The Baltimore Ravens lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers because the Ravens did not know how to win the game.
Conversely, the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Ravens, winning because they knew how to win the game.
On third down and 19, where did the Baltimore Ravens expect Pittsburgh Steelers Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to throw the ball? The Ravens, with eight players back deep, still gave up a 58-yard pass. The Ravens, despite their vaunted defense, showed a tendency all season to give up big passing plays – perhaps none more memorable than the lowly Carolina Panthers’ 88-yard touchdown pass from journeyman quarterback Brian St. Pierre to rookie wide receiver David Gettis.
To many people, Ben Roethlisberger is one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL. If he wants to maintain that status, he should work on improving his every-pass accuracy. Throughout the game, Roethlisberger displayed accuracy only on crucial plays. A more astute defensive secondary would have victimized him for several interceptions.
Comparably, Baltimore Ravens Quarterback Joe Flacco was rattled badly in the third quarter. One thing that would help him overcome that in the future is to throw the ball sooner. He held the ball too long, which contributed greatly to some of the Steelers’ sacks.
During the game, I tweeted that John Harbaugh should have called a timeout before the botched snap that gave the Steelers the game-tying possession in order to try to shift the momentum that had clearly swung towards Pittsburgh. More NFL coaches need to understand the dynamics of momentum and the tools at their disposal with which to affect it.
After the Ravens’ horrific third quarter, they went to lean on the rushing game. This was not in and of itself a bad idea, but there needed to be more dynamic running calls. The Steelers are not a team that will give up runs down the middle when they know that that is what is coming.
Pittsburgh’s first-half lull was to be expected: Ravens had momentum (again, the concept of momentum plays a role) from the Wildcard Round, and the Steelers had none. This hammers home the point even more that NFL coaches (and players) need to understand the impact of momentum and how to harness that impact.
Mike Tomlin learned from the first half, when he changed his mind on fourth down and went to kick a field goal, and Shaun Suisham missed it – in the second half when faced with a similar situation, he went for the first down and got it.
Similarly, the Steelers knew what plays to call and how to attack the Ravens’ defense on crucial plays, and the Ravens had no ‘defense’ for that whatsoever. Jim Harbaugh and the Baltimore Ravens were outcoached and outmatched by Mike Tomlin and the Pittsburgh Steelers.