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Steelers Edge Ravens in OT on Strength of Reed’s FG 23-20

Well, I’m spent and I didn’t play a down or make a tackle.

I expected the Baltimore Ravens to play their AFC North rival tough but ultimately I thought that in the end the Steelers at home would be too much to overcome. Sometimes I hate being right.

The Raven defense was spectacular for three quarters of the game, stifling the Pittsburgh offense at every turn and sending offensive players to the sidelines. Rookie Joe Flacco outplayed Ben Roethlisberger most of the game with two plays standing out. A fake that set up a beautiful fade touchdown strike to Daniel Wilcox and an almost Farvesque reversal of field to hit Derrick Mason for a big gain. The Ravens appeared in control 13-3 heading into the half and every Raven fan had to be feeling that the Monday night streak would be broken.

The strange thing about football is that you have to play to the end and you never know what can happen next. The Steelers needed only fifteen seconds to retake the lead. First a poor punt by the usually reliable Sam Koch set up decent field position. But, the turning point was Jarret Johnson’s stupid unsportsmanlike penalty that gave Pittsburgh its best field position of the night. Roethlisberger took advantage and after a missed hold on Trevor Pryce his TD flip to Santonio Holmes had his team back in business. After the kickoff Flacco made one of his few mistakes and couldn’t sense the rush or protect the ball that led to a strip that LaMarr Woodley and another Steeler touchdown to make it too make it 20-13 Steelers.

But, Joe Cool answered the call with a nice drive of his own going 6 for 6 capped off by Le’Ron McClain rumbling over defenders for a 2 yard touchdown. The Baltimore defense held fast and we go to overtime.

I am still not sure if I agreed with the Ravens decision to sit on the ball on their own 15 with a little over a minute left. To me it’s playing not to lose and when you do that you often do so. Flacco had made nice decisions all game long even though he only had one live body (Derrick Mason –8 catches-137 yards) to throw to all night. Todd Heap was a non-factor. Mark Clayton it seems can only run a reverse. Demetrius Williams should retire that Mohawk back to the 80’s and catch a ball or two.

But, even with that they get the favorable coin toss and then just implode. Penalties sabotage the drive and they have to punt it away deep in from their own backyard. In the end when it’s time to make a play Bart Scott whiffs on the sack and Mewelde Moore scoots to daylight to set up the winner.

Overall even though the Ravens dropped to 2-1, I think it’s clear they can contend in the division and in my eyes passed the test against a better opponent. I think they have a tough task coming back home to face a team that is almost a mirror image of themselves in Tennessee.

Points to Ponder

I love Mike Tirico and Ron Jaworski in the broadcast booth but hate that balding white guy next to them. I started counting how many stupid things Kornhieser said on both hands and then had to remove my shoes. He almost makes me pine for the days of Dennis Miller.

It’s very clear that the Ravens MUST get a top-flight receiver. Something they haven’t had since Michael Jackson in 1996. All night they could get little separation and don’t have any speed burners to make defenses pay long.

Ray Lewis played an inspirational game, batting down passes and leading the team with 9 tackles and making clutch plays. Please, can anyone name a better MLB?

Yamon Figurs hurt Special teams today. He looked tentative and muffed a few returns. I was surprised not to see Jim Leohnard inserted into a punt return or two.

Composure hurt the Ravens tonight. Johnson’s penalty was costly but the team had 8 for the game. They need focus and accountability. It was refreshing to see Harbaugh chew out Johnson on the sidelines for his boneheaded gaffe.

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