Monday, September 12, 2011

Game 1 Recap: Beatdown In Baltimore - Ravens 35, Steelers 7

When you are going into a game, especially one of the magnitude of Steelers/Ravens you always think of everything that could happen. You mostly deal with this the night before the game (if it is a 1 p.m. start) as you lay there trying to fall asleep. Inevitably you always go through what is called the “worst case scenario.” If you don’t it’s cool, it is just something I usually do as I prepare for the game. Usually the worst case is your team losing and probably getting out played in every aspect but what happened yesterday to the Steelers was far and way beyond what I could even fathom. The Steelers were not only beat down on offense and defense but they were dominated on pretty much every play. I know you say that it can’t get much worse than a 35-7 loss but the score could have been much, much, worse.

The Steelers turned the ball over seven (yes, seven) times and didn’t create a single turnover. That stat alone will lose you every game you play. It doesn’t matter when the turnovers are, they are all bad. Just a brutal effort. They fumbled the ball four times and Ben threw three picks (two of them really terrible) and the Ravens made them pay dearly. The drive summary really tells the whole story for this game:

Yes, that stretch to start the second half was terrible. Three picks and a fumble and a total of 20 plays. You know what the worst part of this was? I will tell you, the Ravens response to the turnovers.

If you took the time to add it up that is 20 points off turnovers. Like I said, it could have been a lot worse. Three times the Ravens started with the ball in the red zone and only scored 10 points. I guess that is good.

For real though, there is nothing good to speak of about this game. I will touch on a few things here but it was pretty ugly.

-Ben Roethlisberger was not good. This might have been his worst start as a pro as he turned the ball over five times (three interceptions and two fumbles lost) and just wasn’t his normal self. He only got sacked four times but it seemed like a lot more than that. He managed to find Ed Reed twice, both times in Ravens territory, and both throws were a case of him extending the play and then just making a very poor throw. You take the good with the bad when you have Ben as your QB and yesterday was bad times a million. He did throw for 280 yards but did so in 41 attempts. If you think Ben shouldn’t start next week then please stop reading now. You are an idiot.

-On the flip side Joe Flacco was great. It pains me to say it because I don’t think that he is a great QB but he was yesterday. Joe is a good QB but he wasn’t even touched until LaMarr Woodley sacked him in the fourth quarter. I don’t care who you are, if you get time in the pocket and have no fear of being touched then you are going to have a good day. Joe stayed away from Ike Taylor and picked on Bryant McFadden and it worked. Joe made the reads and tossed three touchdown passes while going 17-for-29. Very nice game.

-Ray Rice took the Steelers lunch, slapped them in the face, and then took their lunch money for the rest of the week. Rice is a dynamic running back that can catch the ball out of the backfield and make plays happen. He did that. He was utilizing the cut back lanes and gashed the Steelers for 107 yards on 19 carries and also caught four passes for 42 yards. He scored twice and might have cured cancer in the process. Man.

-On the other side Rashard Mendenhall actually had a nice game. In the first half he ran for 50 yards and was finding holes and making people miss. All of a sudden, when the Steelers had a chance to cut into the lead, they stopped using him. Not really sure what happened there. Not being critical because the Steelers staff knows a hell of a lot more of the game plan and what is going on than I do but Redman and Mendenhall were running the ball effectively and it just seemed to stop. Most of that might been because of the score, but when it was still a close game I think they could have got a few more carries.

-The Steelers defense was slow and tired. I don’t even know what to say about it because it was just so different to see this out of the Steelers defense. Nobody stood out outside of maybe Ike Taylor and it just didn’t seem like they were up for the game. I know the Steelers were up for the game. You would be foolish to think any other way, but it is hard not to say that they looked disinterested. A lot of people are making the point that the defense is old (9 starters over 30), and it is, but I don’t think this is the defense that we are going to see all year. I am going to talk about this later but this is one game.

