Upon further review: 92-yard drive overshadows controversial call

Ravens Gameday

December 15, 2008|By MIKE PRESTON

It's almost irrelevant whether the 4-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Santonio Holmes crossed the goal line in the final minute yesterday to lift the Pittsburgh Steelers to a 13-9 come-from-behind victory over the Ravens.

The Ravens weren't robbed. Either they gave it away or Pittsburgh took the victory.

What really matters is that if the Ravens want to step up to the next level and become an elite NFL team, they have to make big plays in the fourth quarter against the quality teams.

It's one thing to make them against the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals, and another to not make them when the game is on the line against a quality opponent. The Ravens didn't make the big plays in the third quarter of the first game against the Steelers, and the defense didn't make the big plays in the fourth quarter against the Tennessee Titans earlier in the season.

And yesterday? Oh, my.

Pittsburgh's game-winning drive covered 92 yards in 12 plays and began with 3:56 left in the fourth quarter. The Ravens can say they didn't have cornerback Fabian Washington (hamstring) during the last drive, and outside linebacker Terrell Suggs also missed a play or two with injury.

But, no excuses, please. The Steelers hit on pass plays of 12, 16 and 24 yards among others, and Roethlisberger completed them against safety Ed Reed and cornerback Samari Rolle, two of the best players in the secondary. Ray Lewis didn't make a play. Suggs didn't make a play. Bart Scott didn't make a play.

You can argue all day about the disputed call at the end of the game, but you can't allow a team to go 92 yards in your house on its last possession.

"They drove 92 yards. What else can I say?" Ravens cornerback Frank Walker asked.

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Flacco must step up

The next step for Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is to make big plays in big games. Flacco was only 11-for-28 for 115 yards. Two of his passes were intercepted, and he finished with a rating of 22.2.

For the second straight week, a lot of his passes sailed, and there were times when his running backs were open in the flat but Flacco went downfield.

Until he steps up his game, the Ravens will continue to lose against top-notch opponents. In losses to Pittsburgh and Tennessee this season, counterparts Kerry Collins and Roethlisberger didn't play much better than Flacco, but they made big plays that were the difference in the game.

Flacco twice had receiver Derrick Mason open for long touchdown passes, but he either overthrew him or fluttered the ball.

Stars align

It just seems to be the Steelers' season, a year in which the stars are aligned and luck is on their side.

Pittsburgh has come from behind in the fourth quarter of four games to win in regulation this season, five if you count an overtime win against the Ravens earlier this year.

They lucked out last week when Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo threw an interception late in the fourth quarter that was returned for the game-winning touchdown.

Yesterday, Holmes caught the game-winning touchdown on an afternoon when he stunk up the field, dropping a punt, a pass and losing a fumble on a reception.

Extra-special teams

The Ravens got an excellent job from their special teams, which kept them in the game.

Matt Stover converted on field-goal attempts of 28, 26 and 28 yards. Yamon Figurs returned three kickoffs for 78 yards, including the opening one, which helped the Ravens control field position.

Jim Leonhard returned a punt 46 yards that led to one of Stover's field goals. Meanwhile, Holmes returned three punts for a total of 5 yards.

Ward's cheap shot

This was a pretty clean game for the most part between two rivals, but it wouldn't have been a Ravens-Steelers game if Pittsburgh receiver Hines Ward didn't take a cheap shot.

It occurred with one minute left in the third quarter. Roethlisberger was scrambling to his left, being chased by Scott, the Ravens' outside linebacker, when Ward tried to peel back on Scott while Scott was on his knees.

Scott ducked the hit, but got in Ward's face immediately. It was just another wimpy, cheap attempt by Ward.

Clean shots

The two best clean shots of the day were Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons taking out Mason after one of those floating tosses from Flacco early in the fourth quarter and Steelers linebacker Patrick Bailey sticking Figurs on a kickoff return in the fourth quarter. It might be a week or two before Figurs makes another good decision.

Big-play Ben

Regardless of how awful he looks, Roethlisberger always seems to make plays at the end. He looked absolutely horrible at times, and some of his decision-making was atrocious, but in the end he made plays with his scrambling ability.

That was the major difference, if not the biggest difference, in a strong, well-played, defensive game. One quarterback made plays, and another didn't.

Listen to Mike Preston on Mondays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Fox Sports (1370 AM).

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