the time. There were well more than eight seconds left on the clock, and it would have stopped anyhow at the end of the quarter. Not that I’m complaining…
And now for the far more acceptable 4th quarter:]
Flacco buried by power blitz up the middle by Dupree—loss of 9. Dupree looked very quick and strong.
[On the next Ravens possession:]
Flacco hits Ben Watson, who wrestles the ball away from Shazier for a great catch and big first down.
Flacco looks for Watson in the flat, but Shazier returns the favor, picking it off and returning it to the BAL 47. Excellent heads-up play, great athleticism. Shazier has been all over the field.
[After the Steelers’ offense frittered away the turnover and had to punt:]
Punt inexplicably downed by Brian Allen (brain freeze) at Baltimore 14. Ball seemed to be bouncing high and toward the goal line.
Flacco picking apart the Steelers with short stuff. [He didn’t throw a pass of more than 16 yards in the whole game.] Flacco escapes furious rush, but Hilton makes a big defensive play, covering Macklin. Ravens will go for it on 4th and 12.
Shazier tips pass, intercepted by Hilton, who returns it before smartly giving himself up in traffic at the BAL 48. Another big play by little Mike Hilton.
On second and goal, Bell runs behind a big block by Rosie Nix, who stands up a defender and knocks him backwards. Bell scores and sticks a fork in the Ravens. They’re done. 26-9.
Hey, that was the Vikings game final score, too, but that game seemed so much easier.
On the last drive, it seemed apparent the Ravens defense was gassed and sucking wind. They were on the field so much in the first half, they had nothing left.
Victory formation at 4 yard line. 3-2-1 Win!!!!!
Pittsburgh played three spectacular quarters and survived a nightmarish third quarter when every break seemed to go against them, for an impressive win. Le’Veon Bell, who missed the first four games last year, showed up this year one game earlier, and my goodness, did he ever!
Running Backs—A+. Bell had 144 yards rushing, 42 yards receiving, and two touchdowns. Conner and Watson were excellent in their limited roles. And Rosie Nix was an absolute bulldozer in the 4th quarter. Steeler Football doesn’t get much better than this.
Offensive Line—A. Any time your featured back gets 144 yards rushing and 42 receiving, someone’s doing a helluva job. Ben’s protection was solid as well.
Tight Ends—B. Some terrific blocking. James with a couple of big catches. Vance McDonald dropped a pass because that’s what he does.
Wide Receivers—B+. Brown’s mysterious fumble was the only real blemish here, and Juju and Bryant had big performances as well. Anybody still hating on Juju being a second round wasted pick? This contest featured the runniong game, and Ben didn’t lean too hard on AB for a change.
Quarterback—B+. 18 for 30 for 216 isn’t big numbers, but the decision making was good. No big mistakes. Played solid ball control. Excellent timing and execution of delays and shovel passes, which negated Baltimore’s rush and kept them off balance the entire first half.
Defensive Line—A. Heyward and Tuitt were all over the place, and spent much of the afternoon in the Ravens’ backfield.
Linebackers—B+. Shazier had several outstanding athletic plays. He was everywhere. The return of Watt was felt throughout the game. Dupree overran and was out of position on a couple of big Baltimore plays, but sacked Flacco on a critical play.
Defensive Backs—C+. Mike Hilton gets an A. Everybody else gets a C. Flacco did a lot of nickel and diming, and Wallace was free all day. But there were no big mistakes. Wilcox filled in more than capably [for Mike Mitchell.] How did the rest of the league let us get our hands on Mike Hilton? Where did that guy come from?
Special Teams—B- Boz missed a 44-yard field goal. Punting game was fair. Allen had a brain freeze downing a punt at the 14 as it was headed for the goal line. Kickoff returns were fair to middling, but there weren’t any penalties on the special teams for the first time in 114 years, and that alone moves them up to a B-.
Coaching—B+. [Todd] Haley’s game plan was perfect. The delayed handoffs, screens, and especially shovel passes negated Baltimore’s rush. They played ball control football in the first half, and were able to run the ball down an exhausted Ravens’ defense in the 4th quarter. [Keith] Butler’s game plan was to stop the stretch play, which they did on all but two occasions, and to defend against the big play. The blitzes were solid.
The Yinzers will complain about the 3rd quarter and say that the Ravens stink—like everybody else in the AFC North—but any time you beat Baltimore by 17 points in M&T Banks Stadium—and appear to have suffered no major injuries—there’s nothing to complain about.
By the way, this may have been the cleanest Steelers-Ravens game in the history of mankind. On to Jacksonville…