Blog & Tackle: Halfway home in AFC title game

January 18, 2009 | Chris Pika

1. Interesting start on the Ravens’ first possession — three Joe Flacco passes, no runs. Maybe the coaching staff figured Pittsburgh would play the run early, and tried to hit them for a long completion.

2. Pittsburgh WR Hines Ward hurt his knee and might be out for the rest of the game. If the Ravens can climb back into the game, they won’t have to worry about doubling Ward downfield on pass coverage. The loss of Ward might hurt the Steelers as much as Tennesee missed Chris Johnson in the second half of the AFC Divisional Playoff.

3. Jim Leonhard continues to have a big impact for the Ravens in the postseason. His 45-yard punt return late in the second quarter energized the Baltimore sideline, and set up Baltimore’s first score. He also had a fumble recovery in Pittsburgh territory.

4. This bears repeating from last week against the Titans. The Ravens have had a hard time making open-field tackles, which showed on a Ward 45-yard reception (27 yards after the catch) and the 65-yard touchdown catch and run by Santonio Holmes (49 yards after catch). When Ben Roethlisberger completes passes under the defensive backs, they have gotten plenty of extra yardage.

5. This game looked like it would be a ground war because of the weather conditions. But both quarterbacks have gone to the air because the turf at Heinz Field is in better condition than last week against the Chargers. The Ravens have run the ball 15 times (42 yards) and thrown it 14 times (32 yards). Pittsburgh has 13 runs (28 yards) and 24 passes (180 yards). Pittsburgh has 208 total yards, while Baltimore has 74.

6. The roughing-the-kicker call on the Ravens’ Edgar Jones late in the first half was brutal. P Mitch Berger landed on Jones, not the other way around. Tough break for Baltimore, but the Ravens caught a break when the Steelers could not spike the ball to get the field-goal unit on the field. The lack of 3 points might come back to haunt the Steelers.

7. Injuries are mounting for the Ravens. What Rex Ryan will do defensively in the second half with moving players around bears watching.

8. Flacco was 3 of 14 passing in the first half for a 9.8 passer rating, while Roethlisberger was 11 of 24 and a 86.8 rating.

9. The Ravens get the ball to start the second half.