Ravens Winning Streaks Snapped
The 9-3 Baltimore Ravens lost 23-20 to their rival the 7-5 Pittsburgh Steelers on a game winning field goal by Shaun Suisham. This was their first home loss after being up by 10 points since 2004. The loss also means that the Ravens still have never been 10-2 in franchise history.
One thing to note before you read is that I missed the first 5 minutes of the game due to CBS showing the end of the Colts Lions game. I missed the whole Ravens first drive and half of the Steelers.
Coming into the game, the Ravens had a few win streaks on the line. Starting with the smaller streaks, the Ravens had won three straight games against the Steelers. Staying in the division, they had also won their last 12 divisional games. This works out to 730 days. The last time they had lost was in 2010 against who else, the Steelers. If this streaks seems big to you, it is as it is tied for an NFL record. A streak that was relatively unknown coming into the game, the Ravens had won their last 17 games when leading after the 3rd quarter. Overall, they are 48-8 under John Harbaugh with a lead when the 4th quarter starts. Lastly, is the most known win streak of them all. Over the last 10 seasons, the Ravens had the 3rd longest home win streak at 15 games. Just like the divisional streak, their last loss was on December 5, 2010 against the Steelers which is just under 2 years ago. Only the Rams and Patriots have had longer win streaks over the last 10 years.
For the first time this season, Flacco had a bad game at home. All night Flacco looks out of synch. His stat line confirms this as he went 16-of-34 for 188 yards with 1 TD, 1 INT, a passer rating of 61.9 and a QBR of 23.7. The most telling stat is his completion percentage of 47.1 which is a season low. Throughout the night he had high throws and was just generally inaccurate. The player who suffered the most from his inaccuracy was WR Torrey Smith. Flacco threw no deep passes accurate to Smith, none. He also overthrew Smith on other occasions underneath and Smith took a dangerous hit one time trying to get to the pass. Even worse than these passes was his interception. On the play Flacco did a good job escaping a sack but as soon as he got away, he threw the interception. There are two possible explanations for this to me. One was that Flacco was trying to throw it away but couldn’t the ball out-of-bounds. While this seems possible, the following explanation seems more likely to me. I think he was trying to loft the ball to TE Dennis Pitta as there were two people behind him. Flacco probably never saw S Ryan Clark over the top. This interception was his first against the Steelers in 173 passes. Thankfully for Flacco, the interception didn’t matter as the Ravens defense forced a turnover a few plays later. The moral of the story is just throw the ball away, just like what happened on this next play. On this play the Steelers had no pressure from the pass rush at all. I timed it and found out that Flacco had 7 seconds to throw the ball, 7. Offensive line coaches will tell you that 4 seconds is considered good pass protection. Seven seconds rarely happens and when it does, you need to take advantage of it. It is understandable if no receivers are open as the Steelers had 8 people back in coverage. If this is the case, then Flacco needs to either throw the ball away or tuck and run to at least get some yards on the play. There really wasn’t many positives for Flacco but, he did have a good touchdown pass to WR Anquan Boldin.
We may as well get right to the point. How does Ray Rice, the Ravens best offensive play, not get a single touch in the 4th quarter? If you think that is bad, it gets worse. On Rice’s last two touches of the 3rd quarter, he had 44 yards including a very nice 34 yard TD where he took a draw on the right side and cut to the left. He went all the way untouched to the endzone. Thats not all. Rice finished with 3 touches. How does this happen? Its not like Rice was unproductive either, as he had 12 rushes for 78 yards which is an average of 6.5 yards. His 1 catch went for 5 yards. Lets take the Vikings for example. They lost to the Green Bay Packer 23-14. The Vikings passing game was even worse than the Ravens so they stuck to the running game which was working. Their best offensive player is RB Adrian Peterson and they kept feeding him the ball for 210 rushing yards on 21 attempts. Back to Rice, it seems that offensive coordinator Cam Cameron forgets about Ray Rice in a close game after the other teams scores. You have to wonder what Cameron is seeing out there. If you have a two time All-Pro RB then you have to get him the ball, especially as last week, Rice converted a 4th and 29. There is one simple formula for the Ravens to win a game. When Rice gets more than 20 touches, the Ravens are 32-10 which is a winning percentage of .761. Over a 16 game season this works out to 12 wins. Since last season, the Ravens have lost 7 regular season games. In 1 of these games, Rice has had over 20 touches and the most carries he had was 16.
