Sea­son’s big­gest win pro­duces no eu­pho­ria

De­spite end­ing los­ing streak, Ravens know they must play bet­ter

Baltimore Sun - - RAVENS INSIDER - By Jeff Zre­biec jeff.zre­biec@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/jef­fzre­biec­sun

Rush line­backer Ter­rell Suggs was more fo­cused on the two late touch­downs that the de­fense al­lowed than how the Ravens kept Ben Roeth­lis­berger and the high-pow­ered Pitts­burgh Steel­ers off the score­board for the game’s first 51 min­utes.

Quar­ter­back Joe Flacco and wide re­ceiver Steve Smith Sr. an­swered ques­tions about the Ravens’ first win in more than a month by talk­ing about what the team has in front of it. About the clos­est thing to eu­pho­ria for the Ravens dur­ing and after their 21-14 vic­tory over their big­gest ri­val was de­liv­ered by coach John Har­baugh, who man­aged a smile when his team fi­nally put Pitts­burgh away.

“I had an of­fi­cial down on the side­line at the end of the game say it was the first time he had seen me smile in a cou­ple of years. I don’t think that’s true,” Har­baugh joked. “It was just a great win, a great team win. We found a way to play win­ning foot­ball.”

The Ravens’ vic­tory be­fore an an­nounced 71,286 broke a four-game los­ing streak, gave them four con­sec­u­tive wins over the Steel­ers for the first time in fran­chise his­tory and vaulted the team into a tie for first place in the AFC North. It didn’t ease any con­cerns about the play of quar­ter­back Joe Flacco and the of­fense or gen­er­ate any hope about the Ravens’ abil­ity to make a play­off run.

Maybe that ex­plains why the Ravens (4-4) were so sub­dued after the game — rare fol­low­ing any vic­tory over the Steel­ers; or maybe it was know­ing that in four days, the Ravens will be back at M&T Bank Sta­dium for a matchup with the win­less Cleve­land Browns. What­ever it was, the Ravens seemed to un­der­stand that to make this a sea­son­turn­ing vic­tory, they are go­ing to have to play much bet­ter.

“We have to make this some­thing,” Smith said. “If not, we just wasted our­selves.”

The Ravens did plenty of good things against the Steel­ers, who seemed in­tent on mak­ing it as dif­fi­cult as pos­si­ble for them­selves to win a road game. Nowlosers of three straight, the Steel­ers com­mit­ted 13 penal­ties and punted or turned the ball over on their first 11 full drives.

The Ravens had 10 penal­ties, four on rookie left tackle Ronnie Stan­ley, and a turnover of their own. But an oth­er­wise lack­lus­ter of­fense got a 95-yard strike from Flacco to for­mer Steeler Mike Wal­lace — the late first-quar­ter touch­down go­ing down as the long­est play from scrim­mage in reg­u­larsea­son fran­chise his­tory. That was the Ravens’ lone of­fen­sive touch­down.

“There’s not dis­ap­point­ment right now,” Flacco said. “They are tough foot­ball games to win, but yeah, here is a lit­tle frus­tra­tion in the fact that we’re not play­ing as well as we want to.”

Buck Allen’s blocked punt, re­turned for a 14-yard touch­down by rookie wide re­ceiver Chris Moore early in the fourth quar­ter, proved to be the de­ci­sive score. But the Ravens again beat the Steel­ers be­cause their de­fense was the best unit on the field.

Start­ing less than three weeks after hav­ing knee surgery, Roeth­lis­berger never got into a com­fort zone, throw­ing for a good por­tion of his 264 yards after the Ravens had a 21-0 lead. Ravens rookie Chris Moore (10) re­turns a punt blocked by Buck Allen for a 14-yard touch­down in the fourth quar­ter. The Ravens of­fense pro­duced only one touch­down. Le’Veon Bell, who may be the game’s best all-pur­pose back, was es­sen­tially a non-fac­tor, gain­ing 70 to­tal yards on 20 touches. Pitts­burgh had 36 rush­ing yards on18 car­ries. Wide re­ceiver An­to­nio Brown fin­ished with seven catches for 85 yards and a touch­down, but he was made a spec­ta­tor for the bet­ter part of three quar­ters.

