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Five-step drop

1/5/2009

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

We are shortening our progressions a couple steps in this special playoff edition of the "Seven-step drop."

Here are five observations following wild-card weekend:

  • Opposing quarterbacks such as Ben Roethlisberger have praised the Baltimore Ravens' speed on defense this year, and it's apparent that speed frustrated Miami quarterback Chad Pennington in the Ravens' 27-9 victory. Baltimore picked off Pennington four times and often displayed the Ravens' speed to get to the quarterback and the football. Both were key, because Pennington was hit often and doesn't have the strongest arm. So the combo caused four attempts to be easily intercepted.

  • Baltimore rookie quarterback Joe Flacco played better than his stats showed Sunday. He completed just 9 of 23 passes for 135 yards in his playoff debut. But Flacco did a great job of eluding the rush and not turning over the football, which prevented Miami from getting any momentum at home. Flacco didn't get many huge plays, but he never seemed flustered. Even several of his misses, particularly on deep balls, were the proper reads that Flacco simply failed to execute.

  • Looking back at Pittsburgh's first game with the San Diego Chargers, one thing that sticks out is the way the Steelers were able to run the football. Pittsburgh tailback Willie Parker ran for 115 yards on 25 carries (4.6 yard average) in the 11-10 win on Nov. 16. It was one of Parker's four 100-yard games this season. The Chargers also gave up 410 total yards that game. Pittsburgh has been inconsistent on offense this year, but hopes San Diego's 25th-ranked defense is a good postseason remedy.

  • I'm hearing the possibility of offensive tackle Stacy Andrews returning to the Cincinnati Bengals should not be completely ruled out, despite his major knee injury late in the regular season. Andrews is coming off the franchise tag and will be an unrestricted free agent, but the market for him will be less active coming off surgery. Therefore, the Bengals could aim to sign Andrews on the cheap if they are confident he can bounce back. I'm also told Andrews will rehab with Cincinnati's trainers, who will be able to closely monitor his progress throughout the offseason.

  • In 2005, the Cleveland Browns were enamored with an assistant from the New England Patriots (Romeo Crennel) and a personnel type from the Baltimore Ravens (Phil Savage). Four years later, the Browns are enamored with a former assistant from the New England Patriots (Eric Mangini) and a personnel type from the Baltimore Ravens (George Kokinis). Although everyone deserves opportunities based on their own merits, this potential pairing could have the look -- on the surface -- of spinning its wheels for many Browns fans.