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Post Game Playoff Ponderings: Vs. Pittsburgh

In all my years for following Maryland sports – Orioles, the University of Maryland, and The Ravens last night’s loss will rank for me as one of the worst meltdowns in Maryland sports history.

Staked with a 21-7 lead at Halftime the Ravens offense pulled a Keyser Soze (poof and he was gone) and scored only three the rest of the way while fumbling and bumbling their way into multiple turnovers. The Steelers took full advantage and posted another playoff victory over Baltimore.

For fans of the Ravens it’s maddening to the point of absurdity how this team finds ways to lose in the big games. But more on that later. There is a lot to discuss here not just about this game but about the future of the franchise.

* One of the biggest letdowns of this season has been the Ravens offense.

It’s been the Achilles of this team since they became a playoff contender and I feel they aren’t that much closer than they were almost ten years ago.

127 Total yards of Offense – 23 in the Second Half – 3 Turnovers

You don’t deserve to win with such an ugly stat line.

The offense was a point of emphasis in the off-season but for all the money spent on draft picks, and signings this is still a very mediocre unit.

I’ll begin with the skill players. I have a whole section reserved for Joe Flacco so I’ll be brief here. He’s made strides over his first three seasons but he’s not good enough yet. Will he ever be? I have no idea right now.

Ray Rice, who fought a stomach bug over the last few days, made a concerted effort to eliminate the fumbling issue he had a season ago. He looked to have it cured as he did not fumble at all this season. Ryan Clark made a nice play but watch the replay and Rice’s ball security looks questionable at best. Most of the night he was indecisive running the ball and while the Steelers can close lanes quickly he had opportunities that he missed.

Anquan Boldin was signed with the Steeler games in mind but he was rarely targeted last night and the times that he was he failed to produce. During the first series, Flacco tried to force the ball into Todd Heap causing the Ravens to punt. On the replay you see Boldin wide open to the opposite side calling for the ball. That picture sums up his time here. He’s been a forgotten man in the offense for the second half of the season. However when Flacco looked his way in crunch time and delivered a pass that only he could get too -he muffed it. 

Derrick Mason looked old last night. Mason was non-commital when asked if he would return with one year left on his contract. He should take some time and see what he wants to do but I think it’s time for him to move on.

T.J. Houshmandzadeh has never been shy about his feeling in regards to his reduced role in the offense. He was signed late to this team and I wondered when they got him just where he would fit in. He’s a confident man and has openly asked for more targets. He got a big one last night and dropped a ball thrown into his hands. I’m unsure what his future will be here. I’d like to see him come back, only if Mason retires. He may wish to look elsewhere though.

The Offensive Line needs some re-tooling. Matt Birk was a good pickup to replace an overpriced Jason Brown a few years ago but that was two years ago and Birk is showing some signs of slowing. They’ll need to find a back-up to ease into the spot or look for a replacement immediately. I also wonder what will become of Jared Gaither who oddly enough wants to come back next season. Has too much damage been done to repair this relationship? The line gave up 40 sacks in the regular season and pass protection regardless of the opponent has been an issue.

Cam Cameron. I thought he called a great game – in the First Half. But Cameron can’t seem to made the proper adjustments after Half-time. Of course he didn’t fumble or drop crucial passes but he is just another element to the underachievement of the offense. The Ravens need some fresh eyes on the problem and I think Cameron will be forced to depart.

*Joe Flacco has improved as a Quarterback but the jury is still on weather or not he is “the guy”.

Last night Ravens fans were treated to another pain inducing episode of “Good Flacco/Bad Flacco”. In the first half he looked like the poised and talented player that seemed ready to shake off past performances and finally slay the Pittsburgh demon. In the second, he looked confused and almost paralyzed on the sidelines. His body language told the story. He sailed passes, he fumbled, and he threw a costly interception that was an awful decision when you look at the coverage.

Even though he staggered through the last half of the game he still got no help when he could have used it. Boldin and Houschmanzadeh’s drops were crucial. Two missed plays that will haunt both players throughout the off-season. And that’s a part of my point – he can’t carry the offense with things break down around him. Can he improve in that area? I don’t know.

If Baltimore wants to make Flacco their quarterback for the foreseeable future then an effort must be made to emphasize his strengths- quick reads, and plenty of shotgun. Which brings me back to Cameron. He’d done a nice job with Flacco but can he help him get to that next level? I don’t think so.

