Week 8 Game Recap: Baltimore Ravens 19, Pittsburgh Steelers 20
What you need to know
Before the game John Madden said that the Ravens needed to open up the offense and that it had become too conservative. To Baltimore’s credit, they gave a valiant effort in trying to do so. Anthony Wright put up 44 passes, completing 25 of them for 252 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. He completed four passes of over 20 yards, and he engineered five scoring drives, including three in a row in the fourth quarter. The problem was that all of them resulted in field goals with the exception of their opening drive in the first quarter.
After Pittsburgh took nearly nine minutes off the clock with their opening drive, Wright responded and hit Chester Taylor for a ten yard touchdown pass to even the score at seven late in the first quarter to cap a nine-play, 74 yard drive. But the running game would give Wright little help in the drives to follow, and it proved difficult for him to carry the team against the Steelers’ defense. Jamal Lewis (17 carries, 61 yards) ran harder than recent public criticism has indicated, but he still lacked explosive power and could not find a groove to help Baltimore’s struggling offense.
Derek Mason was the top target for Wright catching seven balls for 91 yards and Chester Taylor, who had a tough game on the ground with just nine yards on eight carries, caught five passes for 55 yards, and Todd Heap reeled in five receptions for 38 yards. Wright completed passes to nine different receivers.
Linebacker Tommy Polley did his best Ray Lewis imitation to lead the Ravens with nine tackles in subbing for the injured Lewis (hamstring) and kicker Matt Stover booted four field goals, including one from 49 yards, which now stands as the longest field goal made in Heinz Field history.
The Steelers broke away from their conventional game plan against a notoriously tough Baltimore defense and tried to attack a Ravens’ secondary that was without all-pro safety Ed Reed. While Ben Roethlisberger put up pretty good numbers (18-30, 177 yards, two TD, one INT), he did not look exceptional. Roethlisberger looked sharp on the first drive completing seven of eight passes, including a four yard touchdown pass to Heath Miller. He looked even better on the Steelers’ game winning drive completing two passes for 37 yards into Baltimore territory, before the running game put them in position for the winning field goal.
Lingering effects from his injured left knee he suffered three weeks ago, plus early punishment he took to his right knee in the first quarter kept Roethlisberger off his game, and he was often hurried into throwing early, which resulted in errant passes. He went into the locker room briefly in the first quarter to have his knee looked at but returned within minutes. As usual, Hines Ward (8-75) was there to bail the team out with some clutch and timely catches, and Heath Miller kept his streak of touchdown catches at four games with two TD receptions, both from inside the ten yard line.
The Steelers ran the ball just 13 times in the first half and 28 overall. Willie Parker led Pittsburgh with 14 carries for 63 yards and a long of 16. Jerome Bettis, who had a hard time rolling early on, got 18 yards on his final three carries to get Pittsburgh into field goal range to win the game.
With the Ravens throwing as much as they did, Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor and Chris Hope combined for 28 total tackles in the secondary while Taylor and Hope each had an interception.
What you ought to know
|QB Anthony Wright, Pass: 25 - 44 - 252 - 1 TD / 2 INT, Rush: 2 - 2 - 0|
Wright hasn’t had much of a chance to display his talents given Baltimore’s typical brand of bland offense, but the Ravens allowed Wright to explore downfield and he was able to keep drives alive with six third down conversion passes. He generally made good decisions and when he wasn’t rifling passes to Derrick Mason for 13 yards a pop, he used Chester Taylor and Todd Heap as check downs for good yardage. In the first quarter after Wright hit Mason for 31 yards, he was flushed from the pocket but found Taylor in the flat who ran it in for a 13 yard touchdown. On every scoring drive, Wright completed at least one pass of 15 yards or more. His biggest flaw was early in the third quarter when he forced a flea-flicker pass into double coverage for an interception. His other INT was at the end of the first half on a Hail Mary attempt.
|RB Jamal Lewis, Rush: 17 - 61 - 0, Rec: 1 - 0 - 0 (1 targets)|
Lewis has been feeling the heat from the media and fans lately on his rather uninspiring running style this year. Adding insult in injury, Lewis hinted this week that his unresolved contract issues might be playing a small role in his mental state during the games. Factor in off season ankle surgery where his only rehab assignments took place behind bars, and Lewis is in a tough spot. Despite all that, Lewis put his best foot forward in gaining 61 yards on 17 carries. He ran with purpose and showed many second efforts in trying to maximize his production. There just weren’t many holes for him to choose from. Even when he looked good, it seemed to end badly. He showed good effort early on a play in the second quarter where the Ravens were pinned on their own one yard line as Lewis escaped a safety and chugged for 11 yards but was stripped of the ball. The Steelers converted the fumble into a field goal.
Taylor is supposed to provide the spark that Lewis has been lacking, but he too was unable to shake up the running game with just nine yards on eight carries. As the third down receiving back, however, Taylor played a great game catching five passes for 55 yards with a touchdown. He took an Anthony Wright pass in the flat and ran ten yards then dove over two Steelers defenders with his arm extended over the pylon for the final three yards. He had two other receptions go for 15 and 16 yards.
Mason continued his consistent ways with another solid performance. His seven receptions and 91 yards marked the sixth time this year in which he’s led the Ravens in receiving. He hauled in a 31 yard pass from Wright on their first drive which helped set up Chester Taylor’s 13 yard touchdown pass, and he factored in four of the five Baltimore scoring drives.
