Throw all of the stats out of the window, football fans. We heard all of the stats all week long that backed up everyone's prediction that the Pittsburgh Steelers would defeat the Ravens, yet again.
Didn't quite happen that way. The Ravens came out of the gates running full speed and absolutely gave the Steelers a spanking, defeating them 35-7.
The Ravens scored a touchdown in their first three plays to give them a quick 7-0 lead.
Some things I didn't count on:
1. Ben Roethlisberger getting outplayed by Joe Flacco.
Flacco had a much easier time because his offensive line was much better in pass protection. That being said, Flacco outplayed Big Ben. Flacco threw three touchdowns with ZERO turnovers, and looked calm and confident, which he rarely does against the Steelers.
Roethlisberger on the other hand looked flustered and tried to force many throws. His offensive line didn't help him much but Big Ben deserves his fair share of the blame for this loss. Roethlisberger was responsible for five of the Steelers' seven turnovers.
Give credit to Flacco, who made some good throws and didn't make any mistakes. Roethlisberger will be fine. Even the best of quarterbacks have bad days at the office. I expect Roethlisberger to rebound next week with a big game against Seattle.
2. Ray Rice running wild on the Steelers’ D.
From the very first play of the game, Rice had himself a game against the Steelers. First play of the game Rice ran for a 36-yard run, putting the Ravens in Steelers’ territory.
Rice, who is the only player to run for 100 yards against the Steelers in the last three seasons, ran for 104 yards today on 19 carries. Rice's offensive line looked great, but Rice did a good job of being elusive and getting yards after contact.
Rice also hurt the Steelers in the passing game, catching four passes for 42 yards and a touchdown. I was afraid of Rice in the passing game, and for good reason. Rice is the Ravens' best player on offense and showed it again today.
The Steelers continuously tried to cover Rice with a linebacker, and Rice and Flacco continuously took advantage of it.
I'm not surprised about Rice hurting the Steelers in the passing game, but I am surprised, impressed and worried that he and the Ravens had their way with the Steelers’ defense in the running game.
3. Steelers got owned up front on both sides of the ball.
Go ahead watch the tape, the Steelers got owned up front on offense and on defense. In other words, the Ravens smacked the Ravens in the mouth.
Haloti Ngata might have played one of the best games by a lineman in a long time. He did everything. He had four tackles, two solo, and tipped a pass that led to an interception. He had his way with Steelers’ right guard Doug Legurksy and center Maurkice Pouncey. The Steelers simply had no answer for him or Ngata's teammate Terrell Suggs, who had 3 sacks.
The Ravens' offensive line was spectacular. I rarely saw Steelers’ defenders in the Ravens' backfield, but I always saw Ravens' defenders in the Steelers' backfield. The Ravens had four sacks; the Steelers had one. The Ravens averaged 5.5 ypg on the ground, Steelers averaged 4.
Bottom line is this game was won up front. Flacco had all day to run and the Ravens' offensive line consistently pushed back the Steelers front seven. The Steelers' offensive line had a performance that was the complete opposite of that.
The Ravens owned the line of scrimmage. To me that weighs way more than the turnovers.
4. Steeler's defense looked old.
The Steelers have nine starters on defense that are at least 30 years old. Fans and analysts have been worried about the aging Steelers' defense.
Now I'm not going to judge them on one game, but today they looked old against the Ravens. They got controlled upfront and made zero big plays. They had one sack, which was by LaMarr Woodley, and it came when the game was out of reach.
They struggled to get pressure on Flacco, and everyone besides Ike Taylor struggled in the passing game. Lawrence Timmons had 12 tackles but played a really bad game, often getting victimized in the passing game.
James Harrison has to be the biggest concern. Harrison has been so valuable and important to this defense, and today he looked old and injured, which he is. Harrison came into the game with a bad back and left with a knee contusion. What if Harrison's entire 2011 season is like this?
Besides Harrison, a lot of the other guys looked old. Ryan Clark, Aaron Smith, James Farrior, Larry Foote and Troy Polamalu all looked old and did not play well. I don't expect all of them to regress, but color me concerned for now.
The Steelers got outplayed and out-coached. I can't think of one aspect of the game of football in which the Steelers outperformed the Ravens.
The Ravens were more aggressive and more physical. Trying not to overreact, I am worried about a lot of important football issues.
I hated the play-calling. I'm not a big time Bruce Arians basher, but hardly any play-action passes, hardly any roll outs. Too many runs on first down, too many bubble screens. Arians has been holding this offense back for years. Now I'm frustrated.
Will the Steelers’ defense come back strong next week and the rest of the season, or will this be the start of a regression by an aging defense? Controlling the line of scrimmage has been so important for the Steelers; they will have a hard time winning games if they get beat up front.
My hat goes off to the Ravens. They played a great game and were much more prepared for this game. They came out aggressive and stayed aggressive. The Steelers looked old and arrogant.
The Steelers on paper look like a championship team. I don't think they're anywhere near as bad as they played against Baltimore. The question is will they respond? If this team is the team that I, along with many others thought they were, they'll come out and dominate a not-so-good Seattle Seahawks team next week.
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