Sunday, September 11, 2011
Rapid Reaction: Ravens 35, Steelers 7
By James Walker
A few thoughts on the Baltimore Ravens' convincing 35-7 win against the Pittsburgh Steelers:
What it means: Baltimore finally beat Pittsburgh in a big game -- and it wasn't even close. It has been years since the Ravens overcame Ben Roethlisberger & Co. when it mattered. Pittsburgh knocked Baltimore out of the playoffs two of the past three years. It was also Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco’s first win over the Steelers when Roethlisberger was under center.
Turning point I: The first drive set the tone for Baltimore. The play calling was sterling, and the Ravens marched 66 yards on three plays. Flacco threw this best pass of the day -- a 27-yard throw in tight coverage to Anquan Boldin. Baltimore’s offense was a couple of steps ahead of Pittsburgh the entire game.
Turning point II: The first drive of the second half went even better for the Ravens. Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata crushed Steelers tailback Rashard Mendenhall on the first play after intermission. Mendnenhall fumbled, and it was recovered by Ngata. That set up a touchdown catch by Ravens tight end Ed Dickson. The Ravens, who never trailed, led 29-7.
Turnover city: The Ravens forced seven turnovers, tying a team record. The Steelers were sloppy and outplayed in every area. Roethlisberger had two fumbles and three interceptions. Ravens safety Ed Reed (two) and linebacker Ray Lewis (one) intercepted Roethlisberger.
What happened to the Steelers' run defense? I don't know whether I've seen Pittsburgh's run defense play this poorly in a long time. The Steelers were No. 1 against the run last season, and their D is usually air-tight. But the lanes were open from the beginning when Ravens tailback Ray Rice took the first carry 36 yards. Rice finished with 107 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
What’s next: The Ravens will try to improve to 2-0 with a road game against the Tennessee Titans. The Steelers will look to pick up the pieces and avoid an 0-2 start next week at home against the Seattle Seahawks.