Saturday, January 15, 2011

Ravens - Steelers Second Half Diary -- The Road Team Gives It Back

On the opening kickoff, Brown fights hard to the Steeler 24. A screen to Ward goes for five before he's tripped up, and then Roethlisberger finds Miller across the middle against Lewis to move the sticks. Mendenhall for a yard as Lewis is fellated, because that's just what you do for him when he's beaten for a first down. From the gun, a screen to Wallace is diagnosed and crushed by Carr. Third and long from the 35 is a make or break down, and from the gun, the QB takes another no awareness sack. Lewis is fellated for being blocked. No, seriously. The punt is a good one, but Purple will have the chance to end this game after commerce.

Purple starts at their own 22. Flacco can't fight their Harrison and Hood, and that's a five yard sack. Man alive, these QBs like to eat the ball. A give to Rice goes nowhere, with Hood making the initial play. Third and long is probably draw or screen time, but Purple has owned third down all day, so... Flacco from the gun takes Rice on a checkdown, but the RB fumbles it on an unconscionable mistake, and Yellow recovers. Credit to Clark for the strip, but that's still just plain careless by the back, who hadn't fumbled all year. Looks like we might have a game after all.

Mendenall through a big hole on first, and he nearly spins to the end zone, but is ruled down at the nine. The next play is a pump and easy score to Miller, as the Purple defense bit hard on the fake, and just looked awful on both of those plays following the Rice mistake. Perfect pass and pocket. Suisham gets the PAT, and clear air turbulence strikes again. Ravens 21, Steelers 14.

We've had five scores in this game, and I'm not sure that any of them have occurred cleanly. Taylor with the coverage on the Webb kickoff return, and Purple starts at their own 27. Rice on the sidelines as CBS notes his failure. Flacco sacked again, this time by Harrison, as the crowd achieves orgasm. He just blew through a double team of RBs there, with McGahee being particularly de-pantsed. McGahee gets a yard before he's battered down by Harrison again, and it's third and 15. More pressure results in an incomplete checkdown, with Flacco getting tossed to the ground and post-whistle grievance airing. If this were pro wrestling, the Steelers would be tearing their shirts in two right now. Cook's punt is another long one, and returned to the Yellow 33. It will be on the Steeler offense to keep up the momentum and tie it after commerce.

Halfway through the third as Roethlisberger finds Sanders on a screen, and it goes for 17 as Ward and Reed exchange recipes; there is a reason that Ward is known as one of the dirtiest players in his position's history. From the 50, the QB keeps it for an odd two yard dive. Back shoulder catch by Sanders gets 10, and the slow hurry is working for Yellow. Wilson knocks down a deep ball to Sanders, and that's just perfect coverage by the corner. An end around is crushed by the shushing Darnell Ellerbee, setting up third and 16. From the gun, Yellow makes it worse with a wiggle by RT Trey Essex, who is in for the ill Flozell Adams. and a reason why Purple has been racking up sacks. The QB tries a de facto Hail Mary to WR Antwan Randle-El, and the punt is done to perfection, with the ball downed at the Purple 2. Flags are down, of course, and the penalties offset with Yellow wasting the effort. Punter Jeremy Kapinos tries again, but it goes into the end zone with more post-whistle political discourse. These teams just do not seem to enjoy each other's company! A hold sets up Purple at the 10, and I guess you need to hold when the ball is going into the end zone. Yeesh.

Purple has minus four yards in the half, which ain't getting it done. Flacco tries Heap on a deep ball and overthrows it, and it's picked off by Clark with relative ease, so that number isn't changing. CBS shoehorns in another ad somehow; well done! Yellow starts at the Purple 25. A screen to Mendenhall gets 12 as C Maurice Pouncey pancakes a guy. Ben with an ungainly shamble for a few yards, as Suggs gets him down after two yards. A screen to Miller gets two more before Carr shuts it down. Third and six from the eight is kind of a big deal, really, and Pittsburgh calls time with ten seconds on the clock and the offense in disarray. Not a great moment, given how tight this game is, and how more time helps the defense, especially considering that the Purple defense has been on the field for nearly the entire second half. From the gun, the Steelers go wide, and Ben finds Ward with a slant for the tying score. Two Purple turnovers in this half to make that count even with the first half, just like the scoreboard. Suisham with the PAT, and it's 21-all with 1:21 left in the third. If you want to compare this to a heavyweight fight with both fighters staggered, I'd be good with it.

Suisham's kick goes to the six, and the Yellow coverage takes him down with authority at the 22. Rice back on the field. Flacco wants the screen, and winds up just tossing it into the ground. Purple with only 94 yards of offense so far today; wow. Still on -4 for the quarter, too... and, amazingly, Flacco fumbles the snap for a third Purple turnover in the quarter. Unbelievable mistake by the QB. Yellow wins the scrum, and the Steelers will have it at the Purple 23.

Mendenhall for four yards, and honestly, I've never seen a presumably competent team have a worse quarter, after looking so good earlier. S Deron Landry, having a nice game, arrives with a vengeance to stop a second down run. T Jonathan Scott is down, and Yellow might win this battle and lose the war, considering how many offensive linemen are dying on them. Looks like he got concussed by accident from a shot by NT Haloti Ngata. Scott staggers off as Yellow lets the clock run out and change ends. Back after commerce.