*The Ravens have a ton of personnel decisions to make this off-season starting with the Head Coach.

This is not a fire Harbaugh rant. On the contrary they should extend him at least another three seasons. He’s provided the stability that has been lacking in Baltimore over the years – 3 playoff appearances with at least one win each visit. That’s pretty good.

The rest of the coaching staff is another issue. I’ve discussed Cameron and even though some would like to see Greg Mattison go I can’t see how you justify that. The defense was still a Top Ten group and had enough success with what they had. He also made adjustments when he needed to especially once the Corners got healthy.

As for the players there are a lot of choices that need to made either due to contract or age. Does Derrick Mason return?  Ed Reed had a terrific season after spending the first eight games on the sidelines. At what point does he say he’s had enough? Have injuries taken their toll on Matt Birk? How expensive will it be to retain Haloti Ngata? Le’Ron McClain needs a new contract and he was just one of several players who was unhappy with his role in the offense. Is he back? Donte Stallworth was brought in to provide a deep threat and needed speed. An injury derailed his chance at a spot and even when he returned he was used sparingly. Would he come back?

These are just a few of the decisions that the front office will have to make in regards to the makeup of the team heading into next season. I feel that at some position they must get younger and get some SPEED especially on offense.

*Fans will argue about Greg Mattison’s call of rushing only THREE against a 3rd and 18 late in the game was the wrong call- I disagree.

The bigger question to me is how does Lardarius Webb allow Antonio Brown to streak past him on a simply Go route with almost a 20 yard cushion from the line of scrimmage? When asked Webb was dumbfounded, as was I.

There are weaknesses to every defense but rushing three and dropping eight should protect you against a big gain. SHOULD.

But that’s the story of this whole game isn’t it? Make a play. The Ravens missed too many opportunities. It’s easy to blame the coach and at times I do think they didn’t put players in the best position to be successful but the players failed not just on this play but for the majority of the second half.

*Terrell Suggs has proven that when he’s healthy and motivated he’s worth that huge contract.

Fashion choices aside Suggs was a monster last night. An unstoppable pressure machine with three sacks and a key fumble on Roethlisberger that helped give the Ravens their first lead of the game.

The Ravens are a team defensively that has trouble generating pressure up front and Suggs in invaluable because he can get the quarterback all on his own. But he needs help. Is Paul Kruger the answer? Not sure. Will Sergio Kindle ever play football again? I don’t think so.

Where the Ravens look to answer this question will be interesting as they move forward in 2011.

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17 Responses to “Post Game Playoff Ponderings: Vs. Pittsburgh”

  1. The Tony says:

    Antonio Brown beat Webb, not Sanders.
    Suggs did have a great game against a putrid offensive line and a quarterback who holds the ball too long.

  2. Yes, Tony I got my rookies mixed up. No doubt because I gave myself severe skull trauma after bashing my head on the floor after the catch.

    Speed kills. Maybe the Ravens could get some on offense.

  3. Jergy the Younger says:

    Let me first say, I will miss reading these columns every week. I will make fun of you for them, because you’re my brother, but it reminds me how much more ‘experts’ know. A lot of the time your points are more thought out than them. Now let me end my little gush session by saying, you’re a jerk.

    As I watch the Bears dismantle the Seahawks again I dwell on yesterday. As with multiple big games against Pittsburgh it comes down to protecting the football and a little luck. I usually don’t like to make sweeping statements like this, but without those turnovers, Baltimore wins. Meaning that the offense didn’t need to score again. Just put together a few drives and force the Steelers to drive the field in order to score. I would not have happened. Not last night. And even with the turnovers the score is tied with three minutes left and Ben has the ball. Does he yield a valiant drive down the field? Nope. The defense stuffs him and puts him in a 3rd forever situation. A situation any defense would gladly take 10 times out of 10. And he heaves it. As far as he can, and a no name rookie makes a circus catch against his helmet. This is not a shot at Brown, he may have a healthy career and be a good receiver. The point is, he’s not a high priced vet. And he made a play. Which is more I can say for those guys in purple. No excuses on who was covering him or how much pressure was on Ben. And that’s been the story of Ravens-Steelers pretty consistently. One team makes plays when it matters.

