The Ravens lost a heartbreaker in Pittsburgh, coming oh-so-close to handing the Steelers their first Monday Night home loss since 1924 (or something like that). They dominated for roughly 80% of the 4-plus quarters, leading 13-3 at halftime, and allowing something like 60 yards of offense by the Steelers for the first 38:10. At that point, though, the wheels fell off and rolled into the Allegheny River for an extremely brief, but extremely critical span that saw Pittsburgh put up 14 points in 1 minute and 40 seconds, and that left all of B’More saying, “WTF JUST HAPPENED??”
Here is WTF happened:
Cheap shot artist Hiney Ward said something that got under the skin of Ravens LB Jarrett Johnson, and Johnson shoved Ward after the whistle. Johnson was tagged with a 15-yard personal foul (the first of his 6 year career, so you know Ward had it coming), that set Pittsburgh up at the B’More 44, their first trip into Ravens territory since their opening drive. Three plays later, Baby Ben hit Santonio Holmes for a 38 yard touchdown, on a play where the Ravens put on the worst display of tackling we can ever remember seeing from them. Fabian Washington just missed getting a hand on the pass. Chris McAlister whiffed with the chance to stop the play for a 10 yard gain. Then, Ed Reed slipped and tackled air, blowing the opportunity to halt Holmes after 15 yards. Nothing but daylight after that.
Still, the purple and black held a 13-9 lead. Counting the extra point attempt AND ensuing kickoff, that lead would last all of 2 plays. Joe Flacco would be hit by James Harrison on the Ravens next snap, causing a fumble that was scooped-and-scored by Lamar Woodley.
And, just like that, a 13-3 lead had turned into a 17-13 deficit. It was a stunning turn of events, one that had the towel-wavers nearly choking on their french fry sandwiches. It had been a magical, glorious chorus of boos from ‘yins donton as the Steelers limped to the locker room at halftime, but all that was quickly erased in less than 2 minutes of game time.
And that, B’More faithful, is WTF happened.
Does anyone else feel like, if this had been last year’s Ravens team, that would have been all she wrote? That the inevitable from that point was more boneheaded penalties, fruitless drives, and easy touchdowns for the home team? Well, one of the many positives that can be taken from this game for us Ravens fans is that that is exactly what didn’t happen. Instead, “Joe Cool” regained the composure he had shown for the majority of the game and brought the Ravens back with a 9-play, 76 yard drive, culminating with a Le’Ron McClain 2 yard bull-run that tied the game at 20 with 4 minutes remaining.
You know the rest. Overtime ensued, and although the Ravens won the toss and appeared to be set up near midfield by a clutch Yamon Figurs return, the refs again tossed a few
terrible towels flags on the play, and that was all she wrote. Zero first downs and punt for the good guys later, the Steelers took over and moved into Jeff “Manscape” (NSFW) Reed’s field goal range, and he snuck a 46 yarder just inside the left upright to win the game and give those shitheads the AFC North lead.
Maybe its’ the fact that the world economy is about to crumble, but we feel a strange sense of calm here at the Nest the morning after. Sure, our blood was boiling just like yours at about 12:15 AM today, but aren’t you encouraged by all the positives that we can take from this game?
- Joe Flacco held his own against one of the best defenses in the NFL, in his first road start, in prime time, in front of the most hostile crowd imaginable. His 12-second scramble and improvisation that culminated in a 26 yard completion to Derrick Mason showed that he isn’t nearly as statuesque in the pocket as some had believed.
- The defense came to play yet again, allowing only 46 yards in the first half and harassing Baby Ben all night. Haloti Ngata notched his 2nd career interception, and appears to be becoming 100% unblockable. Ray Lewis also looks to have regained any half-step he may have lost. Aside for a key whiffed sack opportunity by Bart Scott and the aforementioned stupid penalty by Johnson, the entire linebacking unit had another stellar night.
- The reemergence of Derrick Mason, although seemingly coming at the expense of all the other Ravens route runners, is encouraging moving forward. It appeared to us watching on TV at least, that John Harbaugh should have challenged the near-TD catch to Derrick that was ruled incomplete due to juggling in the 1st quarter. Even Tom Jackson on the ESPN halftime show noted that it looked like Mason did in fact make the catch.
Of course, it was still a loss, and some legitimate questions were also raised.
- Did John Harbaugh make his first real gaffe as a head coach by not challenging the Mason play? Again, the booth must have seen something that we didn’t see on TV, and Mason didn’t protest much either, so…
- What was up with the play-calling in the 2nd half? For all the success Cam Cameron was having with keeping the Steelers off-balance with underneath throws and screens (the Ravens were 7/17 on 3rd down – not too shabby all things considered), the sequences that we saw when the Ravens were 1) leading by 10 points, and 2) tied and having possession in the final 2 minutes, seemed a bit off.
- What happened to the Ravens’ special teams? Yamon Figurs seemed hesitant and muffed a punt. They held on several occasions, and when they didn’t, the Steelers found huge holes in the wedge and hit Figurs before he even got to the wall. Sam Koch had some boomers, but also a short 27-yard shank that got the ball rolling down the Duquesne incline.
- Is Willis McGahee going to be alright? His eye looks terrible, but he also went off the field with an unspecified injury, and, although he would return, was a non-factor afterwards.
The grapes in our purple Kool-Aid are a little sour this morning, that’s for sure. Pittsburgh did just enough to win, which is what good teams do. But, moving forward, all the “6 wins this year will be a miracle” gloom-and-doom predictions from the preseason seem like eons ago, right?