Last Sunday night, the Ravens pulled off one of the most remarkable and miraculous wins in franchise history, finishing off the Chargers in overtime, 16-13. The Chargers drew first blood, putting up 10 points in the second quarter to take a two-possession lead into halftime. Justin Tucker put the Ravens on the board in the third quarter, leaving the Ravens trailing 10-3 with a quarter remaining. The Ravens' failure to convert on fourth and short from deep in Chargers territory gave the Chargers momentum, and the chance to extend their lead. They did so, making it 13-3 on a field goal from Nick Novak. Joe Flacco proceeded to lead the Ravens eighty yards on nine plays, finishing the drive off with a touchdown pass to Dennis Pitta, giving the Ravens defense an opportunity to stop the Chargers and therefore give the offense a chance to win or send the game into overtime. The defense did their part, and the Ravens took over possession at their own fourty with three minutes remaining. After a crucial holding penalty in Chargers territory, Joe Flacco fumbled the ball on 3rd and 20. The Ravens recovered, bringing up a decisive 4th and 29, a highly unlikely conversion. If the Ravens convert, they still have a chance to win. A failed conversion, and the game is all but over. After Flacco found no one open down the field, he effectively raised the white flag, checking the ball down to Ray Rice. Rice reversed up-field, made three Chargers miss, and continued up-field towards the marker. He then received a key block from Anquan Boldin, and propelled himself past the marker. What followed this most unlikely play was ten minutes of reviewing the play and repositioning the ball. After the review and the measure, Rice had picked up the first down by a yard in one of the greatest moments of sheer will you will ever see. Rice self-proclaimed "Hey diddle diddle, Ray Rice up the middle" will go down in Ravens lore forever. A few plays later, Tucker hit a 38-yard field goal, sending the game into overtime. The Ravens defense stepped up again, stopping the Chargers twice, leaving it up to Flacco and the offense. With five minutes remaining in the overtime period, the Ravens took over deep in their own territory. On third down from the Chargers 47, a spectacular catch by Torrey Smith put the Ravens in field goal territory. Coach Harbaugh decided to make the Chargers burn their timeouts, leaving them with no timeouts and little time in case of a Tucker miss. Well Tucker didn't miss, and the Ravens took home a win for the ages.
Player of the Game: Ravens RB Ray Rice-97 rushing yards, 67 receiving yards
Key to the Win: What can you say? This was a great team effort in all three phases of the game. The offense put up just enough points when it mattered, despite struggling early. The defense made key stops late in the game to give the offense its opportunities. On special teams, rookie Justin Tucker knocked through two high-pressure field goals to tie, and later win, the game. Tucker now has two game-winning field goals this year (Patriots).
Next Sunday, the Ravens will host the 6-5 Steelers in a reprisal of a game we saw just two weeks ago. The Ravens, of course, pulled out a close 13-10 that night in Pittsburgh. But this game will be different that of two weeks ago. Byron Leftwich hasn't played since he broke two ribs in that game. Instead, veteran backup Charlie Batch will be under center for the Steelers. Batch started his first game last week in Cleveland, and the Steelers lost 20-14, turning the ball over an embarrassing eight times, including five lost fumbles. The Steelers' 37-year old quarterback was picked off three times. All this against a defense inferior to that of the Ravens. After the Ravens picked up a season-high six sacks last week against the Chargers, expect more blitzing against a depleted Steelers offensive line. If Batch is pressured all game and the Ravens can strip the ball the way the Browns did, this one should be in the bag. But it isn't that easy, and the Steelers got good news on the other side of the ball. The top-ranked Steelers defense will be welcoming back Pro Bowl S Troy Polamalu, who has been sidelined since Week 5 with a calf injury. The Ravens offense went without a touchdown in Pittsburgh, but has scored 36 points per game at home. Back in the game two weeks ago, one of Flacco's favorite targets, TE Dennis Pitta, was knocked out of the game on the very first play. His presence this week could help Flacco find more of a rhythm, especially with fellow TE Ed Dickson unlikely to suit up. Ray Rice was also limited in that game, so his productivity could once again be in question. The question will be, if Rice struggles early, does Cam Cameron continue to pound the ball, or does he give up on the running game and let Flacco throw the ball 50 times? That answer will be crucial to a sound game-plan offensively for the Ravens.
Prediction: With the long-haired Polamalu looming, Flacco's ability to audible will be put to the test. If he can avoid Polamalu and get things going, the Steelers injury-ridden offense will not be able to keep up. The key to stopping them is limiting the ground game and maintaining pressure on the quarterback. I have the Ravens pulling out a 23-13 win.
Key Matchups for Steelers at Ravens
Ravens LB Dannell Ellerbe vs. Steelers RB Jonathan Dwyer Edge: Ellerbe
Analysis: Ellerbe has been outstanding in recent weeks, and will continue to do so, limiting Dwyer and forcing him to fumble once or twice.
Ravens CB Corey Graham vs. Steelers WR Antonio Brown Edge: Brown
Analysis: This is a close one. Brown didn't play in the first game, and the Ravens consider him the most dangerous receiver the Steelers have. He could be a difference-maker. But keep in mind Graham had a pick in the first game.
Ravens QB Joe Flacco vs. Steelers S Troy Polamalu Edge: Polamalu
Analysis: Flacco doesn't have to win this matchup, he just can't get blown out. He can't let Polamalu come off his blind side, as he had done so well. Smart audibles could help avoid game-changing turnovers.
Ravens WR Torrey Smith vs. Steelers CB Keenan Lewis Edge: Smith
Analysis: After Lewis trash-talked Smith before the last game, Smith was rendered a non-factor. He will make up for it at home in Baltimore, catching a key touchdown.
CB Jimmy Smith-Abs-OUT
TE Ed Dickson-Knee-DBT
LB Dannell Ellerbe-Ankle/Knee/Finger-QST
DB Chris Johnson-Thigh-QST
DE Pernell McPhee-Thigh-QST
OT Mike Adams-Ankle-OUT
QB Ben Roethlisberger-Shoulder-OUT
QB Byron Leftwich-Ribs-OUT
LB LaMarr Woodley-Anke-OUT
G/T Willie Colon-Knee-QST
WR Jerricho Cotchery-Ribs-QST
AFC North Standings
Team W L
Ravens 9 2
Steelers 6 5
Bengals 6 5
Browns 3 8
AFC North Outlook: With a win and a Bengals loss, the Ravens would clinch their second consecutive AFC North title. The Bengals play the Chargers in San Diego. The Browns play at the Oakland Raiders.
News: For some good news, Ravens LB Ray Lewis, who has been out with torn triceps since Week 6, is expected to return for Week 15, when the Ravens will host Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.
That's it for this week's version of my Ravens Report, see you next week and go Ravens!