Monday, January 17, 2011

Go Home Baltimore, And Stay There. Steelers 31, Ravens 24

Saturday night was the type of games that careers are made out of. One quarterback made the big plays and the other wilted under the pressure. One was able to move the football and the other was running out of bounce to avoid the pressure. One is undoubtedly a top three quarterback in the NFL and the other is struggling to find his place in the pecking order. One quarterback is Ben Roethlisberger and the other is Joe Flacco. The former ripped the hearts out of the Ravens defense and the latter got smacked in the mouth.

This has to feel great if you are a Steelers fan. They were left for dead after a putrid first half and came out of the locker room at halftime and looked like an entirely new team. James Harrison and the defense took it personally that they were scored on twice in the first half. They were angry, and it showed.

This game was what we expected. It was hard hitting and it came down to which defense was able to make the big play and which quarterback was going to step up and give his team the play they needed. There was a ton of smack talk and a lot of after the whistle hitting and pushing. Make no mistake about it, these teams hate each other. They loathe each other. Watching Hines Ward and Ed Reed go after each other during the game just scratched the surface of what the game was all about. In the end it was the team that talked smack all week that couldn’t back up their talk and took a beating from his big brother. The Steelers spotted the Ravens some points like a dad does to his son when they play basketball. It didn’t matter. When push came to shove the Steelers defense stepped up to the plate and made the plays. Plain and simple.

This picture pretty much sums up the game in a nutshell:

Hit the jump.

Thoughts on the game:

-First off this was one of the best games in Steelers history. The comeback, the atmosphere, the rivalry, the plays, all of it. I don’t know where this ranks in terms of comeback victories but I can’t remember the time I felt that good after a game. This honestly felt like an AFC Championship game. Remember back in 2005 when the Steelers went into Indianapolis and stunned the Colts in the divisional round and it felt like they won the AFC? It was kinda like that for me, and I am sure for a lot of other people. Not overlooking New York, just the feeling I had after the game.

-Ryan Clark was a beast. This could have easily been his best performance in a Steelers uniform. Clark made five tackles, two for a loss, forced a fumble and intercepted a pass. The two turnovers were directly correlated to Ryan Clark and the Steelers don’t win the football game if Ryan Clark doesn’t force those turnovers. Clark’s coverage was perfect on a night where BMac was out and Anthony Madison was forced to play. Clark does not get the publicity he should for the work he does in that secondary. Clark is the glue that holds everything together. Troy is allowed to roam the field because of Ryan Clark. An excellent game from Clark was huge for this team.

-If anyone was bigger than Ryan Clark in the game it was James Harrison. What a super human effort from 92. For much of the first half Harrison was dropping back into coverage against the pass and wasn’t making enough of an impact so Dick LeBeau made a halftime adjustment and let Harrison loose. All it resulted in was a three sack second half for Deebo. Mike Oher was Harrison’s personal whipping boy and it wasn’t even fair. Check it out for yourself:

Just a huge performance. After the stadium blasted Renegade in the third quarter Harrison answered with a HUGE sack of Flacco and he actually celebrated. I have been watching James Harrison sack quarterbacks for a long time and I have never seen him celebrate a sack like that before. That is how big this game was for each team. The celebration gave the team a spark and then never stopped. If Harrison plays like that I don’t see a player left in the playoffs that can stop him.

-The defense as a whole was just unreal against Baltimore. Going into the fourth quarter the Baltimore offense had only 94 total yards and could get no momentum. The Ravens finished the game with 126 total yards of offense and on had 12 first downs while going 5-of-12 on third down. That is downright dominating. Baltimore only attempted 18 runs and ran for 1.9 yards per carry on the way to only 35 rushing yards for the game. Todd Heap was the teams leading receiver with only 43 total yards and the new tandum of T.J. Houshmandzadeh (3 rec, 38 yards) and Anquan Boldin (1 rec, -2 yards) combined for four catches and 36 yards and both dropped huge passes. Derek Mason did not make a catch and without a starting corner (Bryant McFadden) Ike Taylor and Will Gay were on lockdown mode to make sure the Ravens would not come back. Ike Taylor is a Pro Bowl player. Nobody can tell me otherwise. When the Steelers were down 21-7 you had the feeling the Ravens were going to have to be held in check the rest of the game, and that they were. Unreal effort by the defense.

-The special teams wasn’t great, but it wasn’t terrible either. There were rough spots such as the opening kickoff and the miss by Suisham, but when the shit hit the fan the special teams were great. Kapinos did his best Sepulveda impersonation by averaging almost 50 yards per punt on four punts and pinning the Ravens inside the 20 once. Although Kapinos had a terrible line drive punt when the Ravens almost took it to the house (if not for a penalty). Outside of the opening kickoff and that punt by Kapinos the special teams did an exceptional job staying in lanes and making the tackle the first time.

