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Dime Coverage: Post-Game Thoughts on Ravens/Steelers

Kruger was a beast last night.

Last night’s 13-10 victory over Pittsburgh was as old school as the Steelers horrid bumblebee uniforms.

Lots of hard hitting, players taken to the locker room, and touchdowns were at a premium.

This Ravens team isn’t about style, it’s about substance. One thing about this team is that they find ways to win and they can seemingly play a variety of styles to get the job done. That’s a strong characteristic to have going forward for a team that appears to be in position for it’s second straight division title.

There is plenty to review about Baltimore prime time victory. So let’s get to it.

  • Last season the Ravens special teams were pretty awful aside from punter Sam Koch. This past off-season it was clear that it was priority to upgrade not only the returner position and the kicking game but key role players on the coverage units. As a result Special Teams has been strong all season with last night being one example of why if you can be strong in this area it can help you win games. Koch kept the Steelers pinned down most of the night and the return game delivered the team’s only touchdown of the night. Let’s hope that the front office takes the same approach to the defense for next season even though they probably had their best game of the season.
  • Jacoby Jones. I’ll admit that I wasn’t incredibly excited about the Jones signing. From what I remember it was his mistakes that helped the Ravens get past Houston in the playoffs. But the Ravens hoped that his speed would not only solve their issues with the return game but also provide Joe Flacco with another weapon on offense. They obviously knew something I didn’t (surprise). Jones had his third return touchdown of the season when he bolted past every Steeler for a 63-yd score. He’s been very exciting to watch and not just for his crazy touchdown celebrations.
  • Joe Flacco didn’t play very well and continued his road woes under center. His numbers may not have looked that bad (20 for 32 for 164, 62% completion rate) but he never really seemed all that comfortable. He left passes too high or was too strong and didn’t show much touch when he needed to. He missed Torrey Smith on a deep post early in the game that if he led him would have been an easy touchdown. Apparent miscommunication on another drive in the second quarter saw the Ravens come away with nothing after driving to the Pittsburgh twenty and then culminating in a rare Justin Tucker miss. At least he didn’t turn the ball over.
  • Anquan Boldin. The Steelers decided to take away Torrey Smith with some extra help from Ryan Clark and that allowed Boldin to have a big game. Boldin caught 8 for 79 yds.
  • The Offensive line did a pretty decent job in pass protection keeping the Steelers blitzers from getting home most of the night only giving up two sacks (The second was on Flacco). But they could get little push or open holes for Ray Rice who was limited to just 40 yards on the ground for a 2 yd. average. They must find a LG next season as the Harewood/Williams/Reid hybrid isn’t getting it done. I should also note that I found it interesting that they chose to to keep the first two players inactive which left Gino Gradkowski as the lone sub if Reid faltered.
  • The Offensive game plan wasn’t awful it just wasn’t particularly imaginative or effective. I was glad to see Cam stuck with the run even though they could get little from it. However I still have problems watching players run six yard patterns on 3rd and 8. I would have liked to have seen a shot at the endzone early after the forced fumble in the first quarter instead of settling for a field goal. My biggest complaint would echo Gene Winner’s concerns that on 3rd and 2 and with Pittsburgh out of timeouts they opt to go Shotgun and throw. Flacco ended up sacked even though two players (Smith/Dickson) were wide open. A first down there ends the game and Flacco had make-able throws to achieve that goal. Did Flacco pull back because he felt the pressure too quickly or was he told to eat the ball if he didn’t like how the play developed? 200 Total yards of offense is not acceptable even if they are playing a top defense. The game plan felt too conservative to me.
  • This was the defense’s best game of the year. Sure it helped that Byron Leftwich was Byron Leftwich (Was he hurt?) but the game plan was solid and the run defense was effective early on even though they gave up 134 yards on the ground. It looks like Dean Pees’ move to the box has been a smart one as the D has seen steady improvement since the Bye week. The unit registered three sacks, an interception, and fumble recovery. Nice work. Even still though there were a few times where zones were completely empty which allowed for easy catches.
  • Paul Kruger. He had his best game in a Baltimore uniform last night as he gave rookie Tackle Mike Adams nightmares. He got so much pressure that Pittsburgh had to give help in the second half, that’s a great sign. I’m still trying to figure out what Kruger’s post sack hand gestures are all about though.
  • Corey Graham. Originally signed to boost special teams Graham made several huge plays in the Secondary last night. For a group that has been hard hit by injuries it was a welcome sight. His interception showed some real football intelligence as he baited Leftwich’s throw.
  • The inside linebackers of Dannell Ellerbee (12 tackles) and Jameel McClain (9 tackles) also had a strong game.

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One Response to “Dime Coverage: Post-Game Thoughts on Ravens/Steelers”

  1. Gene w says:

    . I totally agree that Cam Cameron had no imagination. And the third down calls were deplorable.. I would have rather seen a direct snap to Rice on that 3rd and 2. Pittsburgh’s D was well prepared and Cam was out coached in this contest. I think Kruger’s gesture is ‘dialing up a sack’…?

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