After taking their foot off the gas, Ravens get left in Steelers' dust

Offense must learn to keep pushing even after it takes a lead

December 06, 2010|Mike Preston

The Ravens have to learn how to keep attacking the best teams in the NFL.

You would have thought they would have learned their lesson earlier in the season against the New England Patriots, but apparently they haven't. When you're playing a Tom Brady or Ben Roethlisberger, you don't take your foot off the gas until the final whistle.

The Ravens went into an offensive shell in the second half against Pittsburgh on Sunday night, apparently hoping their defense could hold off the Steelers.

But this isn't the Ravens defense of 2000. And it doesn't have to be.

The Ravens poured out millions of dollars in the offseason to add wide receivers like Anquan Boldin, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Donte' Stallworth to be high-powered, and when the game is on the line, they handcuff third-year quarterback Joe Flacco.

"All these people we've got on offense," wide receiver Derrick Mason said, "I might get crucified for this one, but all these people we've got on offense, and we're not a good offense at times. Just call it how you see it. Call a spade a spade. If we were a good offense, we'd move the ball up and down the field. Especially with the people we have and the quarterback and the personnel we have. But we're just not a good offense at times."

It has to stop. If the Ravens are to advance deep into the playoffs, they have to cut Flacco loose and let this offense go. Until they do, they'll continue to struggle against teams like the Patriots and Steelers.

Cundiff kicked to curb

Ravens coach John Harbaugh made a mistake by not allowing kicker Billy Cundiff to attempt a 47-yard field goal in the closing minute to tie the score.

Cundiff has been the Ravens' Most Valuable Player all season, and Harbaugh should have put the game on his shoulders. The Ravens have built Cundiff up all season as the premier kicker in the NFL, but when the game was on the line, they choked by not allowing him to attempt the game-winner.

Throughout his six-year career, Cundiff has been known as a head case, and this year said he was kicking better because he had gained confidence. Well, he might not have any confidence now because the Ravens basically told him Sunday night during a nationally televised game that he wasn't good enough to attempt to tie the score.

A drive to remember

The 10-play, 92-yard scoring drive engineered by Flacco was the best of his young career. Flacco was 6-for-6 on the drive for 103 yards, including a 61-yard pass to Boldin on which he read the Steelers' blitz perfectly.

Flacco also showed good pocket awareness during the drive, three times moving to his right and completing passes of 8, 11 and 14 yards, the last of them for a touchdown to Boldin. The best pass might have been the 11-yarder to tight end Ed Dickson along the left sideline on third-and-10 from the Pittsburgh 25-yard line.

You had to question the blitz by Pittsburgh on the long pass to Boldin. The Steelers had the Ravens at third-and-15 from the Ravens' 3, and the Ravens caught safety Troy Polamalu in a blitz.

Wasted effort by Webb

The Ravens finally got a big play from their punt-return team as Lardarius Webb returned one 35 yards early in the second quarter to the Baltimore 49, but the Ravens gained only 7 yards on the ensuing drive. They have to do a better job of capitalizing because they haven't gotten a lot of big plays out of their return units.

Too deep, too soon

Tight end Todd Heap left the game during the Ravens' first offensive play of the game. Heap apparently pulled or strained a hamstring.

Some teams like to take a chance on hitting an early home run, but when it's cold like it was Sunday night, I don't think I would have any of my skill players streaking down the field until their muscles got loose.

Hello, Mr. Stallworth

It was nice to see the Ravens get Stallworth involved in the passing offense. He had a 67-yard reception in the second quarter.

There is no excuse for perhaps the fastest player on the roster not touching the ball three or four times a game or for the Ravens' not taking a shot downfield at least once.

Nothing for Ward

Wide receiver Hines Ward, Public Enemy No. 1 in Baltimore, has become nonexistent in the Steelers' offense. He saw only one pass thrown to him in the first half, and he dropped it on a play that would have given Pittsburgh a first down at the Ravens' 28.

Sorry, can't say we felt sorry for him.

Cut Oher some slack

This wasn't one of left tackle Michael Oher's better games as he was called for jumping offside twice and holding once, but give the second-year pro some respect. He played with a sprained knee, and a lot of tackles jump offside trying to block Pittsburgh outside linebacker James Harrison.

Play-calling problems

Midway through the third quarter, the Ravens had the ball on first-and-goal at the Pittsburgh 6.

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