Ravens' win dampened by Steelers' sacks

Ravens gave up 5 second-half sacks in overtime win Sunday

December 01, 2009|By Edward Lee | edward.lee@baltsun.com

The Ravens' jubilation at defeating their AFC North rivals, the reigning Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers, was short-lived among the offensive linemen.

As happy as the offensive line was about the 20-17 overtime win, the unit was equally disappointed in surrendering five sacks - all in the second half - of quarterback Joe Flacco.

"Five sacks is definitely too much," left guard Ben Grubbs said. "We just have to get back to the meeting rooms and see what we can do better so that we can keep Joe off the ground. When we protect him, he's a good quarterback. I don't know anybody that can perform when guys are in their face and hitting them and putting them on their backs. We've just got to do our job as an offensive line, and I think we will."

The offensive line was coming off a zero-sack performance against the Indianapolis Colts and their pass-rushing duo of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, and had stonewalled the Steelers through the first half of Sunday night's game.

But Pittsburgh adjusted in the second half. Right guard Marshal Yanda, who made his first start since Oct. 12, 2008, said the Steelers began mixing the blitz responsibilities of inside linebackers Lawrence Timmons and James Farrior, sending on a delayed blitz and dropping the other into pass coverage.

"They were mixing up the linebackers before the snap," Yanda said of Timmons (two sacks) and Farrior (one). "A couple of times, communication got us. We've just got to communicate better, and that will come. We'll get that fixed. We'll look at the film and get that corrected."

Still, the offense gained 393 yards against the Steelers.

"It's going against a great defense, and I know it was a big challenge for our offense, and it's a credit to what we were able to accomplish offensively," coach John Harbaugh said. "To move the ball the way we did against the No. 1 defense in the league at times. Then again, at times we didn't move it so well, and the two turnovers were hurtful. "

Not so special
Four of the Ravens' nine penalties and 45 of the 80 penalty yards were assessed to special teams, which drew Harbaugh's attention.

The most egregious mistakes involved Tom Zbikowski's15-yard unnecessary-roughness penalty in the first quarter that moved the offense from its 42-yard line to the 27 and Tavares Gooden'sillegal-block above-the-waist call in the fourth quarter that wiped out a 43-yard punt return by Chris Carr.

"Very disappointed special teams-wise with the penalties," Harbaugh said. "There's really no reason. We work on it every single day. There's no reason to put your hand on a guy's back. It's hard to do now because you're trying for a block and you're reaching for a guy, but we have to be better than that. It's not just the 10 yards you lose, it's the yards that you gained on the return that you lose. Those can be huge penalties. At the end of the game, that was probably a 50-yard penalty. So that's an area that we as a staff work really hard on and players work hard on, and we've just got to be better in that area."

Bigger role
Even with fullback Charles Ali deactivated before Sunday night's game, Le'Ron McClain got what he asked for.

The fullback, who led the Ravens in rushing and rushing touchdowns last season and has yearned for an opportunity to assume a more active role in the offense, carried the ball four times for 28 yards and earned two first downs.

"I got rolling today," said McClain, who also caught one pass for 9 yards.

End zone
Harbaugh said he considered allowing Billy Cundiff to attempt a field goal from about 52 yards before deciding to play it safe and have Sam Koch punt the ball and try to pin the Steelers deep in their territory at the beginning of the fourth quarter. "He definitely could have hit from that range," Harbaugh said of Cundiff, whose career long is 56 yards. "And if it had been later in the game, we would've tried it. I thought about it, and I thought, 'You know what, we're in a field-position game.' And that's a tough kick. Not that he can't get it there, but the percentages from 50 dramatically drop for every kicker in the National Football League. So the idea is if we don't make this kick, they're going to have field position that they really haven't earned so much. And if we have a chance to pin them inside the 10, that's what we want to do." … Harbaugh said 6-foot-4, 345-pound defensive tackle Haloti Ngata could be used more in the offense's goal-line packages. "He's been calling for the ball already," Harbaugh joked. " 'Cam, give me the rock.' That's what he says." … Rookie cornerback Lardarius Webb nearly got burned on a 30-yard scoring strike from Pittsburgh quarterback Dennis Dixon to rookie wide receiver Mike Wallace, but Wallace couldn't corral the pass as Webb appeared to get a hand between Wallace's.

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