-I am absolutely shocked at how some Steelers fans are reacting to this game. Was this a horrible game to watch? Yes. Was it frustrating as hell to watch the 2010 AFC Super Bowl representative get blown out of the water by its biggest rival? Yes. Was I pissed while watching the game? Hell yea. With all that being said you just have to keep things in perspective, it is just one game. I know that people are going to tell me that a loss like this is different than a one score game but they count for the same thing. If the Steelers come out and throttle the Seahawks and Indianapolis then is everyone still freaking out? Probably not. The Steelers have lost to the Ravens before and they still have another game against them this year. If they win that game then this game is really a moot point. Some people expressed feelings of concern for this season, which I get, but don’t count me in that group. I understand 100% where those people are coming from but in the grand scheme of a 16 game season I will need to see this again in the next couple of games to really worry. If the Steelers struggle like this in two of the next four games then I will worry, but not after one game. I actually saw some people saying they want to see Dennis Dixon or Charlie Batch play next week. Please, get over yourself. Ben Roethlisberger is still one of the best QB’s in the game and he will bounce back.

-The Steelers got dominated in every aspect of the game, no two ways about it. The Ravens were by far the better team and I know that I, and many other people, talk about how the Steelers lost the game but don’t lose sight that the Ravens won this game. They got rid of some popular players in the offseason and made some off the radar moves to bring in solid players to try and jump the Steelers and so far they have. They were the better team yesterday and right now they are the clear cut favorite to win the AFC North. That can change in three weeks, or even next week and might change after the next meeting against the Steelers in week nine. All that being said is that the Ravens deserve a ton of credit for the win, they earned it in a big way.

-The coaching staff is taking a lot of heat for this game, as they should. Adjustments weren’t made and the Ravens had their way with them but this game was much more than that. The Steelers weren’t tackling and there isn’t much the staff can do when your team is turning the football over in their own red zone. Don’t get me wrong, the staff got out coached yesterday but this was much more on the players than on the coaches.

-As I am writing this there was some big news on the injury front. Looks like Willie Colon might be out for the season with a torn triceps muscle. Not good. I wonder what Flo Adams is doing right now? Probably talking to the Steelers. Although the offensive line wasn’t great they need Colon. This is not good news.

-As you all know I am not a huge Phil Simms fan. He isn’t a very good announcer and for the most part his bias comes out in the games he does (not just in Steelers games, but other games too) but he took it to another level yesterday. Simms had a right to gush over the Ravens because, as I have talked in this post, they beat the Steelers ass, but he needed to try and keep his gleeful fan hood out of the booth. I know this might sound like whining but it’s not like this was only happening during the blowout, this was all game. For me he is now in Chris Collinsworth territory which is somewhere nobody wants to be. I think the most defining moment, which I had forgot about until someone brought it up (I forget who, sorry), but hearing him argue with Jim Nantz on TV about whether the Ward/Webb (I think) pushing battle where Ward was blocking Webb and neither player really let go. Nothing absurd but for some reason Simms was all over Ward like he threw a punch. Nantz was much more level headed (read: right) about the situation saying that they were just going a little beyond the whistle and no foul and tried to explain that to Simms but he was having none of it. I wish Simms signed with FOX. Give me Gus Johnson all day.

This game was nothing like we, or anyone, is used to seeing from a Steelers team. They were no crisp and were just out muscled by the Ravens. I have no doubt that the Steelers will be ready for the Seahawks when they come to Heinz Field on Sunday afternoon and after seeing how visibly pissed Mike Tomlin was should give you an indication that the boys will get the kick in the ass that they may need. I think this loss also gave the team a wakeup call. They have owned the Ravens for the most part and I am sure confidence was high, especially after a Super Bowl season, so we will see what this team is made of. I have also been told that you are judged not by what happens to you but how you react to it. I believe that line whole heartedly and expect the Black and Gold to come out on fire in front of the home crowd.

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