Win Lacked Style But Raises Hopes

RAVENS INSIDER

November 30, 2009|By MIKE PRESTON

Nope, it wasn't pretty, but at this point, a win is a win.

When the weather starts turning cold in November and the playoff drive starts, there are no points for cosmetic wins, just any win.

Billy Cundiff kicked a 29-yard game-winning field goal in overtime Sunday night, a win that put the Ravens back into serious contention for a postseason berth. The road is still hard for the Ravens, but it's a little easier now.

This game should have never come down to a field goal. The Ravens were playing against a second-year quarterback making his first NFL start. Pittsburgh starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was hurt, and so was Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu. This game should have had Ravens victory written all over it. But nothing comes easily for the Ravens this season.

It's safe to assume that the Steelers would have won if they had had both Roethlisberger and Polamalu, but they didn't. And maybe, regardless of how ragged they looked at times Sunday night, this might be the start of something good for the Ravens. It's doubtful, but at least the victory brings some hope.

Ponderous plan

What exactly were the Steelers trying to do?

With 1:45 left in the game and the ball at their 25, they ran two straight passing plays for incompletions and then ran that ugly draw play that had not worked all day.

It would have been better to run the ball the first time, use some clock, or at least force the Ravens to use their timeouts. Also, with quarterback Dennis Dixon running so well, wouldn't it have been better to move him out of the pocket or spread the field and run a quarterback draw?

Falling down

Someone, anyone, please give cornerback Domonique Foxworth a new pair of cleats. At just about every home game he falls down in coverage. This time he allowed Pittsburgh receiver Santonio Holmes to catch a 33-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter.

Foxworth was signed during the offseason to be a shut-down cornerback, not a fall-down cornerback. Unfortunately for the Ravens, they have no other options.

Offensive imagination

Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron dug into the playbook, at least in the first half of Sunday's game. The Ravens used the unbalanced line and even lined up tight end Todd Heap at wide receiver.

They also used the heavy jumbo package in the first quarter, bringing in Chester and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata to block. Ngata actually took out two players on Willis McGahee's touchdown run in the first quarter.

Why the wait for Webb?

Shame on the Ravens for waiting so long to start rookie cornerback Lardarius Webb.

It took a season-ending knee injury to Fabian Washington last week to get Webb into the starting lineup, but he is easily the best cornerback on the roster.

He supports the run well, hits hard and closes quickly. The question is, why did it take the Ravens 11 games to figure it out?

Steelers missed Polamalu

The Ravens should be glad that Pittsburgh safety Polamalu didn't play. If he had, that 54-yard pass from quarterback Joe Flacco to Mark Clayton late in the first half would have been an interception.

Flacco's pass had more hang time than a punt from Sam Koch, and free safety Ryan Clark would have easily made the play if he had just turned around.

But Polamalu wasn't dressed because of an injury, and the Ravens picked on left cornerback Ike Taylor.

Yanda starts

The Ravens started Marshal Yanda in place of Chris Chester at right guard, a smart move and long overdue. Chester is the better athlete of the two and can make blocks easier into the second level.

But Yanda, in his third season, is a brute and better at muscling up on defensive linemen in short-yardage situations.

Dixon plays well

Second-year Pittsburgh quarterback Dixon made his first career start, and the kid showed a lot of promise.

He moved well, and the Steelers should have taken a few more chances with him throwing the ball downfield.

He doesn't know the offense as well as Roethlisberger, but he has a stronger arm.

Flacco's ankle

The Ravens have been trying to hide Flacco's ankle injury, but it's out now. Sideline reporters from NBC were buzzing about it in the second half, especially after Flacco injured it again.

Flacco won't talk about the injury, but he has been hampered by it since the Minnesota game Oct. 18.

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