Usually, if your FB is second on the team in catches and receiving yards, you are going to lose the game. Leach had 4 catches for 40 yards and 3 first downs. The Ravens would run play action boot legs and have Leach run into the flats. It is an easy way to try and boost the confidence of your QB but it didn’t work. Leach didn’t just contribute to the passing game. He, as usual, had some very nice blocks to spring Rice and backup Bernard Pierce. One play stood out to me when Leach crushed Steelers NT Casey Hampton who is 325 lbs. On the play, which you can see here, the Ravens left Hampton unblocked and Leach took him out.
Yesterday was very up and down for Boldin. Lets start with the negatives. The announces said he had a drop on the Ravens first drive. He also had another later in the game. On a 3rd and 11, Boldin made the catch but was called for a pass interference. The following play he was called for a false start which gave the Ravens a 3rd and 26. By himself, Boldin stalled a drive for the Ravens. Now for the positives. Of his 5 catches, 3 of them were for first downs and another was for a TD. On a 3rd and 3 he was able to draw a holding penalty. The next play he caught a 31 yard pass on a back shoulder fade. Then on the next play, he caught a 28 yard TD pass on the same route. So Boldin stalled a drive but without him, the Ravens wouldn’t have scored one of their touchdowns.
Yes you read that right, David Reed. Don’t worry, Ed Reed comes a little bit later. In his first game of the season, Reed had 2 tackles on punt returns. Reed tore his ACL last season and started this season on the PUP list. His first tackle came as soon as the returner caught the ball and resulted in a loss of 3 yards. The second tackle resulted for no gain. One another punt, he wasn’t credited for a tackle but he made an important play on it. He was the first player downfield for the Ravens and was able to slow down the returner by making him leap over a tackle. The return was tackled right after this for a minimal gain. Reed was one of the main reasons the Ravens were able to contain dangerous Steelers punt returner Antonio Brown to 9 yards on 5 attempts with a long of 6.
One of the Ravens offensive tackles played well while the other didn’t. Rookie RT Kelechi Osemele stood up well to the Steelers pass rush only allowing 1 sack. This sack should have a massive asterisk next to it as this was the play where Flacco had 7 seconds to pass the ball. Left tackle Michael Oher didn’t have as good of a game. On the Ravens first drive, he had an unnecessary roughness penalty. I don’t know how bad it was as this was part of the game I wasn’t able to see. He also allowed the pressure on Flacco’s INT. He let the pass rusher go right by him. Most importantly, Oher gave up a strip sack of Flacco by James Harrison right after Ed Reed’s INT. The Steelers tied the game up on their possession and the momentum was now in the Steelers hands right after the Ravens seemed to take control thanks to Reed.
After going 24 games without a sack, Jones now has 3 in his last 2 games. Last week against the Chargers he had his first two career sacks. This week he had 1 and almost had another. His sack was important as it came when the Steelers were in Ravens territory. It was 1st and 10 and he took down QB Charlie Batch for a loss of 3 yards. The other time, Jones was taking Batch down but Batch was able to throw the ball away just in time. In the end, Jones finished with 4 tackles and 3 QB hits.