Adams returns, presumably without vomiting. Brown on a screen is stopped just before the sticks; wise call given the line issues. On fourth and one from the Ravens 14, the Steelers line up as if to go for it, but play is stopped on an aborted challenge. More officiating hijinks, and after 20 seconds of trying to get Purple to jump, Roethlisberger actually snaps it and grinds for the successful QB sneak. Ballsy call by Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, and it works like a charm. Roethlisberger tries for Ward again in the end zone, but he's covered by three men, and it sails through all of them. Wallace on an end-around is stopped at the eight on what looked a lot more promising, but Wallace can't use Miller for the block he needed. Third and six from the gun is a big damned deal, and Suggs busts through for the definitive sack. Yellow might want to double that guy with a back. Just maybe. Suisham into the tough end of the stadium sneaks if through from 35, and that's the first Yellow lead since very early days. Steelers 24, Ravens 21, and the first time today that red zone defense worked.

Can the Purple offense get anything going? Webb is torn apart by reserve DB Will Allen at the Purple 19, so the special teams aren't getting it done. With Yinzer Fan in full throat, it's Rice for five yards, and that's their best play of the half by a very wide margin. Flacco takes Rice on a check down for four to set up the short third down. Really unimaginative offensive game plan so far. Rice gets the carry and the first, and that's their first of the half. Life for Purple on their own 30. Rice for two on a center give, and this is the kind of play calling you use when you have a rookie QB, not a three-year veteran with a half dozen playoff games under his belt. Flacco finds Houshmanzadeh running free over the middle, and that goes for 14. Big play. From their 44 and the gun, Rice gets a carry and some DE Brett Keisel pain for a one yard loss. On second, Flacco had time until he didn't, and Taylor knocks down the slow out to Mason to set up third and long. From the third down gun, Flacco escapes, spins, then runs out of bounds for a three yard loss. Harrison with the near strip and sack, and Harrison is so gassed that he needs trainer assistance. Purple punts with another bomb from Cook, and for the second time today, the Steelers make things easy on Purple by catching the ball on their own five yard line. Randle-El gets it to the 11, at least, and with less than eight minutes left, Yellow will have the chance to take the air out of the ball. Whether they will have the line is the bigger issue.

From their own 12, Mendenhall goes for three as Reed's run blitz helps to add to the tension. He only gets a yard on second as Yinzer Fan hates the conservatism. Third and seven is a long wait for a gun snap, and Roethlisberger misses Sanders on a ball that, had it been up, might have been picked. Yellow needs a big punt here, and Kapinos' job isn't made any easier with a false start. Webb takes a line drive punt to the house, but it comes back on a hold on reserve WR Marquis Smith on Allen. Purple will start at the Yellow 29 with under six minutes left.

Flacco on first has all day to find Heap on a crossing route, and he gets 21 yards out of it. Wow. First and goal from the 8. McGahee for two yards on first down. Shockingly, this one is going to go down to the final minutes. From the six on second down, Rice has nowhere to go on a counter-ish draw. Third down is a big damned deal, and Flacco with an empty backfield tries for Boldin at the goal line, but it goes right through him. Nice to see Q come up as big for his real team as he came up for my fake one. Cundiff connects from 23 yards to tie it, and if Purple winds up losing this game by very little, Boldin's drop is going to get a lot of post-game play.

Two incompletes, then a saving first down conversion to Ward. Wow. A huge sack makes it second and 19, then 3rd and 19 after another miss to Sanders. Pittsburgh calls time with 2:07 left and overtime looming. Then on third and 19, Brown gets wide open on a deep ball, and makes the catch against his helmet. No, seriously. He runs out of bounds at the Ravens 4. There are no words for the size of the defensive breakdown on that play, how insane that catch was, or just how much damage that did to Purple's chances to win. Play of the game right there, and since this is a playoff game, kind of the year, really. Wow, wow, wow.

A throw to Ward misses, takes no time off the clock, and is just all kinds of wrong. Ward was open, but still, ye gads. Take some time off the clock, why don't you? A give to Mendenhall, who spins and falls forward for a few, and there's a flag for a defensive hold. Wow, what a mistake. Fresh first down and the clock at 1:48. Mendenhall smashes forward to the one, and Harbaugh goes nuts for a timeout; the refs put time back on the clock, so there will be 1:43 left. Mendenhall stopped again in the middle of the field as the scrum is intense. Second Purple timeout with 1:39 left, and had the Steelers not thrown it to Ward, they would have none right now. From the two with 1:39 left, Mendenhall darts back right and gets in for the score -- tremendous vision and power by the back. The celebration is spoiled by Chris Kimoeatu, who picks up an unnecessary roughness call. Second time today that Kimoeatu's done the dirt, first time it's called, and we'll have continued drama. Steelers 31, Ravens 24 with 93 seconds left.

A squib kick? Really? Wow. La'Ron McClain picks it up and gets it past midfield, then hobbles off post-whistle. Purple starts at the Yellow 43 with one timeout and all kinds of life. Flacco from the gun misses an open Heap, and nearly has it picked. There's pressure there, but a good QB makes that throw. Second and ten from the gun is an absolute duck where Mason prevents CB William Gay from taking down a fair catch. Wow, what an awful, awful pass. Third and ten from the gun against a blitz is an awareness-free sack, and the final Purple timeout; Sack Number Five for the Steelers, and Heap was open on the play. Fourth and 18 should be the kill shot with 69 seconds left, and it's amazing that a team could have 24 points in a road playoff game with an offense that's been this bad in the second half. From the gun, Flacco pumps, then throws to Houshmanzadeh, who just plain dropped what should have been a first down. Between that drop and the Boldin drop in the end zone, that's your whole damned game, right there.

Roethlisberger sits, and the Steelers advance and cover. Fourth time in the last seven years for the Yinzers, and if you want to lose all confidence in Flacco's career, I concur... but only if you throw his WRs under the bus, too. Roethlisberger is 7-0 in his last seven starts against the Ravens, and they will be the team that loses in New England next week, because there is no way that the Patriots can possibly lose in the playoffs. Congrats, Steeler Fans!

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