|Third Time's A Charm City...|
|Written by Cotter|
|January 17, 2011 18:33|
If I started out my recap of this game with any other statement than "holy shit," I'd be doing what happened at Heinz Field this past weekend a disservice.
You've probably heard it said several thousand different ways already, but this was easily one of the most exciting Steeler games EVER PLAYED - playoffs or otherwise.
The way things went in the first half obviously left a lot to be desired...
But football games aren't typically won in the first 30 minutes, despite the obvious impact what happens in those minutes has on the ultimate outcome.
The Steelers made some early mistakes, and they knew it.
They went into that locker room knowing the Ravens were lucky to be up 21-7.
They went into that locker room with a bad taste in their mouths - one that Gatorade couldn't wash out; one that would only go away if they were able to step back onto the field and turn the tide.
And oh man did they turn the tide...
The second half of that football game was straight up unreal.
In case you didn't realize - after the half, the Ravens only gained 38 total yards in 30 minutes.
They did get a field goal, but only because the Steelers punt coverage unit shit the bed at an inopportune moment. In fact, the "drive" that got them the field goal accounted for 24 of the Ravens' 38 second half yards.
At the same time, the Steelers forced THREE turnovers in the 3rd quarter alone - with Ryan Clark himself contributing a forced fumble and a pick...
They sacked Joe Flacco FOUR times - including THREE by James Harrisassin, who I'm not sure I've ever seen so emotional over a football game before...
And basically, the defense continued to redefine the concept of domination, not giving the Ravens an inch of breathing room.
Meanwhile, the offense did its job again - converting all three turnovers into points (17 of them), and putting the final touches on a "comeback" win for the ages with an unreal 58-yard play on 3rd and 19, from their own 38 yard line, with just about two minutes left in the game...
...after which, Rashard Mendenhall busted through the Ravens defense for a second time, forcing the Ravens to play for their lives with a minute 30 left.
Antonio Brown, dude...
That was some David Tyree level magic combined with some 4th and 26 level magic.
The perfect storm.
Jesus, what a playcall.
Oh, and you know, what a throw!
Whether they meant it to be or not, that was a message - we're not playing for overtime; we want to end this one by the time this clock ticks down to 0:00.
And holding the Ravens to a final four and out, that they did.
Honestly, even with the first half having gone the way it did, at no point did I feel like the Steelers were not going to win. Obviously hindsight is 20/20, and I'm not saying my living room wasn't full of profanity and nervous drinking, but we've seen the Steelers do special things over the last few seasons, and as long as Big Ben is on the field, nothing is over until it's over.
This game was everything we hoped it would be, including a W for the Steelers, and an in-road to the game that will decide which AFC team will be playing in Dallas on Februrary 6...which by virtue of the Jets ramming one up the Pats posteriors, will now be played on the banks of the Monongahela, the Allegheny and the Ohio.
But while anytime you can beat the Ravens in the playoffs, it's a great feeling, the Steelers are already moving on, in anticipation of this Sunday's AFC Championship game against the New York Jets - a team picked by many to return to this game, ever since they lost it last year to the Colts.
And so, just like the Steelers, I'm gonna close off the celebration there, because we'll have plenty more chances to enjoy this one again after the jump. So, let's just get to the "Things That Were Awesome," "Things That Were NOT Awesome," and "Things That Should Be Permanently Struck From The Record."
As always, give them a read (or don't), and give us your version(s) of each in the comments.
21 Jump Street, let's do this!
Things That Were Awesome:
1. Big Ben
19/32, 262 yards, 2 TDs, one amazingly orchestrated final drive for the go-ahead touchdown.
Check this out...
The force is strong with this one.
You may break his nose, but you'll never break his spirit!
One too many movie references?
Oh well, good thing I don't give a shit.
2. Ryan Clark
It's sort of cliche after Saturday to say that Ryan Clark doesn't get the credit he deserves.
And too often he probably doesn't.
But after five tackles (two for a loss), two turnovers, and helping hold the Ravens to no play longer than 21 yards, I'm pretty sure he's getting more than he's used to...
#25 was in MVP mode on Saturday, no two ways about it.
3. The Young Guns
How about Antonio Brown and Manny Sanders?
The two ROOKIES combined for seven catches and 129 of the Steelers 226 receiving yards.
Brown caught ALL THREE balls thrown his way, including the aforementioned (and legendary) 58 yarder on 3rd and 19.
Sanders caught four of seven - the most of all Steelers' receivers - including a 14 yarder on 3rd and 11 to keep the drive right before the half alive, which of course ultimately culminated in Sweezy missing that 43 yard field goal.
We've been talking about these guys for two months now.
I think it's safe to say the Steelers stole a pair of stars last April.
I just can't wait to see where they go from here...
4. Ike Taylor
The Steelers 2011 playoffs flashed before our eyes when Ryan Clark dropped a shoulder into Ike early in the game on Saturday.
But not only did he come back, he came back with a vengeance.
Just look at those stats.
TJ Douchemandzadeh - the Ravens' "3rd receiver" - was the only Raven receiver with more than A catch.
Only four catches total for the Ravens entire receiving corps.
Derrick Mason and Anquan Boldin combined for ONE catch out of EIGHT opportunities.
Q probably didn't like Ike much before...
I'll bet he really likes him now...
