Monday, September 12, 2011

Baltimore's Offensive Line, Defense Carries Ravens to Blowout Victory over Division Rival

It seems there has been a bit of a changing of the guards, in a sense, in the AFC North division after yesterday's blowout.

The Baltimore Ravens, just 2-9 against Pittsburgh when Ben Roethlisberger is under center (entering Sunday), put up a franchise-best 35 points against Pittsburgh's aging defense in yesterday's game. Even more miraculous was the seven turnovers Baltimore's ball-hawking defense caused.

The turnover margin matched the point total of Pittsburgh's entire squad, getting in the end zone just one time–11-yard pass from Roethlisberger to second-year wideout Emmanuel Sanders in second quarter. It was Roethlisberger's first three-interception game since November 9, 2008 against the Indianapolis Colts.

Riding a three-game win streak against Baltimore (including the AFC divisional game in 2010), Pittsburgh expected to drive in to Baltimore and walk away with another game in the W column. But thanks to a near-perfect offensive line, Joe Flacco and Co. came away with the team's biggest win against Pittsburgh, ever.
Pittsburgh's normally stellar defense thrives because they are able to get to the quarterback and force turnovers. But not yesterday.

The Steelers didn't force a single turnover, and sacked Flacco just one the fourth quarter. In total, I believe you could count the number of times Flacco was even touched on one hand.

Fans and some experts would like to give Flacco the credit for this convincing victory, but there's no doubt that the offensive line deserves all the credit. Not to mention the defense, of course. Joe was given a short field on several occasions after Ray Lewis and Ed Reed forced turnover after turnover. And to top it all off the offensive line gave Flacco ample time to find an open man.

One more stat to point out: Ray Rice ran for 100 yards–106, to be exact–against Pitt's defense to become just the second running back to run for 100+ in the last 51 games. Well, technically he is the only one to accomplish that feat, because he just so happened to be the same guy who last broke 100 against James Harrison and company. He has Pittsburgh's number, what can ya say?

Head coach John Harbaugh could not have asked for a better start from his team, but he knows that if they don't keep a high level of play the next 15 games, this victory will mean nothing in the end. These two teams will be in the playoff hunt when they meet again in November, without question.

Photo credit: Patrick Semansky/AP

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