in the direction of Glenn Clark and Nestor Aparicio in the press box and said, “They have to be thinking ‘protect the ball’ here. Deep in Pittsburgh territory, you can’t make a mistake and turn the ball over.”
Three plays later – on 3rd and 14 from the Baltimore 18 – a short dump-off pass to Rice ended with a fumble and the game was changing.
Why throw the ball there? That was the question I whispered immediately after the ball hit the ground and was recovered by the Steelers.
Why not run a play, punt the ball, and defend? The Ravens defense had allowed only one Pittsburgh score and seemed in reasonable control of the offense-defense battle with Mike Tomlin’s team.
I didn’t get the concept of throwing it on 3rd and 14 on your own 18 yard line then…and I still don’t get it now.
On the next series, Cam Cameron went with the same thought process again, throwing on 3rd and 15 from his own 22.
And just to finish off the hat trick of sorts, Cameron called for a throw on 1st and 10 from the Ravens’ 10 yard line the next time Baltimore went on offense. Pittsburgh picked off the Flacco pass and turned it into 7 more points and a 21-21 tie.
Throwing caution to the wind is one thing. Throwing caution to the wind deep in your own territory, with a hostile crowd shaking the stadium off its foundation, and the season on the line: That’s a whole other animal.
As one Ravens Pro-Bowl player said after the game: ”If we just play the 3rd quarter to keep our 21-7 lead, we win. You gotta think protect-the-football-at-all-costs at that point.”
Now it’s certainly not fair to blame Cameron entirely for the loss or the turnovers. Doing that wouldn’t be giving Pittsburgh any credit at all. They were trying too. And Cameron didn’t snap the ball off of Joe’s leg late in the 3rd quarter, the final turnover of the 3rd quarter circus. Lardarius Webb – not Cameron – was the man responsible for Antonio Brown on the 58 yard catch late in the game that sealed the game-winning TD. Lots of players and mistakes contributed to Saturday’s loss.
But when you’re ahead 21-7 in the 3rd quarter of a road playoff game, you MUST start thinking about the methods you’re going to use to put the game away. Taking risks deep in your own end: That’s NOT one of those methods.
That’s just me, though. My job is to watch the game and make an analysis based on what I’m seeing and I’m feeling. I’ve never coordinated a game in my life. But I wouldn’t have been throwing the ball in the 3rd quarter on 3rd and 14 and so on when I was backed up in my own territory. Sometimes it’s OK to punt the football away, especially when the guy on your team does it is as well as anyone in the league.
We’ll wait another year for this to all happen again.
Both teams, with their nucleus intact, will be back in 2011.
And they’ll see each other twice, at least.
The Steelers aren’t going anywhere. Neither are the Ravens.
But if the Ravens really want to GO SOMEWHERE, they’re going to have to beat the Steelers to do it.
Part 2 on Monday: Player reviews – Who goes, who stays, what do the Ravens need to improve?