-Ben Roethlisberger is easily one of the two best quarterbacks in the NFL. There is no more question about it. If you want a big play you want Ben Roethlisberger on the field. The 58-yard pass he made to Antonio Brown on 3rd and 19 with a little over two minutes left was an absolute dime and won them the football game. That is why you pay him over $100 mil. No question about it. The fourth and one sneak? Ben’s call. It didn’t lead to a touchdown, but it was a nice way to get a sneak. After faking twice I think everyone thought they were going to take the timeout, but at the last second Ben takes the snap and gets the first down. Ben doesn’t fumble snaps, he didn’t throw picks and when he needed to be great he was great, and better. Like a lot of people that have followed the Steelers they have watched every once of Ben’s starts as a Steelers quarterback. Over this year he has been scrutinized and broken down on how he acted and I noticed something I thought was very noticeable in the game against the Ravens, the way he acted on the field. Ben usually gets excited for touchdowns, like when he celebrates with his o-line, but against the Ravens it was on another level. After the 58-yard bomb to Antonio Brown, Roethlisberger gave the biggest fist pump and yell I have ever seen in my entire life. After Rashard Mendenhall punched it in to put the Steelers up seven later Ben threw both arms up in the air and was jumping up and down like he was in high school. Before this season I think people could say that Ben was a little self absorbed and didn’t always care about the team aspect of the game. Not anymore. Ben is in it to win it. He was more excited for plays that resulted in others plays that didn’t include him than he was with his. It was refreshing to see, and I think it is a real testament to the steps Roethlisberger has taken as a person and a teammate. Ben has been an absolute monster this year and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

-Today I saw that Peter King called out Rashard Mendenhall, along with other Steelers, for not being a “big game back”. Now, Rashard only had 46 yards on 20 carries, which is not very productive but he punched the ball into the end zone twice from the goal line. I am not sure about old Peter, but big time to me is putting the ball in for six, I would rather have Mendenhall’s line against a pretty good Baltimore run defense than have him go for 110 yards with no touchdowns on 25 carries. Maybe that is just me but points win games. Mendenhall was especially good after turnovers. The Steelers went right to him and Mendenhall got the ball into the red zone where he would convert. No two ways about what.

-Was Derek Mason even in Pittsburgh? Did Boldin even try? I know I talked about Ike Taylor but he was marvelous against those two rendering whoever he covered basically out of the ball game. No idea how he wasn’t a Pro Bowler.

-You want to talk about big time plays you talk about Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders. The due combined for seven catches and 129 yards. You know teams are going to bracket Mike Wallace and take away Hines Ward so those two youngin’s have to be a factor and they were that and more on Saturday night. There might not have been a better example than what Brown did to Webb on the 58 yard bomb he caught. Webb was basically matched up one-on-one with Brown and he gave him about a 10 yard cushion and Antonio Brown just ran a nine route and ran right by Webb.

Speed kills.

Not only was Brown and Sanders making big plays like that but they have been very good underneath and just have been making strides every single week. They will have to continue to do that for the AFC Championship game as Revis will probably try to eliminate Wallace while others will try to take Ward out of the game. From what I have seen though I think we be alright with those two as our third and fourth wide outs.

-The Steelers faithful were absolutely unreal on Saturday. I have been to a lot of Steelers games where I thought it was pretty loud (AFCC game in ’08, the comeback win over Dallas) but this trumps those games many times over. I have never seen a game at Heinz Field where the TV camera’s were actually shaking when a big play would happen. You could almost not make out what was going on during the Ryan Clark interception because the place was shaking so bad. It was so evidnent that multiple times during the broadcost you could hear the announcers talking about how loud it was. It was really just unreal how rockin that place was. If you don’t think that had an effect on the game then you are kidding yourself.


Jim Wexell had this to say about the crowd after the first Steelers touchdown.

-Ziggy Hood was a monster. Nothing more you can say about it. Kid is playing out of his mind now.

-No idea what game the officials were watching. They were horrid all day. I am not talking just horrid against the Steelers. It was bad, both ways. No idea how this crew got a playoff game. That is all I will say.

I respect Wexell’s opinion a lot. This says a lot of the officiating.

This one is just funny.

No idea how anyone thinks Flacco is an elite quarterback.

I am sure I missed a whole bunch of stuff but I am still so excited about this game it is unreal. My sights are turned to the Jets tomorrow. Bring it.

As always leave it in the comments section for what I missed.

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