Good, Bad, & Ugly: 2015-4 – Baltimore Ravens
It’s the day after a national prime time TV game against your rival. A game in which your team lost. It’s natural to start questioning things. You pick the game apart and you question every detail.
Certainly, that’s how all the fans feel this morning, after still feeling the sting of a would be Steelers victory taken away in front of our eyes.
I went into this game predicting it would be weird. I think, most fans went into this game with low expectations as well. Michael Vick starting as the QB. The Steelers having a short week to prepare. The unknown of a young defense, particularly one missing their centerpiece, Ryan Shazier, who is out with a shoulder injury.
And yet, while the result is not what we wanted, I can still find plenty of positives in this game:
- Michael Vick was the game manager we all wanted him to be.
- The offense didn’t turn the ball over.
- The defense did everything we could’ve possibly asked of them.
Yet, those things we thought would beat us, weren’t the things that beat us.
Sure, I know the onus is on the coaches this morning, so that’s what I will address first. I’m in the camp of “I’m not sure what you do.” Let’s consider, the largest amount of criticism is coming from the decision making in overtime, but let’s look at the end of regulation. You want to put the ball in your best players’ hands, and on 3rd and 5, they did just that with Le’Veon Bell, who was stuffed for a 1 yard game.
Would that have been the proper call in overtime? Your guess is as good as mine.
Sometimes, we have to place the blame on the players executing the plays as much as the coaches calling them. Throwing to another of your best players, WR Antonio Brown, has to be considering a high percentage play. Yet, it didn’t work… twice.
Tossing a short pass in the flat to Bell, also a play that’s usually successful, did not result in a first down on a 3rd and 2.
And that lead to the two 4th down calls getting the publicity this morning: how do you not hand off or dump it to Bell? Because the pattern on 3rd down already proved to be a failure. (You know the cliche definition of insanity, right?) So the team tries something different: and it doesn’t work.
Maybe blame the coaches. Maybe blame the execution by the players (especially the high throw to Brown on 4th down, where he was beyond the down marker.) But be responsible in understanding how this all works.
The criticism today is due to the team losing. But need I remind everyone that Baltimore also failed quite a bit on 3rd and 4th down. The Ravens were 6-of-17 on 3rd down and 1-of-4 on 4th down. Those are almost unheard of numbers, and moreso, if you consider it was the Steelers defense that created those stops. The Ravens attempted a fake punt, botched a typically high-conversion QB sneak on 4th and 1, and also gave up a sack on 4th and 10.
Yes, they won, so no criticism there… even for a desperate 0-3 team. And I think that’s where the sting hurts most, is losing to a team that hasn’t won, especially one we could’ve made 0-4. However, if I’m the only one giving a pass for the overtime play of the Steelers, the last 3 possessions where a first down would’ve potentially cemented the game, where else did this game go wrong?
I have a few situations where this game would’ve ended differently, aside from the 3rd and 4th down conversions which failed:
The Ross Cockrell Interception
On the interception itself, Cockrell seemingly had one player to beat to break free toward the endzone. Instead, Cockrell is stopped at the Pittsburgh 30 on a last ditch effort.
On the ensuing play, Michael Vick went deep for Antonio Brown, who saw the ball bounce off his hands and through his chest: totally uncharacteristic for AB.
Vick would be sacked 2 plays later on 3rd down and the Steelers would punt, getting zero points off the turnover, where, they had potentially two opportunities to score (and perhaps, even get into field goal range, even if Cockrell had not made it to the goal line.)
Now, I don’t want to be “that guy” who cries about officiating, but at least hear me out on two no-calls that would’ve altered the game.
On one 3rd down play, Michael Vick scrambled and was tackled by his face mask. As he’s going down, Vick is pointing out the infraction and no flag was thrown.
If either call gets made, the Steelers get a new set of downs and an opportunity to chew more clock with up to 4 more plays. That means the Steelers run out the clock and Baltimore never gets their last possession to kick the tie field goal.
Not spilled milk, but valid points. One missed call could make all the difference: in my opinion, it may have cost Pittsburgh a win.
Finally, the elephant in the room, and the most obvious answer as to how this game got away. Misses on clutch field goals, in pristine weather, are inexcusable in this league. When the opponent kicks 40 and 42 yard field goals, and then a 51-yarder to win, it means the defense did their job, and held their ground.
It’s up to the kicker to make the 49 or 41 yard attempts. Doing so wins the game. Plain and simple.
Doing so, means no overtime, where Tomlin and Haley are criticized for going for it on 4th down, because their kicker has already proven unreliable. What happens, if they give Scobee a 3rd chance and he still blows it? Do we complain that the coaches should’ve went for it on 4th down?
And that’s the conundrum: a lot of missed opportunities. A game lost on missing those opportunities and failing to put this one away. Despite all of that, I saw a lot of good in this team, and we always have to consider the opponent, no matter the record. Give Baltimore credit for hanging in and getting lucky. Sometimes that’s all you need.
For Pittsburgh, it appears, luck would not be in their favor. To that I hold my head high and say “better luck next time.”