Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers: Hero and Zero of Game
A lot of fans would say last night's game went backwards.
These are the fans that gave us pass interference (with a little help from Mel Blount).
These are the fans that made quarterbacks virtually untouchable, and created a college football system that (until recently) favored teams that could score 60 points against inferior opponents.
Last night's game was perfect for anyone who misses the old days of football.
Both teams are built the same way - tough, rugged defenses that allowed a total of 511 yards on this night, power running games intended to wear down defenses, and passing games built around speedy receivers and big quarterbacks with bigger arms that can break open a close game in one play.
This game went over 59 minutes without an offensive touchdown. One fluky three-play drive gave the Steelers a VERY early lead that outscored the entire Baltimore offense.
The Ravens should be very happy they have Jacoby Jones, the Hero Of The Game.
The league's leading kickoff return man (by average) scored his third special teams touchdown of the year with his first punt return TD (a 63-yarder).
Without this one play, the Steelers' defense would have saved the offense and the backup quarterback after locking the Ravens out of the end zone, despite all the talent the Ravens have.
It's not the first time Jones has made a difference - his 108-yard return against the Cowboys gave the Ravens their only double digit lead in that game (24-13 at the time). Without that momentum, the Cowboys might not have needed the two-point conversion that Dez Bryant dropped or the field goal that Dan Bailey missed.
Heroic honorable mentions: both defenses, Byron Leftwich playing hurt, and Jonathan Dwyer (who continues to look like Jerome Bettis).
At the same time, the Steelers could have easily tied this game. They got the ball back with a minute left, but it would have been much more if they hadn't been forced to burn their timeouts towards the end of the third quarter.
Even after further review, I'm not sure if the Steelers didn't get to the line quick enough, if Leftwich didn't like the play call and didn't have time to audible before calling the second timeout, or if Pittsburgh just didn't have the right personnel.
The Zero Of The Game is therefore Todd Haley, Pittsburgh's offensive coordinator, for not teaching his players to be aware of the game situation.
Zeroic Honorable Mentions: Byron Leftwich's injured right shoulder, Justin Tucker missing a field goal (admittedly on the difficult end of Heinz Field, where the wind does crazy things, but it nearly cost the Ravens the game).
The best part? They do it again in two weeks! Anyone care to bet on whether or not there'll be another shoving match?