Saturday, January 15, 2011

Ravens - Steelers First Half Diary -- The Home Team Turns It Over


On the initial kickoff, we get a clearly blown call by the refs on a good return by Ravens KR Demetrius Webb, which the Steelers have to throw the challenge flag on. Nice tackle by the kicker, Shaun Suisham, but that's never something you want to hear. After the correction, Baltimore starts at their own 35. QB Joe Flacco takes RB Ray Rice for the checkdown for five. A give to Rice goes for nothing on second, as the new Heinz Field sod starts him, and the line finishes the job. Third and five from the gun is a perfectly called throwback screen into a blitz, and TE Todd Heap goes for 25 easy yards. From the Steeler 42, Flaccos has all day and takes Rice, who wiggles through a few tacklers for three yards. The button to Heap goes through his hands, setting up another long third down. Figgie down at least here, not to mention early momentum. From the gun, Flacco gets it to Heap, but DB Ryan Clark wins a wrestling match on borderline DPI, and the pass falls incomplete. The CBS replay shows WR Anquan Boldin open and waving for the ball, but Flacco was locked on his TE; telling. Punter Sam Cook has a good record for pinning the opponent deep, but not this time, and the Steelers will start at their own 20.

RB Rashard Mendenhall for a short gain, and shockingly, WR Hines Ward comes out of the pile late and with a flag on the ground. The wideout is whistled for unnecessary roughness despite S Ed Reed giving as good as he gets, and the Ravens draw first blood in the referee battle. Second, if you count the bad kickoff call. From the gun on second and 19, QB Ben Roethlisberger takes WR Antonio Bryant on a bubble screen that gets seven. On third and 12 from the gun, the QB has time to find WR Mike Wallace on a slow deep corner, and the pass is pefect to move the chains. Real nice execution on that play. From the Steeler 37, they try a deep ball, and CB Joshua Wilson and Wallace pretty much have a war while the ball is in the air. It's called on Wallace, and the Steelers get the big DPI call for a 37-yard gain. Mendenhall for three around the right. On second, Ben has all day against a 3-man front, but takes it himself and gets six yards the hard way; no slide. Third and one is what the Steelers do best, and the give to RB Isaac Redman works to move the chains, as LB Ray Lewis missed the play badly. Creak, creak. Mendenhall blasts up the middle, and the offense is fortunate that a late hit on Reed from a lineman isn't called. From a power set, Mendenhall goes up the gut for the first, and this is downright manly from the home team. First and goal from the two is a give to Mendenhall, and he's stopped just shy of the end zone on a textbook tackle by Reed. Wow, he's good. Mendenhall has a little more luck in traffic on a give to the right, and that's six points for the home team as the crowd gives voice. Steelers 7, Ravens 0, and while neither defense looks as advertised just yet, Yellow is certainly feeling better about things.

Suisham's squib kick is ugly, but so are the Steeler coverage units, so starting on the 32 seems OK by Yellow. A first down throw to WR Derrick Mason goes for 10, but it's brought back on an OPI shove. CB Ike Taylor is down on a hit from Clark, and that would be a big loss. Taylor stays down long enough for commerce, but he seems OK afterwards. A screen to Rice looks better than it finishes for a five yard gain. Taylor returns. Flacco has time and Mason, but it stays out of the WR's hands as Purple goes at Taylor; they get the defensive hold call to get a first. Pretty obvious call. Rice with a nice stutter-step to get five on first. He gets it again for two on second down, setting up third and three. From the gun, Flacco has time and WR TJ Houshmanzadeh, who gets the first and has to discuss it for a half a minute afterwards, as Taylor gets away with a head butt. Yeesh. These teams don't like each other! Flacco on first misses Boldin on what looks like a pretty obvious case of offensive holding. A screen to RB Willis McGahee is some nice running by that noted feminist, and that's a first down at the Steeler 42. LB Lamar Woodley shakes a block beautifully and takes Flacco down for the first Yellow sack of the day. Flacco misses an open Boldin on a cross, and it's third and 15 from the Steeler 47. From the gun, Flacco goes deep to Mason just as the pressure gets to him, and a pretty late flag for DPI comes down. Wow. DB Anthony Madison is flagged, and I suppose that's a good call as the DB stumbled into the WR, but still, what a gift. Flacco tries Mason, but Taylor is all over it for the blocked incomplete. A give to Rice stops the string of seven straight passes, and the RB runs through S Troy Polamalu to take it to the house. Huge play, and a huge drive to answer for Purple. K Billy Cundiff gets the PAT, and we have matching penalty-assisted drives and a tie game. What, you thought this game wasn't going to stay tight?

KR Antonio Brown gets to the 25 with some nice effort, but another flag comes down for a hold. Roethlisberger tries TE Heath Miller, and takes a hit to the knee after the overthrow. Could have been a flag, but I suppose Ben is too athletic for that. From the gun on second, he pumps twice and gets nailed by DE Terrell Suggs on a play that is somehow called a live fumble. Purple runs it in for a score as no one reacts for a long time; we will have a challenge, but I don't think it's coming back. Big ups to Purple's Corey Redding on picking up the live ball. Huge mistake by Roethlisberger for not being aware of the rush if it stands, and it does. Thanks to that kickoff problem from the start, Yellow is now out of challenges for the rest of the game. Wow, things are looking bad for the home team in a hurry here; two scores in less than half a minute. Cundiff for the PAT, and it's Ravens 14, Steelers 7.