    Oh and Tony, Suggs had a good game period. No need to qualify. Ben is a two time Super Bowl champ and injuries happen. It’s football. The Steelers are a good team and he had a good game against them. Just leave it at that. Flacco holds the ball too long and the line has issues that doesn’t take away from how well Pitts D played.

    • The Tony says:

      The Steelers put up 31 points against your Defense.

      So does Ben make the valiant drive? History with Ben Roethlisberger says Yes. There is a reason he has won the last seven meetings against the Ravens.

      3rd and 19 is quite a long way to convert, but this season the Steelers led the league with 20 yard plus plays with 77. Second place was New England with 62. So with the speed and talent that the Steelers have converting a 19 yard gain is not out of the ordinary.

      Don’t get me wrong Suggs continued to be a beast against the Steelers, as was Harrison and Woodley was against the Ravens. The point I would like to make is if the Steelers had the offensive line that was fully competent even when healthy, I would like to see what they are fully capable of achieving.

      Take away the complete mental breakdown touchdown with Corey Redding, the Steelers win 31-14. Only having 28 total yards is simply not good enough to win, especially in the playoffs.

      I can not wait for the day that Ray Lewis retires.

      Better Luck next year

    • Ben Dover says:

      And without the Steelers two turnovers the Steelers win 17-10. All you are talking about are ifs and buts, the ifs and buts existed for both teams, but the fact remains, the Steelers held the Raven’s offense to 126 net yards and won the game.

  4. The Tony says:

    Not to mention all the shit the Ravens talked this week and were unable to back it up with a victory

  5. Sorry to correct you Tony but Terrell Suggs stirred the pot all week and he played extremely well. Not a victory of course but he didn’t turn the ball over three times.

    Name for me one other Raven who “talked shit” about the Steelers leading up to the game. Please show your work with a URL.

    It’s amazing Tony how I’ve been nothing but gracious to any Steeler fans (aside from you)who have visited here. Complimented them on their deserved victory and made no excuses for my team’s defeat. Yet people can’t help themselves.

    Please don’t tell what the score “should have been”. The whistle never blew, you play to the whistle. Steelers mistake – it cost them points.

    My point about the 3rd and 19 was that when you are in prevent the first rule is not to let the ball go over your head. The corner has a 20 yard cushion. safety help over the top. A Fly pattern should be caught. Poor execution.

  6. George H says:

    The Tony, pretty much Suggs talked shit all week and backed up his game… Yes he had 3 sacks but it would be nice to have at least a second string LT against him. Besides Pauncey, the Steelers o-line was practice squad guys.

    I do agree with you Tony on Ben’s heroics. Ben has countlessly driven down field in the clutch throughout his career on the biggest moments.

    You better get used to hearing the smack talk because our Steelers have the Jets this week and you know Rex is desperate for some media attention.

    Matt, I believe The Tony is just letting off some steam. Over at Steelers Gab we are constantly breached by opposing fans talking so much trash…. Mostly by a Ravens fan named Thomas Crawley.

    On to the Ravens…

    No doubt they desperately need speed to the offense… little to no separation against a questionable secondary is unacceptable. Boldin didnt show up to play even though Ike Taylor played very well.

    Flacco doesnt seem to have figured out what it takes to get to that next level. His playoff numbers are not what you want out of your qb. You would imagine that he would get used to playing the Steelers but most of the time he has that weird Eli Manning aww shucks what just happened face on him… not a good sign. He needs to be consistent before he can take his game to the next level. Maybe he doesnt have it in him… some guys can get it done and some cant… fortunately for the Ravens he is still young and the book is still out on him.

    Only 120-something total offensive yards is ridiculous in this kind of high pressure game. If you told me that Baltimore only put up that many yards I would never believe that they scored 24 points on the board.

    The overall offense is probably in the best shape it has been in for years, unfortunately there is a lot of work needed to be done. Heap isnt getting any younger and the receivers show their age as well. Flacco and Rice are good players but I agree with you Matt, play calling has to be better. Very predictable on 3rd down– pass underneath to Rice.

    The defense…

    Ngata had his hands full with Pauncey saturday. Its going to be a great match up for the up coming battles. Suggs owned the make-shift o-line as expected.

