to come up with a game-changing play the way Pittsburgh’s defense did late in the 4th quarter. And it didn’t happen because the Ravens couldn’t convert a simple 4th and 2 play with the game on the line.
When you play the Steelers, you have to finish them off. Giving them life is like failing to score on the Yankees when you have the bases loaded and no outs in the top of the 9th inning. You know they’re going to beat you in the home half of the final inning.
You just can’t let Roethlisberger have a chance to beat you.
Because he will.
Questions, questions, questions. That’s what followed in the aftermath.
“Why not attempt the field goal at the end of the game?” – Harbaugh: “We wanted to get to the 27. I have a good feel for those things. I’m pretty good at that. We felt like 49 yards into the wind there was a low percentage kick. And we felt like we had a better chance of making 2 yards.”
Harbaugh might be right on that one. After all, Dickson was wide open on the 4th and 2 play. Flacco simply made a poor throw.
But Billy Cundiff has been a wrecking ball this year. He’s been one of the team’s most clutch performers. Why not let him give it a go?
We’ll never know what would have happened.
One thing we do know happened, that must be mentioned.
James Harrison – on the winning side – and Terrell Suggs – on the losing side – both turned in virtuoso performances on Sunday night. Harrison made mincemeat of Michael Oher all night long and Suggs was in the Steelers backfield so much he was calling everyone “yinz” after the game.
They both earned their million dollar salaries on Sunday night.
And Suggs, unlike a few of his stalwart defensive teammates, stuck around to face the media afterwards.
One final question: At some point this season, will the Ravens ever use their best offensive player as if he is, in fact, their best offensive player? I’m talking, of course, about Ray Rice. Once again tonight, Rice was shuttled in and out of the game like an afterthought. He touched the ball a grand total of 13 times on Sunday night. That’s unthinkable, to me, anyway, for a guy who has the ability to change the game either on the ground or in the air.
While it was a crushing loss for the Ravens and the 71,000 strong who jammed the stadium in support on Sunday night, it’s not nearly a season ender for Baltimore. Neither the Steelers (9-3) or Ravens (8-4) have a flat path to the post-season. Pittsburgh has three straight home games upcoming (Cincy, Jets, Carolina) before closing out in Cleveland on January 3, while the Ravens have Houston (road), New Orleans (home), Cleveland (away) and Cincinnati (home).
There’s a lot of football left.
Four weeks worth, in fact.
Lots can happen between now and January 3.
But the Ravens let a golden opportunity slip through their fingers on Sunday night. To say they outplayed Pittsburgh would almost be unfair given that the Steelers won the game, but there was always a sense that Baltimore held the upper hand in this one all the way until……….the Polamalu forced fumble with 3:22 to play.
One play, one player, one turnover — and the entire AFC North playoff picture got scrambled in a rather unfortunate way for the Ravens and their fans.