Brown to his own 30. Mendenhall for three on first down as Yellow lets the clock run off. After even more commerce, Roethlisberger refuses to get rid of it despite huge traffic, and it's a sack. Third and 11 from the gun has time, but he misses Wallace by a good ten yards high and away. A good punt and coverage sets up Purple inside their own 20, and the Steeler defense is going to have some plays, and fast.

DB Ryan McFadden is off with an injury. A give to Rice on first goes nowhere, as DT Casey Hampton eats it. Poor play call, really. From the gun on second, Flacco has Housh for 15 and a first, and the Raven WRs are winning their matchups. Nice pass by Flacco as well. From the gun, Boldin is dropped by Clark for a loss on a perfect tackle. On second from the gun, DT Ziggy Hood takes down a dancing Rice on a give. Third and 11 is another big down, and from the gun, Flacco takes Rice on a screen that the line sniffs out, and the fun replay shows Polamalu running 40 yards all over the field to be there at the close. Cook's punt is fielded at the five by Brown, and while I get that the returner might have thought that outkicking the coverage is a bonus, it's still a mistake to field it. A hold makes things worse, and Yellow will start on their own 4.

Mendenhall runs 15 yards to get one. He dances again on second for two yards, and the Steeler offensive line isn't impressing anyone yet. Third and long from the gun sees the offense with a free play, and Roethlisberger can't connect deep. There is also an illegal contact call for the automatic first, as Webb is flagged. I think we've seen more screen time for the refs than any actual player in this game. From the 12, the pass is tipped and hangs forever, but Lewis has his lumbago act up and can't get there. Near disaster for Yellow. On second, Mendenhall gets five, but the ball comes out and Purple gets it; Yellow can't review, not that I think it would matter. Reed gets the ball, and that's a clear fumble. Wow, the Pittsburgh offense is just murdering them, and this is the textbook way to lose a home playoff game. Purple starts at the Yellow 16.

Flacco takes McGahee on a checkdown for four yards. The RB gets it again, but Clark and Woodly are all over him for a loss. Third and seven from the gun sees Flacco buying time, then taking Rice on a checkdown after faking the scramble. The RB gains the sticks on a whiff by Polamalu, and this hasn't been his best game. First and goal from the five is McGahee for a yard, and we're not far away from Purple taking a huge lead. Flacco throws it away on second down, and I'm a little surprised that a clip isn't called on the play. Third down has been killing Yellow all game, and this one does as well, as Flacco finds Heap for the score. Yellow picked each other on that one, with Clark not getting there. Cundiff's PAT makes it Ravens 21, Steelers 7, and the road team isn't far away from ending the drama, especially with their defense looking like sharks in a feeding frenzy.

During the commerce, we see a clip of Steeler Fan losing it on the Santonio Holmes Super Bowl touchdown, and that didn't work for the Saints last weekened, either. Brown to the 25 on a middling return. From the gun on first, Roethlisberger is sacked again by Suggs. Yeesh. Third sack in 25 minutes. An out to TE Heath Miller gets back a nice chunk, setting up third and six as the offense goes to a hurry up. Seems odd to me, and the QB audibles slowly... so slowly that it's a delay of game penalty. Wow, I don't think that's ever happened in the history of the league before. Third and 11 from the gun is a turnover ready down, but the QB breaks the bad juju with a wobbly conversion to WR Emanuel Sanders for 14 and a first. Staying in the slow hurry, RB Mewelde Moore gets five as the teams exchange grievances. Air those grievances! Super slow give to Moore works for seven and a first. Slow hurry again -- I guess this is keeping Purple from substituting? -- and from the gun, Ben takes forever to get it to Miller for seven yards. That's the two minute warning, and while this hasn't been a pretty drive, at least it's been a drive, one that Yellow desperately needed.

After commerce on second and two, Ben pumps then finds Sanders for a nice gain and the first. Slow hurry is answered by a Ravens timeout, and I guess there is a method to this madness. Suggs returns after some trainer help. From the Purple 28, a rollout throw to Miller doesn't connect; inaccurate and the TE wasn't all that open. He then misses an open Sanders, and it's third and 10 with 1:13 left. You don't want a long figgie in this place. Ben from the gun on third takes Wallace, and it's ended quickly by DB Chris Carr. From the 25, Yellow goes for it -- really? -- on fourth and seven, but it's just trickery to get the clock down, and Yellow calls time with 26 seconds left. Odd drive, but a reasonable enough result if Suisham connects from 43 yards. With the winds up a bit, he doesn't adjust, and that's a miss. Woof. Purple sits on it, and that's the half. Lots of boos from the Yinzer faithful; more after the half.

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