Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Postgame Report Card: Steelers 23, Ravens 20 (OT)

The word of the game is... disappointing. In a game where the Ravens could have taken control of the AFC North, they could simply not keep their composure and let a lead slip away. Kudos to this team for coming back and forcing overtime, particularly behind a rookie quarterback, but this was a game that should have been sewn up and wasn’t. A terribly disappointing game for a Ravens fan.

And just a note: why does this have to be our blog's 100th post?

Offense - Overall Grade: B
Quarterbacks: C

Flacco played well enough to win, and for a rookie quarterback under those conditions his grade easily could have been higher. However, he still waited too long in the pocket, failed to protect the football on a few key occasions and got away with several throws that could have been intercepted.
Running Backs: C+
This unit did make some key plays, and had some stretches in which it was able to control the game. The difficulty was that the running game was not consistently solid, and that was one of many factors that led to Pittsburgh getting back into the game. Traditionally this unit has taken over when the Ravens obtained a second half lead, but they failed to do so on Monday night.
Wide Receivers: B-
Derrick Mason played a monster of a game, catching everything possible and taking immense hits in the meantime. However, he was the only receiver to be significantly involved in the offense, and that’s going to need to change.
Tight Ends: C-
Todd Heap has to start showing up. Zero catches for the Ravens’ all-pro tight end, not to mention very poor blocking. Wilcox caught an easy touchdown pass, but aside from that this group was a nonfactor yet again.
Offensive Line: B
The offensive line was not great by any means, but considering the opponent and the environment I would say they did an admirable job overall. They generally gave Flacco good time and they occasionally opened up good holes in the running game. The consistency is not there yet, though, and that’s another easy factor that can be pointed to as to why the Ravens failed to win this game.

Defense - Overall Grade: A
Defensive Line: A

Superb job, as always. This unit controlled the line of scrimmage from the opening kickoff to the bitter end. Regardless of the running back injuries, none of Pittsburgh’s backs were going to find room against that defensive front.
Linebackers: B+
The linebackers did play exceptionally well, as they harried Ben Roethlisberger all game and stuffed the parade of Steelers’ running backs. The grade is marked down because of Jarrett Johnson’s personal foul penalty in the third quarter that, in my opinion, led to the Ravens losing this football game.
Defensive Backs: B+
All in all a very solid job by the Ravens’ defensive backfield, but a few key lapses keeps this grade from being an A. There were still times when they lost receivers (Hines Ward) running free, and tackling as always is a concern.

Special Teams - Overall Grade: B
Kicker: B

Stover took care of business on field goals (2-2), and did a fairly good job of kicking deep. Only a few kickoffs had a chance at being returnable.
Punter: A+
Arguably the best performance of the night, Sam Koch kept the Ravens in this football game. On eight punts he averaged 47.4 yards and pinned the Steelers twice within the 20. Fantastic performance.
Returners: C-
Yamon Figurs had one of his worst games as a Raven. He was hesitant and made consistently poor decisions with the football. For this game, I’ll chalk it up to rust because of his week off.
Coverage: B
Figurs didn’t get very much help at all from his blocking, but the coverage unit was able to hold down Santonio Holmes and Mewelde Moore to under 20 yards a kick return and under 5 yards a punt return.

Coaching - Overall Grade: B+
Offensive: B

Cam did an excellent job with the offense, although not in a winning effort. Certainly things could have gone better but to be able to get that much production out of a rookie starter is impressive under these conditions. It did seem, however, that the Ravens’ offense was far more vanilla than in past weeks and didn’t have many of the same wrinkles. Where was the hurry-up we saw in the first two games?
Defensive: A
Even though the defense let them back in the game, it’s hard to fault them—they controlled the Steelers nearly all game, and one of the touchdowns against Baltimore was on defense. They had one slip by them in the overtime period, but there’s not much that can be done about it.

And for my MVP/LVP...
MVP (Most Valuable Player) – Joe Flacco –
I know I gave him a C, and I know that he made some crucial mistakes; however, Flacco did rally the team back to score the tying touchdown in the fourth quarter. For a rookie to show that in his third start, on MNF at Heinz Field, is MVP-worthy.
LVP (Least Valuable Player) – Jarrett Johnson – I know I gave the linebackers a B+, and I know that he played a good game; however, he made the single most boneheaded play of this game. His 15-yard personal foul penalty was wholly inexcusable and gave the Steelers momentum when they had none and were down by ten. And if you think I’m going to let this go…

Bonus grade:
Discipline: D- - I won’t let this go. There was hope that with Harbaugh (and this might still be the case later in his tenure) we had seen the last of the Ravens gagging on national television and looking like immature fools. Unfortunately this hope was misplaced, because the Ravens committed the same silly penalties in prime time that they have been for years. When will they stop embarrassing themselves?

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