After taking a full 24 hours to digest the Ravens 13-10 win last night, I have arrived at a conclusion. This Ravens team is better than last years team. They are better than the 2006 Ravens that went 13-3, the only other Ravens team to start 8-2. This Group of players is very very good.
I feel like the Ravens played tremendously last night. after going over the game a few times in all 22 format, i feel even stronger about that. The Steelers defense had by far their best game of the season. Ike Taylor might have had one of the best games of his career from a coverage standpoint. But the Ravens still found a way to win. The Steelers offense didn’t play as badly as many in the media have indicated. Byron Leftwich missed a few throws, no doubt about it. But has their ever been an NFL game where a quarterback didn’t miss at least one or two throws?
That brings us to the Ravens defense. It was clear on the first drive that the Ravens plan was to bring tremendous pressure and bet the house that Leftwich couldnt scramble and make plays. unfortunately that plan backfired and Leftwich took the Steelers down the field for a quick score capped by a 31 yard run by Leftwich himself. Jamison Hensley pointed out that Leftwich hasn’t rushed for 31 yards in a SEASON since 2006. that was a fluke play if there ever was one. After that 43 second drive, it was nothing but 59 minutes of pain for the Steelers offense. The Steelers were held to just 66 yards and 0 points for the remainder of the first half. things got slightly better for them in the second half, but they still only managed 3 points and they were never really a threat. Honestly, at the end of that game, did anyone on the planet think to themselves “Oh No, the Ravens left to much time on the clock for Byron Leftwich, He is going to score.”? I didn’t think so.
As a sidenote about Leftwich, I hate everything about the Steelers, but I have to give a big kudos to Leftwich. today he was diagnosed with 3 broken ribs and an undefined shoulder injury. the shoulder was an injury from the Chiefs game that he aggravated on the second play of the game, the ribs were given to him by the Ravens, probably by James Ihedigbo on his punishing sack on the safety blitz. That dude had to have been in a ton of pain, and he clearly played down the injury to the coaching staff and trainers and he fought through it like a champion. Big ups Leftwich.
The Steelers most impactful play may have come in the third quarter, not because it changed the game much(although it did keep the Steelers only scoring drive since the opener alive) but because it could hold the Ravens back moving forward. Ed Reed was called for a helmet to helmet hit on Emmanuel Sanders. Today, Reed was suspended one game for the hit. To me, this punishment is a bit extreme. only three players have been suspended for this type of hit(including Reed) and the other two were James Harrision and Broncos linebacker Joe Mays. Harrison had collected three fines in the space of 5 weeks for viscous hits, Reed has that many fines in 3 years. Non of Reeds Hits seem as malicious as a couple of Harrisons did either. that one last night was easily the least impactful hit to ever cause a suspension for helmet to helmet. The Joe Mays hit was on Matt Shaub on a play where Mays ripped Shaubs Helmet off and caused Shaub to lose a piece of his ear. That was also a pretty malicious hit. For Reed, the punishment doesn’t seem to fit the crime. If Reed had been getting his third fine of the season, that would be one thing, but this was his third in three years and it came on a hit where Reed clearly wasnt trying to “spear” a receiver, but just made a tackle high, Reed even made an attempt(unsuccessfully) to wrap up on the tackle. The hits harrison were suspended for(there were 2 in the game proceeding his suspension) were both knockout type hits where he made no attempt whatsoever to wrap up and make a tackle. He was just trying to blow somebody up. Reed is appealing his suspension and will receive an expedited appeal and should know the results on wednesday. this is a 50-50 situation and I wouldn’t be surprised either way, but my guess is that Reed gets the weekend off.
my last note is directed towards some of my fellow media members, and you know who you are. If you pick a team to win when they are playing with a backup QB, and you site the reason for them winning will be because the backup QB has the teams confidence and they are way better than you think and the offense wont see a drop off in production etc.. then you can’t come back after the team you picked loses because the QB couldn’t get the job done and say, Oh this win shouldn’t be taken seriously because they were missing their QB. that is two faces journalism and you know it. (Cough**Pete Prisco** Cough Cough).
The Ravens and their fans should feel good about this win. not only did they take down one of the best teams in the league on the road in one of the toughest stadiums to steal a win, but they stood up when it was gut check time and got the win that might define their season. Win this game, probably win the division, it was that simple and the Ravens got it done. They now hold a 2 game lead in the division and the only roadbump to sealing the deal will be when they play the Steelers in 2 weeks in Baltimore. I will give you a scenario though. If the Ravens win this week, it almost wont even matter. If the Ravens come into next week 9-2 and the Steelers manage to be 7-4, then the absolute best the Steelers can hope for is for the Ravens to lose at least one more game than they do from here on out, specifically one game to a common opponent(Giants, Bengals, Broncos) and even then, they might not get the tie breaker. if the Ravens can beat the Steelers in baltimore, the division Race will be all over except the crying.
Good night Ravens fans, enjoy Monday Night Football