Ravens Edge Steelers in OT; 20-17

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This season for the Baltimore Ravens has been full of missed opportunities but last night in front of over 71,000 fans they used a Paul Kruger interception to set up a Billy Cundiff 29 yard Field Goal in Overtime to grab a crucial win over the hated Steelers.

The game was the usual slugfest between the two rivals even though it was lacking some of it’s customary star power with both Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu out for Pittsburgh and Terrell Suggs on the sideline for Baltimore.

The Ravens offense cured it’s red zone woes in the first half quickly on their first drive. Joe Flacco was a perfect 5 for 5 and Willis McGahee rushed inside for a 2 yard touchdown score to break ahead 7-0.

The Steelers and third string quarterback Dennis Dixon were able to respond in the second quarter as Dixon hit Super Bowl hero, Santonio Holmes for a 33 yard touchdown to knot the game at 7.

But, Baltimore was able to keep things moving before half time. The key play was a 54 yard bomb from Flacco to Mark Clayton (7 for 129) where he beat Ryan Clark coming late on the coverage. Flacco then hit Derrick Mason from 10 yards out to push the lead to 14-7 at the break.

The Raven offense was on the move again at the start of the half but Clayton was stripped and a Jarret Johnson missed tackle turned a short gain into a 20 yard scamper by Rashard Mendenhall. However the Steelers had to settle for a Jeff Reed Field Goal to cut the deficit to 14-10.

Once again the Steeler defense used thier vaunted blitz package as Lawrence Timmons rushed in untouched and caused a Joe Flacco fumble and as usual they cashed in.

On a third and five, Dixon faked a handoff away from the blitz and ran 24 yards untouched to put Pittsburgh up 17-14 with about six minutes left to play.

Baltimore however wasn’t finished and on the biggest call on John Harbaugh’s brief coaching career the Ravens were able to tie to game at 17 with a 24 yard Cundiff Field Goal.

It was Fourth and Five from Baltimore’s own 46 and instead of punting away Harbaugh chose to go for it. Flacco hit Ray Rice on a quick slant beating James Farrior to the inside and scooting 44 yards to set up the Field Goal.

Next the Ravens forced a quick three and out that only burned 24 seconds off the clock and started driving again. The drive stalled after the Steelers sacked Joe Flacco for the 5th time and without a time out rushed Billy Cundiff out for the 56 yard game winner that fell just short as time wound down.

In the Overtime the Steelers and Ravens each punted once and then the rookie Kruger made the read off the zone blitz and stepped in front of Santonio Holmes and returned his first career pick 26 yards to the Steelers’ 28-yard line to set up the game winning score.

The win pushes Baltimore into a tie with Pittsburgh at 6-5 and keeps their Wild Card hopes alive since almost every other AFC team in contention lost this Sunday as well. Next week the Ravens travel to take on Green Bay for their second appearance on Monday Night Football.

Points to Ponder

Have we seen the return of the three-headed monster?

I hope so. It’s been an element lacking from the Ravens offense all season. The Ravens put up 132 yards Rushing against the number one ranked rush defense in the league. I think it’s safe to say that they could run the ball against any team they face for the remainder of their schedule. But they should continue to alternate backs and of course allow the focus down the stretch to be on Rice, who continues to show he’s a special player. Willis McGahee ran tough and with purpose and Le’Ron McClain averaged 7 yards a rush barrelling over would be tacklers. I’m still upset he didn’t get a touch in last year’s AFC title game but today was some nice vindication. Players should have roles on this offense and they need to continue that philosphy down the stretch.

Would you have gone for it on 4th and 5 from your own 46 yard line?

Harbaugh basically rolled the dice and put the season on the line with that call. I liked it for several reasons and not just because it worked. First the play call was excellent. You matched your best offensive player against a linebacker and allowed him to make a play. Second, he put the season in the hands of his offense and Joe Flacco and he was rewarded. Third, it showed some guts. Sure there’s a fine line between guts and stupidity and he would have been murdered in the press if it didn’t work. But I had to pause and laugh as I watched the game and heard the fans egg Harbaugh on to go for it and then as the punt team didn’t trot on to the field the crowd almost went silent as if to say. “He’s going for it????” Sometimes you have to take a chance and it was one worth taking. If they would have lost last night, forget numbers and stats. The season would be over.

Aren’t all Raven-Steeler games ugly?

I’m shocked at all the negative reviews of this game last night. How did they almost lose to the Steelers with a third string QB and Polamalu on the bench? Who cares. You just beat a team that had your number THREE times last season in close games. You won a pivotal game to keep your playoff hopes alive. Are style points one of the playoff tiebreakers?

Three things kept Pittsburgh in it last night. First, their ability to run the ball. Even when we knew they needed to run. But who didn’t know that the Ravens run defense isn’t as dominant as it used to be? Second, turnovers kept it close. Mark Clayton had one of his best games ever but his fumble halted some strong momentum from the offense. If that drive would have scored points or dare I say a touchdown the game is over. Third, penalties with nine total. Several times penalties pushed the offense into third and long and that isn’t where you want to be against the Steelers.

The Ravens have lost so many close ones it seems like people have forgotten how to enjoy a win.

Who was the Offensive player of the game?

Mark Clayton makes a very strong case. He had several acrobatic grabs but even though his fumble didn’t really cost them anything he gets points off. Ray Rice was a star once more (19 -88) rushing and (5 -67) receiving. Joe Flacco was tough. Let’s not forget that he re-injured his ankle during the game yet still finished with a QB rating of 100.8 and 289 yards passing. The Offensive line was good early but struggled in pass protection in the second half.

Who was the Defensive player of the game?

Dawan Landry seems to be settling in and had some good tackles in run support that would have stopped larger gains on the ground. Dwan Edwards also had a nice game chipping in with 7 tackles of his own. Good call to switch to some Zone Blitzing instead of the conventional type. You have to make the rookie earn his money. I am still of the opinion that the Ravens need a player on the front four who can get to the quarterback. Domonique Foxworth should be released at season’s end. He was picked on constantly last night and simply plays too soft.

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2 Responses to “Ravens Edge Steelers in OT; 20-17”

  1. Brian says:

    If the Ravens are truly going to compete this post season some big issues need to be addressed. 1) Pass Protection. After holding the colts sackless the ravens give up 5 sacks to the steelers. That is way to many. 2. Penalties. Not only are these free yards to the other team but the timing is impeccable. It always seems to comeback and hurt them. 3. Safety Play. Beginning of the season I was wondering where Laundry was? Now I see him way to often. Your safety should not be leading the team in tackles at the end of the game. Especially with double digits.

  2. pj says:

    Yeah, these games are always ugly, really the two games in 2006 where we got beat down. I was just sitting there in a daze as we got picked apart lol

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