Posted by Andy Benoit
All season long, T.J. Houshmandzadeh has been carping for more balls to come his way. On fourth-and-18 on Baltimore’s final drive at Pittsburgh, it was Housh who let the pigskin bounce off his mitts. It was one of a handful of mistakes made by the Ravens during a second half that included three turnovers, a holding penalty to negate Lardarius Webb’s punt return score and, on the series before Housh’s drop, an equally egregious drop by Anquan Boldin in the end zone.
But before we declare that Baltimore lost the game Saturday night, let’s acknowledge everything Pittsburgh did to win it. On the final touchdown drive, Ben Roethlisberger, who had a few accuracy issues on the night, completed a chains-moving strike to Hines Ward on third-and-10. A few plays later, on third and forever, he launched a bomb to Antonio Brown, who “David Tyree’d” the ball against his helmet inside the five. It was a brilliant play-call by offensive coordinator Bruce Arians; Roethlisberger’s pass would either fall incomplete or be picked off for what would amount to a really good punt. Or, it would be caught near the goal-line to set up Rashard Mendenhall's go-ahead touchdown.
As many plays as the Steelers offense made late in the game, it was the defense that carried the night. The Steelers sacked Joe Flacco five times. James Harrison was overshadowed by Terrell Suggs’ monstrous performance (three sacks, two tackles for a loss and the forced fumble in the second quarter on the play where Cory Redding was the only player who realized that the whistle hadn’t blown). But it was Harrison who exploited the one-on-one mismatch against left tackle Michael Oher (a bright young player but one whom raised some serious questions down the stretch) and took over in the fourth. Harrison finished with three sacks and a host of quarterback hurries.
Harrison was complemented by a multitude of unsung defensive heroes wearing black and gold. Up-and-coming defensive end Ziggy Hood was stout against the run. Ryan Clark was the most dominant safety on the field, registering a handful of openfield tackles in the first half and picking off Joe Flacco during the momentum swing in the third quarter. And, finally, maligned nickelback William Gay was brilliant stepping in on the outside role for injured Bryant McFadden.
The Ravens, with all their mistakes, didn’t do themselves any favors in the second half. But isn’t it funny how mistakes seem to occur more when you’re facing a great team?
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