Kruger continues his sack streak with another one this week. This makes at least one sack in his last 4 games and a total of 5 during this streak. His sack this week was thanks to the Ravens secondary. There was no one open downfield which gave Kruger the time to get the Batch. More important than his sack was his roughing the passer penalty. With under 2 minutes left in the game, Kruger was called for a roughing the passer penalty. The Steelers had already gotten the first down on the play and the ball was moved from the 34 yard line to the 19. To put that in perspective, a potential field goal by the Steelers went from 51 yards to 36 yards. The Steelers would have needed one more first down to be in good field goal position (the next play was a false start on the Steelers). Instead Kruger gave them 15 free yards.
Like David Reed, McClellan mainly made his impact on special teams. He was able to deflect a punt. The made the punt go a lot shorter than it should have. If he dove with his hands another inch to the left, the punt probably would have been completely blocked. On this play, the Steelers punter thought it was blocked and he turned around to try and find the ball. McClellan did make a mistake on special teams as he was called for a holding call on a punt return. On defense, McClellan did make one important play. With 8 minutes left in the game, the Steelers had a 1st and Goal from the Ravens 7 yard line. McClellan was able to break through the line and stuff the run at the line for no gain. In the end, he finished with 5 tackles.
Brown only game up 2 passes but he was very lucky to not give up more. Wide Receiver Mike Wallace dropped a deep pass for about 30 yards when Brown was in coverage. Brown was also responsible for Wallace when Wallace was wide open in the endzone. Again, Brown was lucky because Batch overthrew Wallace. On this play, Brown probably thought he had safety help when he really didn’t. Lastly, he gave up a 3rd and 7 to Wallace with 5 minutes left in the game. Overall, it wasn’t a good game for Brown but in his defense, he started the season 5th on the depth chart at CB and is only playing due to injury.
Just like two weeks ago, Graham, had a big game against the Steelers. Last time he had an INT and this time he had another. The Steelers ran a reverse pass and Graham wasn’t fooled at all. He stayed with the receiver all the way and made a leaping interception. This play was even more important when you consider that it came right after Flacco threw his INT. Graham gave up 4 completions including 1 TD. The TD was to TE Heath Miller with 7 minutes left in the game and this tied the game. He also gave up a 3rd and 8 to Miller with for 17 yards with under 2 minutes left in the 1st half. While he had bad coverage on those plays, he had excellent coverage on a deep pass to Wallace. Graham stayed with him step for step and then batted the pass down.
While Brown gave up 2 catches and Graham gave up 4, Williams was right in the middle with 3. He gave up a big play to Miller and also gave up a first down in Ravens territory with less than 2 minutes left in the game. Another bad thing was he was blocked by Batch on RB Jonathan Dwyer’s TD run. A 37 year old QB was able to block a 27 year old CB by barely touching him. This is unacceptable. Williams was able to breakup a pass with under 2 minutes left in the 1st half.
As usual, Pollard was solid in run defense. He had multiple tackles for no or little gain and multiple tackles while being blocked. He had one tackle for a loss. On this play he blitzed and was able to stop the run for a loss of 3 yards. In pass coverage he had a big, legal, hit on a 3rd and 4 to break up a pass. Overall, it was a good game for Pollard and he finished with 8 tackles and 1 pass deflection.
Right when the Ravens needed a turnover to change the momentum of the game, Ed Reed delivered. The Steelers had a good drive going and were in the redzone, when Reed intercepted Batch in the endzone. This play looked like it could change the momentum of the game back to the Ravens, but a few plays later, the Steelers recovered a fumble by Flacco. This was Reed’s 61st career INT which ranks him 10th all-time. Reed also was also in the right spot at the right time as he recovered Emmanuel Sanders weird fumble. On the negative side, Reed was beaten by WR Antonio Brown for 34 yards and this would have been more but Brown slipped and fell. The whole secondary for the Ravens seemed out of synch all night as they left multiple receivers wide open which is very uncharacteristic of them. I don’t know if this is Reed’s fault (as he is the leads the secondary), the result of bad coverage, or bad communication between the LBs and the secondary but it needs to be fixed for next week against Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins.