Ravens Grind Out Victory in Sloppy AFC North Battle Pittsburgh - - Coaches and players alike always talk about setting the tone of the game from the opening kickoff. Unfortunately, for the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, and everyone watching, the tone of the game was indeed set on the opening kickoff. Matt Elam made Baltimore’s mission very clear Sunday afternoon when he popped Steelers return man Larod Stephens-Howling at the 20 yard line jarring the ball loose; however, the fumble would be a sign of more sloppy play to come from both teams. Brian Pollard recovered the fumble for the Ravens, who scored two plays later on a one yard touchdown run by Ray Rice (16-50-1). The early sloppy play would continue for Pittsburgh as a holding penalty on the ensuing kickoff would cause their drive to start at their own 9 yard line. Big Ben would lead the Steelers’ offense down the field where Shaun Suisham would miss a 53 yard field goal. The Ravens would proceed to capitalize on the missed field goal opportunity as Joe Flacco led the Baltimore offense down the field before hitting WR Torrey Smith for a 12 yard TD. “We really wanted to come out and make a statement this week,” said Flacco after the game. “Our goal coming out of the bye week was to jump on them early. We felt like if we could come out and put 14 points on the board early, they would get frustrated and try to force the issue.” The Ravens would continue their stellar play as MLB Daryl Smith would intercept a Roethlisberger pass on the Steelers next possession. Up 14-0 in the first with possession of the ball, it looked as those the Ravens would cruise to victory. However, as Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast my friend.” After being sacked on first down, Flacco looked to hit Torrey Smith on a route across the middle, but the intended receiver would slip on the play leading to an interception. This would be the first of several mistakes by the Ravens. With the ball and in good field possession, the Steelers would look to take advantage of the Baltimore turnover. On a key 3rd and 5 Roethlisberger threw to a wide open Antonio Brown, who found a seam in the Ravens zone coverage, but Brown dropped the would be touchdown pass. Instead of punting to pin the Ravens offense deep in their own territory, Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin would send the field goal team out to attempt a 56 yard FG. Knowing Suisham’s previous 53 yard attempt fell short, the Ravens would send electrifying return man Jacoby Jones deep to return any potential missed FG. The decision to line up for a return would prove to be a wise one for the Ravens. “That is something that we have seen other teams across the league do in years past with great success. Unlike a punt team or kickoff team, the field goal unit is not used to tackling a return man. There are more offensive lineman on the field, which makes it easier to take advantage of,” Harbaugh mentioned after the game. Jones caught the ball 7 yards deep in the end zone, and brought the ball out looking for six. He started right toward the sideline before cutting back across the field using the wall of Raven blockers to lead the way. With only Pittsburgh offensive lineman David DeCastro to beat, it looked as those Jones would take the missed FG to the house; however, Decastro made a great play staying in position and tackling Jones at the Ravens 40 yard line. This would prove to be a big play at the time as the Steelers defense would intercept a dropped pass two plays later setting up a Roethlisberger TD pass to Wheaton making the game 14-7 Ravens. On their next possession Baltimore was forced to punt with 1:13 left in the first half, which looked to prove costly. A few plays later, Steeler QB Ben Roethlisberger hit an open Emmanuel Sanders over the middle who to take it 30 yards to the house. Unfortunately, for the home team a clipping penalty brought the play back forcing Pittsburgh to settle for a FG just before half. Both offenses would struggle in the third quarter dropping several passes and missing key blocks. There would not be any excitement in the 3rd until there was 1:08 left in the quarter when on a crucial 3rd and goal from the 5 yard line, QB Joe Flacco hit TE Dennis Pitta for a TD. Head Coach John Harbaugh acknowledged the team’s inability to run the football after the game. “We struggled to run the ball today, especially in the red zone. They definitely keyed in on stopping Ray and forcing us to be them with the pass. I give a lot of credit to that Steelers defense, they were tough.” The Ravens defense was able to take advantage of the third quarter TD by ramping up the pressure on Big Ben forcing three interceptions in the fourth. Ravens MLB Daryl Smith got the fourth started with a bang by notching his second pick of the game, which lead to a 48 yard FG by Justin Tucker making the game 24-10. The Ravens would tack on another FG with 1:12 left in the game after All Pro CB Lardarius Webb snagged his third interception of the season. Strong Safety Brian Pollard would end the game much like he started it; with a turnover. Pollard intercepted Roethlisberger with 50 seconds left to seal the game for the Ravens. “Did we play our best football today? Absolutely not. Neither team did. I thought both teams made a lot of mistakes today, and I'm sure Mike would say the same,” said Harbaugh after the game. “I give a lot of credit to owner AveryB and Head Coach Mike Tomlin over there. Things quite haven’t gone their way this season, but they aren’t giving up. They continue to bring it week in and week out. If not for a couple unfortunate plays early in the game they would have really had us on our heels. It won’t be too much longer and they will crack the win column. I can tell ya that much for sure.” -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- AveryB - GG and congrats on your first win! I can definitely tell we are going to have some classic games in the future. Best of luck going forward.