Ravens newcomers shine
Former Houston Texans, now Ravens tight end Owen Daniels, opened up the scoring for the Ravens with a short yardage TD grab in the first quarter. It would prove to be all the Ravens needed as they went on to victory over the rival Steelers, 26-6 to open up week 2. Daniels would tack on a second TD later in the contest.
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Another new face in town, Steve Smith, didn’t find the endzone like he did in week 1. But Smith did bring his hands to this one after dropping at least three balls (depending on the publication) against Cincy. He caught six balls on 10 targets for 71 yards. The most important may have been a third down grab as the Ravens were driving into Pittsburgh territory, looking to put the game out of reach. The Ravens did do just that as this play sent the game into the final quarter where a Justin Tucker field goal extended the lead, 20-6. Tucker would finish the night with four FGs.
Justin Forsett also ripped off the run of the night. Bernard Pierce was given the majority of the carries, but Forsett took one 41 yards, coming just inches shy of finding the endzone. Forsett finished the night with 56 yards on seven carries. Pierce, 22 carries for 96 yards.
The combination of successful running of the football, and running out of necessity to keep the clock running late in the game, led to a much more balanced attack then we saw last week. In week 1, the Ravens threw the ball 62 times versus 20 rushes. Last night, just 29 passes from Joe Flacco and 36 rushes. The improvement we saw in the running game is encouraging after a dismal run game in 2013. A huge part of that I believe is thanks to another new comer, center, Jeremy Zuttah.
Zuttah, acquired by the Ravens this offseason from Tampa Bay for a fifth round pick, gets a nice push up front. In the last two games, we have seen Joe Flacco lunge forward with ease on a few 3rd and 4th and short situations. Situations that it seemed Gino Gradkowski would get manhandled in last year, leading to a turnover on downs.
It wasn’t just the offense that showed up to play. The defense had themselves a night as Elvis Dumervil notched two sacks of Ben Roethlisberger. Should have been three as Courtney Upshaw teed off on Big Ben on the third play of the game, but he led with his head and not his shoulders (even though your head is on top your shoulders) thus drawing a 15 yard flag. Cooler heads would prevail on the Ravens side as the Steelers racked up four personal foul calls, three in the third quarter that allowed the Ravens to continue driving. The Ravens won the turnover battle as well, forcing two fumbles and Haloti Ngata with an athletic tipped ball, then diving for the interception.
Kudos to Gary Kubiak and the rest of John Harbaugh’s coaching staff as well. If I had to make an educated guess, John Harbaugh was likely very pre-occupied this week with issues not including preparing for the Steelers to come to town on a short week. The game planning was likely handled in large part by Kubiak and Dean Pees on the defense with little input from the head coach. Then again, maybe not if this situation is above his paygrade.
Harbaugh was tasked with damage control on Monday after the Ray Rice elevator tape was leaked to the public, coming out and speaking on the release then suspension of Rice, and where the story started to go shortly after. Was the tape seen prior to the leak by the NFL, the Ravens? If so, who saw it? If so, why the light punishment for Rice, only punished further when the public saw it? We still are in the dark about a lot of this, and mainly Harbaugh’s role in all of it. The brass including Owner, Steve Bisciotti, Vice-President, Dick Cass, and General Manager, Ozzie Newsome, sat down with The Sun on Wednesday to give further information about the events that took place over the last seven months concerning Rice.
We know John Harbaugh was in the room with Ozzie Newsome when Rice told them what happened, which mirrored what the tape showed. We also know that Harbaugh was in the meeting that decided Rice’s fate on Monday, after the tape release.
This was a game that the Ravens players and the fan base needed to have. The week has been a dark one for Ravens fans where many are disgusted by the actions of all parties involved leading people to question their fandom. For as many folks that are truly saddened and upset by the situation and the handling of it, there are just as many in support of Rice and are willing to forgive and forget. But it’s clear the focus by now is off of Rice and is falling squarely on the rumors that make it look like the Ravens and the NFL attempted to cover this up and now are looking to save face.
It was a definitive win against the biggest rival, on a short week. For three hours fans were able to cheer for the men on the field who had absolutely nothing to do with this terrible situation. The Ravens get Sunday off before going on the road for the first time next week to face the Cleveland Browns. A place where very little support for the Ravens will be going on and the hatred will be taken to another level based on the actions this past week.
Roethlisberger: 22/37, 59.46%, 217 yards, 1 INT
Bell: 11 att, 59 yds, 5 rec, 58 yds
Brown: 7 rec, 90 yds
Ravens Stats w/ gRBZ (0.0 = average, over 1.0 is good)
Flacco: 21/29, 72.41%, 166 yds, 2 TD, gRBZ: 0.5747
Pierce: 22 att, 96 yds, 1 rec, 7 yds, gRBZ: 1.6361
Forsett: 8 att, 56 yds, 4 rec, 16 yds, gRBZ: TBD
S. Smith: 6 rec, 71 yds, gRBZ: -0.0397
Daniels: 5 rec, 28 yds, 2 TDs, gRBZ: 1.2441