    The linebackers werent mentioned too often but struggled on key 3rd downs. Lewis might be starting to show his age a bit. He doesnt seem to be as fast as he used to be, but as an ILB you can disguise your lack of speed with good positioning. Lewis is still worth more to the defense not even at 100%. However, age has started to rear its ugly colors on the defense and it showed in the second half.

    The Ravens need to look to the draft to infuse some youth into the locker room. Drafting around pick 28 I would look at an OLB/DE in the first rd and maybe a receiver in the 2nd, depending what happens with Mason and TJ.

    Also, Im happy the refs didnt play too critical of a part in the game… both sides felt the ups and downs of the refs, but overall it was a fairly balanced officiated game. Some calls were missed on both ends, although Ben took a shot to the knee with no flag and we all know if that happened to Brady every ref on that field would of tossed a flag.

    Finally, until Flacco figures out what it takes to beat Ben and the Steelers, the Ravens will always be the Steelers annoying little brother, poking and taunting until the big brother has had enough of the annoyance and establishes his dominance.

  7. Steelers: Whats up little Brother?

    Baltimore: Shut up!

    Steelers: Thump! Know your place.

    Baltimore: Yes sir.

  8. George,

    Great thoughts on my team and I agree with just about all of them.

    They still need some things to get past Pittsburgh. Speed on Offense and Defense and better QB play in the clutch would be a start as well as a new Offensive coordinator.

    I can’t speak for other Ravens fans. I can only spreak for myself. My full name and picture are here on this site, so I stand behind what I type. The internet is filled with cowards who type a handle and then spew whatever they feel like. I choose accountability.

    My only problem with Tony was his comment about “true fandom” which is a joke. Is that why they Pirates sell out every night and the Penguins almost folded twice? The Steelers are a consistently successful organization and are supported as such. They deserve success because they are run well from top to bottom. But when fans starting thinking that Pittsburgh is the Hall of Justice fighting for truth, honor, and the American way that it borders on the delirious.

    Realize none of this is directed at you George. Now I’m just venting.

    Good luck against Rexy.

  9. The Tony says:

    Matt, at no point in time was I intentionally trash talking, but now to reiterate.

    The Penguins almost folded due to poor ownership with their lack of money, not lack of interest. In the final hour a man stepped up that you may have heard of… Mario Lemieux bought the Penguins. Since then we have been to two consecutive Cups winning one.

    The Pirates last season attendance ranked 25th in the MLB, two spots above the 27th O’s.

    We are still the City of Champions.

    Enjoy eating your crab cakes whilst you dwell with your defeat as the Steelers win their 7th Lombardi Trophy!

  10. Be honest Tony. Some Ravens fans went to Steelers Gab and talked trash. The Steelers won so you wandered over here looking for anyone to gloat to. I get it.

    You deserve to gloat about the game – your team won.

    But you took it one step further. You talked about real fans and how the Colts were chased out of Baltimore.

    Talking trash isn’t my style but if someone wants to engage I’m happy to oblige.

    I’m also happy to point out how incorrect your statements are.

    I love discussing and arguing sports and if I wasn’t having fun with this exchange I would have moderated these threads hours ago. So It’s all good with me.

    • The Tony says:

      First Matt, I did not comment about the Colts leaving Baltimore. That was another person named Tony. So let me explain this to you slowly… My name is The Tony and the other man who made the comment was named Tony, there is a difference.

      Also I believe I was told to send URL’s about Ravens smack and it is still awaiting moderation.

      I am so sorry that you think my statements are incorrect, but yet you are just jealous because you wish you had a team that you could follow that actually wins championships.

  11. URL’s have been approved and your point is still weak.

    Suggs I get. T-shirts. Get it. Didn’t like it personally.

    John Harbaugh’s comments were made in jest. Watch the video I posted of the press conference on this site and judge for yourself. Both Harbaugh and Ben are Miami (OH) graduates. He went to say how he respects Ben the player.

    Lastly you include trash talk between two news anchors?????

    Any other actual players who talked? You won’t find it.

    Any comments made by The Matt are different than mine as well.

  12. Regardless of an article before a name the conversation with both posters went a different way because of comments you both made.

    You just can’t help yourselves. So self-important and self-righteous. Just good back and follow the threads.

    I was complimentary and until people wanted to sneak their shots in did I retaliate.

  13. Reed's brother down river says:

    I’m willing to offer TJ Douche-mandzdeh my Terrible Towel to dry his tears.

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