Ravens Wild Card Recap: January Joe And The Michigan Man Sink The Steelers

suggs pick
 

Saturday was one for the books. If there was one notch Joe Flacco didn’t have on his belt yet, one thing missing on his resume… it was a playoff win at Heinz Field. No longer. The Ravens were everything the Steelers weren’t. We were physical, disciplined, relentless. They were soft, overanxious and laid down as soon as the chips were stacked against them. And with the Bengals getting their traditional first round dousing yesterday, the Ravens are the last men standing in the AFC North. The Steelers can keep their cute little division crown, we got the last laugh. We get a date with the Pats next Saturday and I couldn’t be more excited at the opportunity of knocking them out yet again. You just know we’re the last team they wanted to see in the AFC. But first, we gotta recap this great win. On to the recap…

 

Pregame

Any pre-game nerves I had were put to rest as soon as I saw this…

jim harbaugh

The Michigan Man himself donning the black and purple. Two Harbaugh’s on one sideline was all I needed to see. Name one loss by an NFL team with 2 Harbaugh’s on the same sideline, you can’t. Rout city. Spat coffee like you read about. The Ravens always get their man. Seeing that man on the sideline next Saturday at Gillette is going to bring me so much joy.

 

joe suit (h/t @lukedolan3)

This certainly didn’t hurt either. Joe looking so cool, so collected, so confident as he arrived at Heinz Field. If we’re being honest, he could’ve shown up in anything but a leg brace and I would’ve felt great about leaving with a win. Always got a chance with Joe. On to the action…

 

 

1st Quarter

q1

Huge theme of the first quarter was the bend, don’t break mentality that the Ravens have maintained defensively the past couple of years. The Ravens were stout inside their own territory all night. The Steelers were able to move the ball inside the Baltimore 35 on the first two drives of the game, but only came away with 3 points because we hunkered down and made plays. Ngata notched a big sack to force a punt on the opening drive, and Dumervil forced a FG on the next drive with a 3rd down sack. With the offense struggling out of the gate, these two drives went a long way to winning the football game.

 

2nd Quarter

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Joe Flacco set the tone for the rest of the evening with a big time 80 yard TD drive at the beginning of the 2nd. A penalty, a couple big throws to Owen Daniels, a small dose of Forsett, and Pierce was able to punch it in for 7 to take the lead.

pierce

The offense never looked back after that drive. They went TD, FG, End of Half, FG, TD, Fumble, FG, TD, Safety, End game. Only the safety with the game in hand was a 3 and out. Offensive dominance on the road by a dominant QB.

The Steelers responded with a long FG drive, aided by a clumsy 12 men on the field penalty on 4th down. Every single football team I’ve ever known has a walkthrough where the team goes over who’s on the field in every scenario on special teams. There’s zero chance the Ravens are an exception to this process. Somehow a 12th man ended up out there, and that’s on him. Would’ve liked to have seen Harbaugh catch it and call a TO before the cameras caught him looking foolish. Luckily the defense held up in the red zone again and we didn’t pay to the tune of a TD.

harbs

 

 

The two teams traded FG drives before half. The Ravens drive was thanks to a big catch on a deep ball by Steve Smith, and a typical scumbag penalty by Pittsburgh. I said in my preview that discipline would play a major part in this game. Well the Ravens committed only 2 penalties for 14 yards, and the Steelers committed 8 for 114, so yeah.. I’d say we won that battle. This was probably the dumbest by the Steelers all night. Didn’t even faze the young kid Crockett.

gillmore

 

 

3rd Quarter

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Ravens took complete control in the 3rd. Two scoring drives, another deep ball to Steve Smith, another PI call on a deep ball to Torrey Smith… good things happen when you air it out. Most of the year we moved the ball conservatively on the ground, albeit effectively. Down the stretch, whether it be the injuries to both starting tackles or fatigue or even teams just flat out figuring us out, we struggled offensively. It was time to switch things up. We’ve got a QB with a live arm, we’ve got receivers with great speed… Let them go make plays. Let your Super Bowl MVP QB be the winner that he is. And that’s what Kubiak did on Saturday. And it was fun to watch.

The play of the entire game in my opinion was the 3rd down TD throw to Torrey. Flacco did a good job of feeling the pressure and flushing out to the left, but all the kudos goes to LG Kelechi Osemele. James Hurst worked hard in keeping James Harrison in check all night, but Harrison was set to make a game-changing play when Osemele flattened him just in the nick of time. What could’ve been a critical strip-sack was instead a TD for the Ravens, and Osemele deserves the props.

flacco to torrey

 

4th Quarter

q4

Up 20-9 going into the 4th, Justin Forsett coughed up the football when he ran into his own man’s back near midfield. It was exactly the kind of seismic momentum shift the Steelers needed at that moment, and I honestly thought it was going to be the death of us. I remember vividly the Ray Rice fumble when we were up 2 scores that changed the last Ravens-Steelers playoff bout for the worse. Felt like deja vu, especially when the Steelers punched it in immediately afterward.

forsett fumble

 

Sucks to admit, but the clock might’ve hit midnight on Forsett’s cinderella season. He had 36 yards on 16 carries, with 32 of those yards coming on the first TD drive. I’m sure the injuries on the line aren’t helping, but you gotta think he’s starting to wear down. Maybe he’ll bounce back next week, maybe he won’t. Hope I’m wrong.

 

Huge response to the Steelers TD with a FG drive of our own. Would’ve gone 3 and out, but Joe found Owen Daniels for a huge 3rd and 13 conversion. From there Justin Tucker nails a 52 yarder to push the lead back to 8. Kid is nails, best kicker in the game by a mile.

tucker

 

Terrell Suggs will get a ton of the credit for his interception and rightfully so, but that play was created by the constant pressure we put on Roethlisberger. We made life uncomfortable for him all night and Dean Pees deserves a ton of credit. On that play, he put Deangelo Tyson on the center, and put 3 guys on each side outside the tackle. Tyson feigned blitz and dropped into coverage, and they couldn’t handle the blitz from the right side. It was the kind of exotic blitz the Ravens used to run constantly with Rex Ryan overseeing the defense. Those defenses changed games with turnovers. It’s great to see us get back to our roots.

 

Flacco followed up with a TD on the very next play with an easy rollout throw to Crockett Gillmore. It was curtains right then and there. The coffin door was closed, and the last nail was driven home when Roethlisberger floated an ugly interception right to Darian Stewart with 3 minutes left.

     

 

This win tastes oh so sweet. So much better beating rivals on the road and seeing an empty stadium as those final seconds tick off the clock. We’ve made it a habit at this point. It’s not January if Joe doesn’t win at least one on the road. On top of that, this might’ve been the last hurrah for Troy Polamalu. This photo alone was worth the win.  

polamalu 2

 

Bring on New England. They’ve got a helluva team up there, but we’re firing on all cylinders. It’s no secret January Joe has owned Tom Brady in postseason play. The fear of god has been put into New England, and we’re playing with house money. No one expected us to be here. We thrive off that mentality. Saturday can’t come soon enough. We’re rolling! NEXT STOP GILLETTE!!!!