By Samuel Njoku
The Baltimore Ravens went into Pittsburgh to battle the Steelers in round one of the heated rivalry in the 2012 season. Pittsburgh would field a unit without Big Ben. Baltimore, which struggles on the road, would go against the top defense in the NFL. The result is what most expected: the game would be another defensive slugfest as the Ravens came out on top 13-10. And while Baltimore should be ecstatic to get a win on the road against a division rival, there is still plenty of work left to be done.
The Ravens’ recent struggles on the road have been due to a lack of commitment as it pertains to running the football. If Cam Cameron was going to get this offense back on track, he would have to do it with Ray Rice. The Ravens didn’t get much done on the ground as Rice carried the ball 20 times for only 40 yards. The yards don’t mean as much as the carries. Consistently running the football kept the defense honest and kept Flacco relatively clean most of the game. Pittsburgh was able to get pressure on Flacco, but not as much as in previous meetings. Cameron once again made questionable calls throughout the game. but his game plan coming into this contest was solid.
After the game, Dean Pees was given the game ball. And he deserves it. Since the bye week, Baltimore’s defense has played great football. Pees has done a good job of putting the defense in great position and calling blitzes at the right time. On one particular play, Leftwich was sacked on a delayed blitz from the safety. The play set the tone for the rest of the game. Baltimore was the bully in this contest as they manhandled the Steelers in their own house.
The Ravens’ offense was pedestrian at best against Pittsburgh on Sunday, and it started with Joe Flacco. Usually, Flacco struggles when he isn’t given enough time in the pocket, but in this contest, the Ravens’ offensive line gave Flacco enough time to make plays on the field. Flacco made a few poor decisions that could have cost the Ravens big time. Every once in a while, Joe will gamble and take a shot down field with a receiver in double coverage. You can’t do that against Pittsburgh. Of course, Flacco wasn’t all bad either. One play that stands out took place when he was flushed out the pocket and responded by lofting a beautiful pass to Ray Rice down the sideline.
Speaking of Ray Rice, he was a no show in this game. The Steelers made it a point to take him out of the game. The holes simply weren’t there for the running back. On two occasions, Rice had a chance to go for the first down and instead made an attempt for a big play. He failed on both attempts. He was visibly frustrated at his lack of production. But Flacco got him involved with a few dump offs that really helped keep the chains moving for the team. The Ravens offense went up against the best defense in the league, and it showed.
Baltimore played perhaps their greatest game of the season on the defensive side of the ball. Besides the debacle that took place when Byron Leftwich ran 31 yards for a score, the Ravens played sound football. The Ravens took advantage of Leftwich with a lot of blitzes to rattle the backup QB. The Ravens smelled blood and took advantage. Huge hits set the tone for the entire game and it kept the fans out of this one. Nobody wins ugly games quite like the Ravens. This is the type of game Baltimore is used to playing. It was evident early on that the Steelers offense would not be able to muster anything against this unit. Baltimore would have to beat themselves – they didn’t.
Justin Tucker missed a big kick that could have provided cushion for the Ravens. He finished 2/3 on the day. Jacoby Jones continues to make his mark as the best returner in the NFL. This time, Jones returned a 61 yard punt for a touchdown. In this contest, the special teams scored every point for the Ravens. They prove every week that they’re the best unit on the team. And without them, the Ravens don’t beat Pittsburgh,
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Samuel Njoku was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Samuel has covered the Ravens for Examiner.com since 2010. Prior to 2010, Samuel was an avid blogger and radio personality in Salisbury, MD. He can be reached for comments at SamuelN870@gmail.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.