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Steelers Rally to top Ravens for North crown

One Drive.

That’s all it takes in a close game with two top defenses and with so much at stake. It boils down to who can make plays and that usually means the quarterbacks.

And the big player was Ben Roethlisberger, who engineered a 92 yard drive in the final minutes, capped off by a controversial 4 yd touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes with :43 left to put the Steelers up for good 13-9 with the game’s lone touchdown.

Joe Flacco showed his age in today’s game going 11 for 28 for 115 yards and 2 interceptions as the Steelers held Baltimore to a season low 202 total yards. He never looked comfortable and his normal touch and accuracy wasn’t there on most of his throws.

The game was typical of most between the two teams as they each swapped field goals throughout the tension filled contest. Each defense pressured the other as the teams tied to the turnover battle at two a piece. But in my opinion the biggest play may have been Aaron Smith’s sack of Flacco late in the game that pushed Baltimore out of field goal range and set up the final drive.

Pittsburgh has come from behind in the fourth quarter four times this season, including last week against Dallas, when the Steelers scored 17 points in the final 8 minutes of a 20-13 win. In fact they’ve done it the whole season. It’s never pretty but the results are effective.

For the Steelers it means a second straight AFC North title and a first round playoff bye are now assured. For the Ravens they may need to win their next two just in order to get into the playoffs as a Wild Card. This may prove difficult as they travel next Saturday to Dallas to help close Texas Stadium.

Points to Ponder

– Let me address the obvious. The final play. There are several issues here. First, the rulebook states the the ball must be above or across the goal line. Second the receiver must have possession in bounds. The call on the field showed that the officials felt only one of the conditions was satisfied. Both line judges marked the ball around the half foot line. On instant replay there must be conclusive evidence that the play should be overturned. From the replays I watched there was nothing definitive about changing the call, you could make a case either way. So the play should have stood. You also have precedence set in the 2nd quarter when a 3rd and 1 was marked as a first and on the Ravens challenge they couldn’t find evidence to overturn it and the play stood. It didn’t help that the explanation given by Walt Coleman after the review didn’t sound as if he truly understood the rule. He backtracked later in the locker room to include that he felt the ball broke the plane. In a season when officials have been getting slammed for poor judgement there is a need to revist instant replay. I wasn’t happy when they instituted it and I still don’t like it. It has made officials hesitant to make decisive calls. I’m done, moving on.

-You can not let a team go 92 yards to score. So Rex Ryan, why oh, why do we go Prevent defense??? The whole day has been pressure, pressure, pressure and now we rush three. Prevent defense does one thing, it prevents you from winning. The Ravens needed a big play that drive, a sack, a stop, or a fumble and got nothing.

-Joe Flacco hit the wall today. There were many reasons, first give the Steeler defense credit as they are pretty damn good defense. Second many of Flacco’s passes sailed on him, as even when he had time he overthrew recievers. He had Derrick Mason open for two touchdown throws but couldn’t find the mark. He often looked downfield instead of hitting his checkdowns. Third, he simply showed he was a rookie. This was the biggest game he’s ever played in his career, the atmosphere was electric downtown and for the first time ever he looked nervous to me.

-The Baltimore offense had it’s chances. When you get the ball three times on the opponents ten you have to punch it in at least once. I felt that the coaching staff outhought themselves inside the red zone. Instead of running a fake quarterback draw and then throw a fade (which fooled no one), why not get basic and go play action and roll out to his right or use the pick play?

-On that subject this is the first game where I questioned Cam Cameron’s play calls. It was clear that the team decided early to play the game close to the vest, a third and 8 run off tackle was proof of this, play field positionĀ and take shots with max protect downfield. The offense had little flow to it. Playing not to lose is frustrating.

-Le’Ron McClain’s power running was effective (23 for 87 yds) but he had trouble staying on his feet to finish runs off and dropped a sure touchdown toss inside the 5. Willis McGahee wasn’t any better and had a sure first down clang of his hands too. The offense missed Ray Rice.

-The offensive line did a very nice job most of the game, allowing only two sacks and limiting James Harrison and Lamarr Woodley all game. The Ravens had 100 yds rushing and Flacco had time to throw.

-Looking ahead the Ravens may need to win the next two to make the playoffs. This will be a tall order as they help close famed Texas Stadium and the bickering Cowboys are coming off a solid victory over the Giants.

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