“It’s frus­trat­ing,” said Roeth­lis­berger, who threw a 23-yard touch­down pass to Brown with 8:38 to play and scored on a 4-yard run with 48 sec­onds left to pull the Steel­ers within seven points.

Chris Boswell botched the en­su­ing on­side-kick at­tempt, al­low­ing the Ravens to kneel to run off the fi­nal sec­onds.

“We don’t take any­thing away from them,” Roeth­lis­berger said. “They are a good team. We did not make plays. I did not make plays. I did not con­vert third downs. I turned the ball over. I hold my­self to a higher stan­dard.”

Much of the talk dur­ing the week was on what has be­come of the Ravens-Steel­ers ri­valry, once con­sid­ered the best in the NFL. The per­son­al­i­ties in the game are cer­tainly dif­fer­ent, and the qual­ity of play has been dif­fer­ent, too. On Sun­day, the two teams com­bined for 16 penal­ties in the first half and then the Steel­ers lined up off­side on the open­ing kick­off of the third quar­ter.

But one sim­i­lar­ity to past matchups was a dom­i­nant de­fen­sive ef­fort. The Steel­ers played well de­fen­sively, but the Ravens were bet­ter and didn’t let down un­til mid­way through the fourth quar­ter.

“I feel like we have to play great to win games,” Ravens safety Eric Wed­dle said. “That’s no slight to the of­fense. That’s no slight to this team. We’re play­ing com­pli­men­tary foot­ball, but we feel like we have to get turnovers and we have to hold teams to low Thurs­day, 8:25 p.m. TV: NFL Net­work, Ch. 11 Ra­dio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM Line: Ravens by 101⁄ points. That’s the way­ourteamis, andthere is noth­ing wrong with that. If we go out and play great de­fense, we’re prob­a­bly go­ing to win. If we don’t, then we’re go­ing to lose. That’s just the way this league is.”

How good was the Ravens de­fense Sun­day? On their first 11 full drives, the Steel­ers had eight three-and-outs and an in­ter­cep­tion on a pass from Roeth­lis­berger that Bran­don Wil­liams de­flected and Timmy Jerni­gan caught. The Steel­ers had only two first downs, hadn’t crossed mid­field and were 0-for-10 on third downs un­til Roeth­lis­berger got the ball with 13:36 left in the fourth quar­ter, trail­ing by 21, and di­rected a nine­play, 75-yard scor­ing drive.

“It was re­ally a team ef­fort, and a lot of credit goes to [de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor] Dean Pees for his game plan,” Ravens cor­ner­back Jimmy Smith said. “We mixed things up and kept Pitts­burgh on their heels.”

Pees re­sisted the temp­ta­tion to have Smith, the Ravens’ top cor­ner, shadow Brown across the field. In­stead he left Smith on the right side and gave rookie Tavon Young safety help against Brown on the other side. Young got a game ball, Smith had an­other good game and Lar­dar­ius Webb­had­his best gameof the year.

But it started up front, as the Ravens set out to stop Bell, got enough pres­sure early to make an at-times gimpy Roeth­lis­berger look un­com­fort­able and then got their hands in the pass­ing lane when they couldn’t get to the quar­ter­back. About the only thing the Ravens didn’t do was cash in on the many turnover op­por­tu­ni­ties Roeth­lis­berger gave them. Webb, Wed­dle, C.J. Mosley and Jer­raud Pow­ers dropped po­ten­tial in­ter­cep­tions.

“It’s good to win. We’ve still got a tremen­dous amount of work to. Tremen­dous amount of work to do,” Suggs said. “It’s al­ways good­to­beat­y­our­di­vi­sion­ri­vals, butwhat­does it mean if we drop it Thurs­day? It means [noth­ing]. It’s time. We’ve got to start do­ing what we know we are ca­pa­ble of do­ing and win­ning. So we’ve got some work to do.”

LLOYD FOX/BALTIMORE SUN PHO­TOS

The Ravens’ Jer­raud Pow­ers, on ground, sacks Steel­ers quar­ter­back Ben Roth­lis­berger in the fourth quar­ter.

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