Hymes replaced injured Mark Clayton in the starting lineup but his big frame (6-3, 211) was good for only one reception and 21 yards despite several attempts to use his size. He caught his pass in the two minute drill at the end of the first half, and he was the target on an intercepted Hail Mary pass a few plays later.
Johnson’s role was limited with one catch for 12 yards.
Heap had a strong first half (four receptions, 31 yards) including a 22 yard reception in the second quarter to put the Ravens inside the five yard line where they ended up with a field goal. Heap’s remaining receptions were short dump-offs as he averaged just 4.25 yards a catch. He generally had trouble getting open downfield and was not an option when Wright was under pressure.
Wilcox chipped in with a six yard reception on the opening scoring drive and finished with 17 yards on three catches.
Many kickers have had troubles with the swirling winds at Heinz Field, but Stover has shown the ability to fend off such elements in the past, and nearly won the game for Baltimore last night. While Stover did push a 43 yard attempt off the right goal post, he nailed field goals of 22, 40, 47 and 49 yards. The 49 yarder is the longest field goal converted in the stadium’s brief history and his 47 yarder occurred with 3:21 left in the game. He made his only extra point attempt.
The Ravens were able to clamp down on the Steelers' running game even without the services of Ray Lewis. Tommy Polley and Kelly Gregg combined for 16 tackles to help limit Pittsburgh to 101 yards on 28 carries (3.6 avg.) But on the final drive, they allowed Verron Haynes to a seven yard draw and Jerome Bettis 18 yards on three carries, which was plenty for a game winning field goal.
The Ravens put a good thumping on Ben Roethlisberger and trapped him into throwing into double coverage on several occasions. But they couldn’t find an answer for Heath Miller in the red zone or Hines Ward, and like the run defense, the secondary gave up two huge plays of 14 and 23 yards on the final game winning drive for the Steelers.
Roethlisberger completed seven of his first eight passes on Pittsburgh’s opening drive that took 8:57 off the clock and covered 79 yards on 15 plays. He finished with a four yard pass to Heath Miller for a 7-0 lead. But Roethlisberger took several big hits in the first quarter, and was taken to the locker room to examine his right knee, not the left knee that was previously injured three weeks ago. He came back immediately but with his movement limited and constant pressure from the Ravens’ defense, Roethlisberger wasn’t nearly as effective completing 11 of his final 22 attempts. Even the commentators noted that he seemed to be grimacing and in pain. He did find Miller for another touchdown in the third quarter, and he rallied to hit Antwaan Randle El and Quincy Morgan for 14 and 23 yards respectively on the final drive to help put the Steelers in position to kick a winning field goal. Early reports were that his right knee was twisted and he’ll have it reexamined today. He was able to use his left knee successfully for a 33 yard pooch punt in the second quarter that pinned the Ravens on their own one yard line.
Parker was solid but unable to repeat last week’s stellar performance as he rushed for 63 yards on 14 carries. He also added 18 yards receiving. Both of Parker’s long runs came on consecutive plays where he took a screen pass for ten yards, and followed up with an inside out run for 16 yards in the second quarter. It’s important to note that Parker was not on the field all three times the Steelers had the ball inside the Ravens’ 12.
Bettis entered the game much earlier than anticipated, but was not able to punish the Raven’s front seven like he is used to do doing against other opponents. While he didn’t lose any yardage, most of his gains came in bits of one and two yards at a time. He came through when needed most late in the fourth quarter when he took consecutive runs to the left side for 11, five and two yards to put the Steelers into solid field goal range.
Haynes was not in on every third down situation and only got one carry, but it was on the final drive and it went for seven yards down to Baltimore’s 35 yard line.
Ward was his old reliable self as he caught passes low, high, in traffic, on third downs and even after being tipped twice. Ward had eight catches for 75 yards, including four on the opening drive all for first downs. He made the highlight reel with a pass that was tipped twice, first by himself in an effort to thwart an interception, and then again by Chris McAllister. Ward plucked it from the air and was immediately flattened. To no ones surprise he held on and bounced right up to signal his own first down.
Randle El had only managed 13 receptions before last night, and didn’t add much to his totals, but he contributed with a 12 yard catch on their second touchdown drive and a 14 yarder on their game winning drive in the fourth quarter. He had one rush for 5 yards.
Morgan has been steadily making more and more big plays for Pittsburgh each week. Last night he put a swift move on Chris McAllister in getting open for a 23 yard pass to put Pittsburgh in to Ravens’ territory in the final two minutes of play just before their game winning field goal. He also had another huge kick return, this time for 59 yards.
Wilson celebrated Halloween by impersonating a ghost and was nowhere to be found.
With two more touchdown receptions last night Miller has caught touchdown passes four weeks in a row to tie a franchise record last set in 1991 by Eric Green. He now has six for the year tying him with Antonio Gates and is the 2005 version of Bubba Franks in the red zone as all of his scores have come inside 16 yards with three of them from inside the five yard line.
Reed converted two field goals, a 42 yard kick and the game winning 37 yarder plus two extra points.
The Steelers yielded 22 yards to Jamal Lewis on the Ravens’ opening drive but bottled him and Chester Taylor up from that point on to the tune of 70 yards on 20 carries. James Farrior had nine total tackles.
The Steelers gave up some big gains between 20-31 yards, but never let any receiver get behind them. They let Chester Taylor roam free underneath and Derrick Mason in zone coverage, but also kept Baltimore out of the end zone after their first quarter drive. Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor and Chris Hope had 28 total tackles combined with Taylor and Hope adding an interception each.