I’m still shocked at how the Ravens utterly dominated the action today in Baltimore but perhaps no one is more stunned that their opponents today. This was a huge statement game from the purple and black as they drew first blood in the race to the AFC North title.
Here are some other thoughts rattling around my head after today’s shellacking.
- I guess the Offensive Line didn’t need to practice together after all. They allowed Joe Flacco to get quite comfortable with his progressions and were more than solid in the run game. (170 Total Yds. Rushing) That meant that my biggest concern with this match-up was rendered null and void.
- My second worry was turnovers and that was taken care of as Baltimore’s defense pounded away all day at Pittsburgh to cause seven total while the Ravens did not give the ball away once. There’s your ball game.
- Baltimore has 20 new players on the roster and they all had a hand in some way in today’s win. The new vets especially, as Bryant McKinnie seemed to swallow up blockers, Vonta Leach was always pushing forward and Bernard Pollard was laying hits in the backfield.
- Joe Flacco was near perfect thanks to fantastic protection from his line. Considering all the flack he took over the off-season this victory has to be especially sweet for him. You could see development today as he scanned the field and made some excellent tight throws. The first drive told everyone in the stadium and at home that the 2011 Offense will be a different brand than before. Find a new storyline media. Flacco has beaten Roethlisberger.
- The stars came out today for Baltimore. That wasn’t the case last season. Ray Rice was tough all day. He’s going to have a MONSTER 2011. Haloti Ngata showed why he’s one of the most dominant defensive players -period. Ed Reed had two interceptions and on his birthday no less. The last game analysis I wrote when the Ravens lost in the playoffs was all about making plays. They imploded in the second half and dropped passes. Not today. Everyone was in on the act to contribute.
- Memo to the CBS Studio talking heads – you were wrong. It wasn’t so much that they were unanimously wrong – I’ll admit I was too. I’ll call myself out before anyone else does. It was the almost pompous way they all delivered their reasons why the Steelers would win. Marino was the worst by far. That mindset spilled over into the game broadcast as Jim “Hello Friends” Nantz and Phil Simms seemed to echo the studio’s talking points. Simms also seemed stuck on uniform color (Ravens White is much cooler than Steeler Black) and how muggy the weather was on the field. Not their best work.
- Chuck Pagano. I like you a lot more than Greg Mattison. You did have a Mattison moment going Three-Man rush while the Steelers were the Red Zone. That led to the only Pittsburgh TD of the day. Otherwise you attacked and attacked and attacked again. Lots of energy there. I also must give props to Cam Cameron who put together a stellar game plan with so many new faces at his disposal.
- Even though Joe Flacco had a stellar game the Ravens have rediscovered themselves. The identity crisis is behind them, they are a run first team. A 36-yard blast over Bryant McKinnie’s side set the tone quickly. While they re-established the smashmouth style they also showed an ability to stay aggressive and throw the ball as well and use the middle of the field. That balance and dose of unpredictability will give the Ravens offense something that it’s lacked for years. If the protection can stay solid this offense could develop into something very fun to watch.
- Lee Evans didn’t catch a ball all day but he was still important. His double team left Anquan Bolin in single coverage for the game’s first TD. Evans looked a step slow and may still be recovering from ankle issues but he still impacted the game.
- Todd who? Blasphemy I know. The two headed Tight End of Dickson and Dennis Pitta combined for 7 catches for 104 and a touchdown. Each brings something different to this offense and it was exciting to watch them work today.
- (Extra point) Terrell Suggs was a Pittsburgh terror once again and sacked Roethlisberger three times and passed Peter Boulware to become the Ravens all-time sacks leader. Ed Reed also had two interceptions – one coming off of a classic Roethlisberger playground dash around the pocket only to find Reed instead of a Steeler. It’s what Reed is known for. Yawn. He has a knack for being in the right spot.
- (Second Extra Point) Lardarius Webb atoned for his blunder in last season’s playoff game with an excellent effort and was solid as the Nickel back. He also led the team with 11 tackles today. His play will be important moving forward since Jimmy Smith may be out a few weeks with a High ankle sprain.