Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu made a play in last week’s 13-10 victory over the Ravens that was a topic of discussion throughout the week.
He made a play that may have guaranteed the Steelers the AFC North Division, and it was a play that hit the Baltimore Ravens and their fan base hard leading up to the Monday night game against the Houston Texans last night.
It along with a questionable play-call on fourth down and the lack of a blocking assignment on Polamalu caused that topic to be the elephant in the room last week.
There had been question marks concerning the coaching staff of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, John Harbaugh, and Greg Mattison, but last Sunday’s loss to the Steelers opened the floodgates regarding their decisions on the field.
A loss to the dreaded Steelers may have hurt more than it would in a similar situation to the Bucs, but the Ravens may have been one of the only 8-4 teams in the league hitting the panic button.
And we saw the ship continue to draw water in Monday’s 34-28 overtime win over the Texans, as Mattison’s defense allowed the Texans to come back from two 20-point-plus deficits.
Cameron’s play calling came into question once again as he decided to pass on a critical third-and-short with 2:58 left in the fourth quarter that not only stopped the clock but the pass fell incomplete and the Ravens were forced to punt.
The Texans then went 90+ yards for a second straight drive to tie the game, and if we’re still looking at this still in a sinking ship perspective, let’s just say the women and kids were in the lifeboats ready to sail away to safety.
Overtime came, and things looked dire as the Ravens immediately punted to the Texans and sure enough, deja vu appeared to be in the works again as the unstoppable Texans offense was going to have the ball and have to go 90-yards again.
And the way the Ravens defense looked, you would have guessed that the Texans would have marched down the field again to win the game and send the Ravens home packing and licking their wounds.
“Concerned is probably a good word,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “They were closing the gap and I was concerned that they were going to tie it up and they did.”
But a third time was a charm as the Texans were backed up near their own end zone, and Haloti Ngata and Jarret Johnson provided enough pressure up the middle for Texans QB Matt Schaub to throw a pass intended for Kevin Walter on an out-route on the left-hand side.
Josh Wilson said he just saw the ball, stepped in front of the pass and returned it 12 yards for the game-winning score.
“I still can’t believe that really happened,” Wilson said. “The quarterback threw it inside, and I said ‘this cant be happening’…then game over.”
“The hero of the game,” Harbaugh replied. “He made a play in a critical situation on the road in overtime in December in a playoff hunt, and I think that’s the critical thing.”
“We really wanted to stop them, but they’re capable,” Wilson said of the Texans. “They’re a dynamic offense, and they’re capable of putting up points and getting yards. Unfortunately that’s what happened at the end of the game, but I don’t care. We won.”
The win may not seem like it, but it does put the Ravens ahead of the Jets for the fifth-seed in the AFC Playoffs and guarantees the Ravens their third consecutive winning season under John Harbaugh.
And if the Ravens had ended up losing to the Texans in blow-up fashion Monday night and then have the 10-3 Saints coming in Sunday, I think the Ravens’ panic button would be firmly pressed down and the frustration would loom over Baltimore for a second straight week in a row.
It may have been too late in the season to make changes in the coaching staff or personnel-wise, but dissension and frustration may have blossomed in Owings Mills.
And while the Ravens have some things to fix against another potent team in the World Champion New Orleans Saints, escaping with a win is a lot better than riding a two-game losing streak.
“We’ve got nine wins, and we move forward from here,” Harbaugh said. “We’ve got the world champs coming in, and we’re going to be playing them on a short week, so it’s going to be tough.”
It is another conference win for the Ravens, and let’s hope this is a sign of the Ravens putting some things together and riding the momentum through the final three weeks of the season as opposed to the devastating slide the team would have been had the Ravens lost to Houston Monday night.
“It’s all about winning,” Wilson said. “That’s all we care about at the end of the day. Did we win or did we lose? It doesn’t matter what the score is as long as we keep winning, cause if we win out, to me, we’re Super Bowl Champs.”
They have some things to work out with the coaching decisions, the scheme, and the personnel, but it’s always better fixing those things after a win as opposed to blaming each other after a loss.
We’ll just have to see if all the water has been removed from the boat and the holes have been fixed or if they are just delaying the inevitable.
“Finding a way to win in overtime is big for us,” Harbaugh said. “This football team has lost a lot of close games bysome crazy situations…but our guys overcame a tough situation and found a way to win. Really in December, that’s really what matters.”
“Do we have things that we’re worried about? Do we have things that we have to work on? Absolutely. But at this point in time in the season you are what you are and you have to find a way to win.”
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