Ravens vs. Steelers: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly for the Baltimore Ravens
Another week, another win for the Baltimore Ravens.
In what was a defensive battle in a Sunday night rivalry matchup, the Ravens were able to emerge victorious on the road against their arch rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
While it must be noted that the Steelers were without their leader on offense in Ben Roethlisberger, the Ravens defense was able to put on an impressive display at Heinz Field and come away with a big division win.
It wasn't all pretty though. The road struggles on the offensive side of the ball continue to haunt this club.
Here was the good, the bad, and the downright ugly from last night's matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Good: Defense and Special Teams
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Let's start with the special teams.
Sure, Justin Tucker missed a 41-yard field goal—just his second miss of the season I might add—but other than that the Ravens special teams was spot on.
Tucker hit his other two field-goal attempts, while Jacoby Jones continued to establish himself as one of the better returners in the league, returning a punt 63 yards for a touchdown last night.
Sam Koch was his usual brilliant self punting the football, and even a few Justin Tucker kickoffs that the Steelers elected to return were stifled inside the Pittsburgh 20-yard line.
As for the defense, it looked like those players were amped up for this rivalry matchup.
Though the Steelers were without Roethlisberger, the Ravens defense was also banged up, missing Ray Lewis, Lardarius Webb, Terrence Cody, Pernell McPhee and Jimmy Smith.
Still, the Ravens put on a defensive clinic. They were able to apply constant pressure to Byron Leftwich thanks to one of Paul Kruger's best games this season. They held Pittsburgh to 0-for-6 on third downs to start the game and limited the Steelers offense to just five first downs in the first half.
In fact, other than Leftwich's 31-yard scramble on the opening drive of the game, the Ravens contained the run fairly well, allowing 35 yards on 10 carries in the first half. The Steelers had more success running the ball using Jonathan Dwyer in the second half, but the Ravens defense was able to come up with some clutch plays in certain situations to weather that storm.
By the end of the night, the Ravens had sacked Leftwich three times, intercepted him once and only allowed him to complete 18 of his 39 passes for just 201 yards. They also delivered some punishing hits, which was reminiscent of vintage Baltimore defenses.
The Bad: Offensive Play-Calling
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It's an all-too familiar concept. Joe Flacco struggled on the road. Again.
Joe, once again, was unable to eclipse the 200-yard mark away from M&T Bank Stadium and overthrew his receivers far too much.
Much of last night's blame, however, must also be accorded to offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.
Cameron continues to baffle Ravens fans with some of his play calls. For instance, on the Ravens' first possession of the game, Cameron called for a deep pass play on first down, followed by a run and then a short, safe pass on third down, resulting in a three-and-out situation.
Now, had he have called the run on first down and the short pass on second down, he would have left Joe Flacco with a more than manageable 3rd-and-1 scenario.
On the Ravens' next possession, they started in the Steelers red zone, thanks to an Ed Reed fumble recovery and return. The Ravens elected to go with two consecutive runs up the middle against one of the league's best run defenses and then another short pass that failed to get the first down.
Again, that is some highly questionable play-calling. Why would Baltimore not try a shorter pass on second down and take a shot for the end zone on third down? If Joe misses on third down, it's not a huge deal for the field-goal unit since the Ravens were already in the red zone to begin with. Logically speaking, it made absolutely no sense for the Ravens to play that red-zone possession the way they did.
Those possessions were a huge factor when it comes to why the Ravens only managed one first down in their first three possessions and failed to convert their first four third-down attempts.
Oh and let us not forget the call for a screen pass on third down with 13 yards to go.
The Ugly: Steelers Opening Drive and the Ravens Run Game
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This was fairly easy.
Pittsburgh's opening drive of the game was the definition of ugly for Baltimore's defense.
It began with cornerback Cary Williams being burned on the first play of the game and being forced to take a 42-yard pass interference penalty to avoid giving up a touchdown. Then Byron Leftwich was somehow able to scamper into the end zone from over 30 yards out, with safety Bernard Pollard severely miscalculating a big hit. Within the first minute of the game, it was 7-0 Steelers.
The other ugly part of this game was Baltimore's inability to run the ball effectively.
In fact, Ray Rice's first eight carried amounted to just six yards, and he finished the game with only 40 yards on 20 carries. Bernard Pierce would add eight yards and Joe Flacco would go for minus-one yard on his only run of the game, giving the Ravens a grand total of 47 rushing yards on 23 attempts.
Most of that blame, of course, is on the offensive line as it has been unable to stop much of anything this season from breaking through to the backfield. The Ravens are going to have to find a way to fix their run game and fast.