Last Sunday night, the Ravens completed their first sweep of the Steelers since 2006 in a last-minute 23-20 win. This win gives the Ravens the tiebreaker in the AFC North, which could come in handy as we head down the final stretch of this season. The first half of the game was a battle of field goals, one that the Ravens won when Billy Cundiff hit from 51 yards in the final seconds of the half, giving the Ravens a 9-6 edge. In the third quarter, the Ravens defense continued to hold back the Steelers, and a Ray Rice touchdown run gave the Ravens a two-possession lead after three. But early in the fourth, the Steelers capped off an eighty yard drive with a Rashard Mendenhall touchdown, and with an entire quarter left, the Ravens lead was cut to 16-13. The Ravens offense then began to slow down, and a late Flacco fumble gave Pittsburgh good position to tie or take the lead. Ben Roethlisberger then orchestrated a perfect drive, and finished it with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Mike Wallace to give Pittsburgh a four-point lead with 5 minutes remaining. The Ravens were forced into a quick three-and-out, and the Steelers had a chance to run out the rest of the clock. But the Ravens defense buckled down and forced a punt, and Joe Flacco had two and a half minutes to drive the Ravens 90 yards for a touchdown. This quickly became a defining drive for Flacco as he marched his unit down the field. After converting a crucial fourth down, Flacco's end zone shot to Torrey Smith was dropped, but Smith still had something to prove. After a Boldin drop, Flacco looked again to Smith, who's diving effort for the score gave the Ravens a victory in the waning seconds of regulation. Perhaps the most important statistic of the game is the Ravens ability to convert on third down, going 14 for 21 including two conversions on the final drive. Without these conversions, the Ravens simply would not have had the success they did.
Player of the Game: Ravens QB Joe Flacco- 28/47 for 300 yards, 1 touchdown
Last Week's Key to the Game: Last week I said that the Ravens needed to better be able to sustain drives, which they did very well at points in the game. The final drive was simply perfect, and is an early defining moment in Flacco's career.
This Sunday, the Ravens take a visit to Seattle to face the struggling 2-6 Seahawks. Unfortunately for the Ravens, consistent road success has been an issue, so putting together a quality performance that ends with a win will be important for the continuity of this Ravens team. We all saw the embarrassing losses to the Titans and Jaguars, so we don't want to add the Seahawks to that list. The quarterback position has been the main area of concern for Seattle, as jumping between Tavaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst hasn't seemed to work out too well. Jackson is expected to start Sunday despite a pectoral injury. While the Seahawks have struggled mightily on offense, RB Marshawn Lynch is a powerful and very dangerous runner that can break out into the open field at any time. Containing Lynch will be vital for the Ravens. The Seahawks defense is lead by DE Chris Clemons and S Earl Thomas. Making sure Flacco knows where those two are before the play will help to avoid them getting involved in the play. This could once again be a trap game for the Ravens, and staying focused on the task at hand instead of worrying about the opposing team's record will prove key for not letting this one get away. I have the Ravens giving up some points, but still pulling out a 27-16 win.
Key to the Game: The key to a Ravens win will be staying focused at what is at hand, not getting sloppy with the ball, and playing tough, hard-nosed defensive football. With some consistent offense and shutdown defense, it shouldn't be a difficult win for the Ravens.
Key Matchups for Ravens at Seahawks
Ravens LB Ray Lewis vs. Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch Edge: Lewis
Ravens CB Lardarius Webb vs. Seahawks WR Mike Williams Edge: Webb
Ravens QB Joe Flacco vs. Seahawks S Earl Thomas Edge: Flacco
Ravens T Michael Oher vs. Seahawks DE Chris Clemons Edge: Clemons
LB Dannell Ellerbe-Thigh-DBT
WR Lee Evans-Ankle-DBT
LB Brendon Ayanbadejo-Head-QST
LB David Vobora-Concussion-OUT
TE Cameron Morrah-Toe, Knee-QST
AFC North Standings
Team W L
Ravens 6 2
Bengals 6 2
Steelers 6 3
Browns 3 5
AFC North Outlook: The Steelers-Bengals game this weekend will decide if the Ravens have a counterpart atop the division, and the Ravens hold of the tiebreaker could be important if the Steelers were to win and the Ravens to lose at any point in the season.
That's it for this week's version of my Ravens Report, see you next week and go Ravens!