Final drive will haunt Ravens for a long time

December 14, 2008 | Drew Forrester

You don’t deserve to win if you can’t score more than 9 points at home.

That’s about simple as it gets when reviewing what happened to the Ravens on Sunday in their 13-9 loss to the Steelers.

How the final score became 13-9 isn’t simple, however.

In the end, Pittsburgh’s quarterback – like he does A LOT – figured out a way to get his team a win when it looked all but over.  A 92-yard drive in the final four minutes included a questionable defensive strategy from Baltimore, a secondary that suddenly stopped playing hard and a pass into the end zone that will forever be debated.  Did Santonio Holmes get in — or not?

The referees said he did.  Every replay I saw looked like the ball didn’t break the plane — but I’ll admit it was awfully, awfully, close.  Too close to call…which is why I’m glad I didn’t have to call it.

In a weird kind of way, it’s almost fitting that the game’s fate hinged on an instant replay call.  That’s how close the game was today.  It took a bunch of guys rewinding the tape a half dozen times and trying to find one INCH of evidence to determine the winner.  It’s just a shame the wrong team won.

This one will be talked about for a long time to come.

For starters, as I wrote earlier today:  “If the Steelers come into M&T Bank Stadium and win, they’re the better team.  God bless ’em.” 

Well, I’ll man-up and say it: The Steelers are better than the Ravens.  That’s the truth.  Not by much, mind you.  Maybe only by a matter of inches.  In two games this season, the TOTAL points separating the two teams?  SEVEN.  In two games, the BIGGEST difference between the clubs:  the quarterback.  Our QB is good and will only get better.  Their quarterback is a prize fighter who just won’t go down.  And he always seems to deliver the knock-out blow just when you think you finally have him beat.  

But just because Pittsburgh won today doesn’t necessarily mean I’d be petrified to see the Ravens play them again in the post-season.  Not one bit.  And, while realizing how much it hurts right now if you’re a Baltimore fan, let’s think about this a little more clearly: if the football Gods smile upon us and give the Ravens another crack at the Steelers in the post-season and Baltimore WINS that game, will any of us really care that we went 1-2 against the Black and Gold in 2008?  Of course not.

Pittsburgh’s defense didn’t buckle on Sunday.  Baltimore’s defense did.  One time.  And that’s all that Roethlisberger needed to mount his last ditch drive that rivals any ending in Ravens’ history.  

It was an epic battle on the defensive side of the ball in which both teams tried to lay claim to their superiority.  Neither offense was particularly effective.  In fact, there’s a fairly valid argument that Baltimore’s MVP of the game was punter Sam Koch.  Seriously.  When that happens, you know it was a defensive chess game.

In the 4th quarter, the Ravens stopped chasing Ben down and started putting more help in the secondary. The injury to Fabian Washington might have necessitated some of that extra assistance, as Frank Walker came in and perhaps Rex Ryan felt as if he didn’t want to rely on Walker in one-on-one coverage.  I saw very little pass rush pressure in the 4th quarter, though, and when you give Roethlisberger time to shake and bake, he cooks you.  All you have to do is watch that final TD throw to Santonio Holmes to see #7 buying time for himself until he could find the open man.  Rex Ryan will be a target of talk show callers and bloggers alike this week, I’m sure.  The 3-man rush utilized by the Ravens on the final drive wasn’t the answer.  And when your team loses, people want answers.

So, it’s on to Dallas for the Ravens and a week of talk about having to go to Big D to win a game that could either make or break Baltimore’s season.  

The Ravens are far from out of it, mind you, but today’s loss puts Pittsburgh IN and leaves Baltimore hanging on the edge, where one more series, one more throw or one more instant replay could leave them home come playoff time.