Obviously Willie Gay deserves some praise for his role filling in for Bryant McFadden on the other side, but I think it's safe to assume Ike was a healthy portion of the reason why Baltimore's receivers couldn't catch a cold through 60 minutes.
How about a hand for one of the most underrated members of the Steelers defense?
/waves hand in front of face
5. Darth Silverback
YOUR SOUL IS MINE, JOE FLACCO!
No, seriously, dude, three sacks...
Silverback was out for blood.
Just silly, man...
After what happened in week 4, few things about this game were more satisfying than watching TJ Douchemandzadeh drop the most important pass of the Ravens' season.
5b. Steeler Nation
If you listen to that video closely, I think you can actually hear the building shaking.
The Nation showed up big time on Saturday.
Atmosphere was straight up electric.
How about one more time this Sunday?
Things That Were NOT Awesome:
1. Ryan Clark Giving Ike Taylor The Business
Good thing he forced two turnovers in the 2nd half, because if that game ended at halftime, Ryan Clark might not have lived to see another game in Pittsburgh.
2. The Ravens Opening Kick Return
Anytime your kicker has to make a tackle on the opening kickoff, you know something is wrong.
By the way, kudos to Shaun Suisham, who as far as Steelers kickers/punters go is apparently more Dan Sepulveda than Jeff Reed, which he showed by taking down Ladarius Webb, linebacker style.
Textbook shit right there.
Now, let's hope that's the last tackle he has to make this post-season.
3. The Punt Return TD That ALMOST Was...
Thank God they called holding or I don't think I would've been the only one in full-on rage mode.
This shit just will not fly (pun most definitely intended) against the Jets.
I cannot stress that enough.
4. Being Out of Challenges in the 1st Quarter
Like I said before - hindsight is 20/20.
Should they have challenged the opening kickoff?
Personally, I think so, given the momentum that return would've given the Ravens.
And you pretty much HAD to challenge that "fumble" the Ravens returned for 7 (see below).
So, really, whatever. It happens, man.
Good thing we didn't really need them after halftime anyhow.
By the way, for what it's worth, I think the league should allow Tomlin infinite challenges for the sheer fact that he looks badass when throwing them...
Go ahead, tell me I'm wrong.
After dry humping Ben all over the field on Saturday, I think it's safe to say that Suggs may have been more physical with Ben than Ben's rumored fiancee.
Things That That Should Be Permanently Struck From The Record:
1. Big Tree(s) Fall Hard
Oh, and speaking of Terrell Suggs - he should really be proud, rubbing his junk all over Big Ben after dominating backup (but current starter) LT Jonathan Scott, and then Trai Essex - basically the Steelers' last resort at Left Tackle, short of putting Matt Spaeth in.
Fortunately, Scott came back in after a relatively short respite, and hopefully Flu-zell Adams takes his Dayquil/Pepto/Airborne/Whatever this week so that we can confine Doug Legursky's involvement to blocking for Mendy on short yard TD runs from here on.
The Ravens sacked Ben SIX times on Saturday.
The Jets aren't far from the Ravens in terms of pass rush ability.
Actually, I'm pretty sure they're more fearsome.
You see where I'm going with this...?
2. The Worst Fumble Return TD In NFL History
Kudos to the Ravens for playing whistle to whistle.
Hopefully the Steelers learned a valuable lesson out of this - take a nap AFTER the game.
Cheapest seven points ever scored.
3. The Ravens 3rd Quarter Offense
Someone should start a blog about the Ravens offense and call it LOLBirds (you know, like LOLCats, but birds...).
The Ravens actually LOST nine yards in the 3rd Quarter, after losing four on their 1st drive, five on their 2nd, getting picked by Ryan Clark on their 3rd, and fumbling on their 4th.
And if it wasn't for the 30 or so the Ravens barely gained in the 4th quarter, the Steelers would've actually held them to under 100 yards of total offense.
In a playoff game.
4. And Here I Thought We Finally Got Rid of The WR Reverse...
Don't think I didn't see us call an end around in the middle of the 3rd quarter.
Loss of six on the play...
Reverse takes us backwards...the irony is palpable.
5. Big Ben and Hines Ward's Press Conference Attire
The look on his face says everything I wanted to say about Big Ben's press conference leisure suit for me.
But at least he didn't look like a backup dancer from a Fat Joe video...
Lean back, Hines.
All the way back to the locker room.
Now, I know how yinz luv yer Yinz Luv Da Stillers, so...
Jim always brings the ruckus.
Miscellaneous Omitted Things That Were Also Awesome, aka - Triumph, in Pictures:
Five tackles and officially only one sack for Ziggy Hood, though I remember seeing him in and around Joe Flacco a lot more than that number suggests.
Most dominant facial hair in the game.
And while we're on the subject of hair - most dominant native American inspired haircut in the game.
You look at that picture and tell me Rashard Mendenhall "is not a big-time back." So what if he only averaged 2.3 per carry on Saturday? He scored TWICE in short yardage. That's big-time enough for me!
Even on a day when Hines isn't much of a factor, he's a factor.
Also, best Hines Ward face ever.
Now, looking forward to Sunday - as I mentioned way back in my preliminary recap of Steelers-Jets, Part I - Rex Ryan told Tomlin after that game, "see you in there."
So, I guess it's only fitting that it comes down to this.
The Jets are the only thing standing between the Steelers and the Super Bowl right now.
Sunday's a good a day as any for some payback.
Vengeance will be ours.
Here we go.
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