A win against the Pittsburgh Steelers, especially in their house – something the Ravens have only done 5 times in their history – always requires a full team effort, even more so than the typical NFL victory. There were a few Ravens, however, that stood out and deserve to be recognized in this week’s “Play Like a Raven.”
Played Like a Raven – Haloti Ngata
The big man was everywhere on Sunday, wrapping up Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall at the line of scrimmage, chasing him down when he broke outside, sacking quarterback Charlie Batch, nearly picking him off, and tackling receivers down the field after catches.
Here in Baltimore, we’ve always known what a special player Haloti is and is certainly going to be, but he has been slow to receive the kind of National attention which he deserves. He finally broke through last year and made his first AFC Pro Bowl team, after being stuck behind guys like former Tennessee Titan Albert Haynesworth and Kris Jenkins of the New York Jets for the first few years of his defensive dominance.
After his performance in the marquee matchup of Steelers-Ravens last Sunday, he is seeing his star grow even further. For instance, Sports Illustrated’s Peter King has Ngata on his short list of potential NFL MVP candidates, virtually an unheard of honor for a defensive lineman (its happened only once, in 1971).
Haloti finished with a team high 11 tackles and a game-high 8 solo on the day, and was a disruptive force for the Ravens defense all afternoon. For much of the game, he lined up as a defensive end, as opposed to at his usual tackle position, where he took on Steelers’ offensive tackles Flozell Adams and Max Starks. Despite being blocked by tackles, supposedly more athletically superior players to the guards and centers he is used to clashing heads with, Ngata was still the best football player on the Heinz Field Sunday.
It’s times like these that I like to remember ESPN’s Mark Schlereth blasting the Ravens on Draft Day 2006 for taking Ngata, a guy he called lazy and accused of taking plays off.
Honorable Mention: Joe Flacco
I’d be remiss not to give props to Flacco here as well. As great as Haloti was on Sunday, I’ve only went back on the DVR and re-watched his hit on Mendenhall once or twice, while I’ve watched the Joe-to-T.J. game-winning touchdown pass a good half dozen or more times over the last two days.
On second thought, I’ve probably watched that particular play closer to a dozen times.
The entire drive, I’ve seen more like 6 or 7.
Hell, I can recite the entire series from memory at this point: (no peeking, I promise)
1st and 10 at the PIT 40: Flacco to Boldin across the middle for 9 yards
2nd and 1 at the PIT 31: Flacco to Boldin on a quick out for 2 yards. Boldin steps out.
1st and 10 at the PIT 29: Flacco to Houshmandzadeh on a right sideline throw to the PIT 18. Housh steps out.
1st and 10 at the PIT 18: FLACCO TO HOUSHMANDZADEH FOR THE TOUCHDOWN
/checks NFL.com play-by-play to see how I did:
# Baltimore Ravens at 01:08
# 1-10-PIT 40 (1:08) 5-J.Flacco pass short left to 81-A.Boldin ran ob at PIT 31 for 9 yards.
# 2-1-PIT 31 (:42) (No Huddle, Shotgun) 5-J.Flacco pass short left to 81-A.Boldin ran ob at PIT 28 for 3 yards.
# 1-10-PIT 28 (:38) (No Huddle, Shotgun) 5-J.Flacco pass short right to 84-T.Houshmandzadeh pushed ob at PIT 18 for 10 yards (20-B.McFadden).
# 1-10-PIT 18 (:34) (Shotgun) 5-J.Flacco pass deep right to 84-T.Houshmandzadeh for 18 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
Yeah, I’ve watched it a few times.
I make no excuses, either. That was the kind of drive we’ve been waiting to see from Joe for over two years now. Although it was his sixth career game-winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime, none of the previous five were nearly as dramatic. As proof of this, look no further than the fact that Sunday was the FIRST TIME the Ravens have won a game on a last-minute touchdown since Steve McNair-to-Todd Heap beat the San Diego Chargers back in 2006, when Joe was just starting his junior year at Delaware. The fact that he was finally able to put everything together in the final minute against a great defense like the Steelers, a defense that has given him fits throughout his career, and in THEIR HOUSE…was all just icing on the cake.
That last drive (and the previous one, to a lesser extent) excused Joe for some erratic play earlier in the game, especially the play where he again broke out his good ol’ “back foot floater,” and cornerback Ike Taylor intercepted him. He didn’t “Play Like a Raven” all afternoon, no. But he did it when it mattered most. And after years of watching Ben Roethlisberger look like absolute dog shit against the Ravens’ defense for 58 minutes, only to solve them in the final two, it was a great feeling of poetic justice for B’More fans.
Did Not Play Like a Raven – n/a
Honestly, I can’t come up with anyone here. Like I said at the top, it was a total team effort. For every boneheaded or poor play somebody made, they either redeemed themselves later, or played solidly enough otherwise that I can’t justify grading them so low here.
Billy Cundiff missed an early 33-yard field goal attempt, but let’s not forget that he was kicking towards the open end of Heinz Field, probably the toughest place to make a field goal in the NFL. Jeff Reed, who kicks there more than anybody, missed twice Sunday. And Cundiff’s 5-yards-deep-in-the-end-zone kickoff following the Ravens’ late go-ahead touchdown negated any prayer the Steelers had of a big special teams play getting them back in the game.
Cam Cameron would find himself in the “Didn’t Coach Like a Raven” hot seat this week, had the unsuccessful 3rd and 4th downs from the Steelers’ 2-yard line inside the final 3 minutes proved to be deciding factors in the game. He made up for it on the next drive, though, so Cam is in the clear.
Flacco threw an interception, but he did that other thing too…so he’s cool.
The player who I could most build a case for here is Fabian Washington. He got burned by Antwaan Randle El on a 34-yard pass to set up the Steelers’ first touchdown. He also curled into the fetal position rather than go after an interception off a Paul Kruger tipped pass, as a collision with the aforementioned Ngata may have been the price to pay – and Fabe would have certainly come up on the losing end of that one – so we’ll excuse that as well, considering the outcome of the game. On the whole though, Randle El had only 2 catches on the day, and the secondary allowed just 141 passing yards, so Washington’s day wasn’t a complete waste either.
Still riding the high from that win, we’ll just skip “Did Not Play Like a Raven” for Week 4. Great job, all in purple in black.