Why does it seem like the Ravens and Steelers games are always close?
Some people will tell you it's a matter of familiarity, others that the rivalry or the fans bring it out of the players.
I think Sunday's game was close for a much different reason. The Ravens, facing Byron Leftwich and noticing the condition of the Steelers' QB, decided this game would be fully in the hands of the defense.
It was Ravens football, 2008 style.
With a 10-7 lead from midway through the 1st quarter, Flacco threw a steady diet of short passes and Ray Rice continually ran off tackle without much success. The strategy was most evident on 3rd down when Flacco made no dangerous throws and, in fact, threw most of his passes short of the sticks.
• (Q1, 13:25, 3/7): Flacco threw right to Pitta for 5 yards, but he was stopped before he could turn up field by Clark and Timmons.
• (Q1, 9:07, 3/11): Flacco threw right to Rice 4 yards from the LoS, who then advanced for 1 yard.
• (Q1, 5:23, 3/3): Clark broke on the out route to Smith, who was covered by Taylor. Joe threw high to avoid Clark and the ball sailed out of bounds. On target, this would have been a 7-yard completion.
• (Q2, 14:26, 3/15): The Steelers showed a 6-man blitz and Flacco released quickly for Dickson taken down for a gain of 2 by Timmons who had dropped to coverage.
• (Q2, 9:47, 3/4): Flacco threw left for Rice a yard short of the line of scrimmage. Ray ran for 6 YAC to convert.
• (Q2, 6:48, 3/14): Flacco threw a WR screen right to Jacoby Jones 3 yards behind the LoS. He was taken down by Lewis and Timmons before he could turn up field.
• (Q2, 2:55, 3/10): Flacco threw complete to Boldin, 4yards from the LoS. Boldin broke a tackle from Timmons and ran for 10 YAC to convert.
• (Q2, 2:00, 3/7): Flacco threw right to Boldin, 3 yards from the LoS, but this time Timmons and Foote took him down for a gain of just 4.
• (Q3, 13:41, 3/1): Dickson was bulled by Woodley to blow up Rice?s run for no gain. Harrison also caved in Bajema on the opposite side, illustrating the Ravens problem of not having a TE who can block.
• (Q3, 8:23, 3/6): Flacco threw for Rice 3 yards downfield, who then made Foote miss to convert with 5 YAC.
• (Q3, 7:01, 3/4): Flacco threw for Jones who was tightly covered by Lewis by the right sideline. Joe left the ball a little to the inside where Lewis got a hand on it, but it would have been a very difficult reception for Jones were it 3 feet closer to the sideline.
• (Q4, 15:00, 3/8): Flacco pump faked to Boldin who was open in front of Timmons 4 yards from the LoS, but then takes the sack from Woodley.
• (Q4, 8:54, 3/2): Flacco threw for Jones, approximately 18 yards downfield on the right sideline. Jones was tightly covered by Lewis and the ball sailed high and out of bounds.
• (Q4, 2:00, 3/2): With a chance to seal the game, Flacco failed to find a wide open Ed Dickson between the hashes 12 yards downfield and took a slow-developing sack from Harrison.
Joe did not complete a single pass beyond the sticks on 3rd down although 3 were converted with YAC. Flacco is a much better judge of risk and reward than this game would indicate, but he was clearly expected to avoid mistakes at all costs. The field-position game proved appropriate given the Steelers inability to manufacture offense combined with the loss of Dennis Pitta. It wouldn't work against a better offensive team, nor would the Ravens have tried it.
OL analysis can be found here: