PITTSBURGH, Pa. — My headline was going to read “Ravens In Real Hole After Another Crushing Loss in Pittsburgh.”
The first line of the column was “It wasn’t pretty. There’s no ‘but’ coming here. It just wasn’t pretty.”
The good news is that no one will ever have to know how the rest of the column went.
The Baltimore Ravens (3-1) re-wrote their recent history thanks to a 17-14 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1) Sunday at Heinz Field. While the teams are tied atop the standings in the AFC North, the Ravens now get a leg up in the race by virtue of a head-to-head tiebreaker.
The Ravens were in REAL danger of falling two games AND a tiebreaker behind their rivals from the Steel City; especially crushing considering the Steelers played the game without starting QB Ben Roethlisberger.
But in just two minutes, all of that changed.
I had written my postgame column ahead of time because everything about the recent history of the Baltimore Ravens suggested that the game was over. When QB Joe Flacco’s fade pass to WR Anquan Boldin sailed out of bounds with just more than 2:30 to play in the game, it appeared as though the team was doomed to fall to 0-4 in Western Pennsylvania since Head Coach John Harbaugh joined the team.
In two and half minutes, it was easy to believe that a stupid penalty (like Frank Walker a season ago, LB Jarret Johnson on Monday Night Football in 2008 or Daren Stone in the 2009 AFC Championship Game), a costly turnover (like the pick six Steelers safety Troy Polamalu brought home in that same AFC title contest) or a poor coaching decision (like the decision to NOT attempt a short field goal on 4th and goal from the three was shaping up to look like) would cost this team as it had so many times before.
Of course we know it didn’t. Although, when a flag came out on a late Daniel Sepulveda punt; I don’t think I was the only Charm City resident that chuckled at least a bit thinking “that’s going to be how they lose this time?” Clearly it wasn’t, as the call was a hold on the punting team; but sometimes familiar feelings are hard to shake.
Of course, it might now be time that we learn how to shake them.
In marching his team downfield in the final 1:08 and finding WR TJ Houshmandzadeh for what would end up being the game winning touchdown, Flacco re-wrote not only his own history; but the entire recent history of the Baltimore Ravens and perhaps the AFC North.
The Ravens are a team that can do this type of thing now.
“I think those are the drives-if you go back and look at the (Joe) Montana’s, the (John) Elway’s, we can always remember those drives” said future Hall of Fame LB Ray Lewis. “For Joe to do that on that defense-the throws he made, the decisions he made, that’s what makes a great quarterback.”
He might not be “great” yet, but if he’s going to get there, this is the type of step he had to take.
It wasn’t just Joe Flacco however. The offensive line that has been fairly criticized at times this season held firm in the most important moments. Houshmandzadeh and Boldin both made a pair of catches on the final drive. RB Ray Rice helped in blocking. They did it all without having a single timeout.
Before that, the Ravens defense remained calm as the Steelers took the ball over. They didn’t allow the Steelers to pick up what would have been a game-clinching first down. The punt return unit pressured Sepulveda’s kick, adding ten yards of field position after Tom Zbikowski made a critical fair catch.
As Harbaugh said after the game, the Ravens “did it together.”
And together, they did what was necessary to alter the opinion of every fan and analyst that has taken the opportunity to point out their faults.
No one will ever again be able to say that Flacco hadn’t lead his team from behind to win in the final two minutes of a game.
No one will ever again be able to say that Harbaugh, Flacco, Rice, OT Michael Oher and others had never won in Pittsburgh.
I know first hand. I wrote the column that included all of those things.
Hear from Harbaugh, Flacco, Houshmandzadeh, Lewis, Rice, Johnson, DT Haloti Ngata, FB Le’Ron McClain, RB Willis McGahee, LB Terrell Suggs & WR Derrick Mason NOW in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net.