Well, so much for my attempts to predict football.
I was right about the Ravens vaulting the line and drawing first blood, though I had the wrong jersey: it was Haloti Ngata who smacked Roethlisberger in the face mask and broke his nose. The Ravens had everything going for them: an injured opposing quarterback, leading at the half, playing at home, playing in the cold. What happened?
(1) Todd Heap going out early. Literally the first play of the game, Heap strained his hamstring without even being touched. This led to rookie Ed Dickson suiting up. Dickson dropped one gimme pass in the first quarter and missed a few key blocks. Heap may be old, but Dickson’s not half the man he is. This led to:
(2) Flacco putting fewer balls in the air. Ray Rice is the strongest ground element Flacco had, but Rice did more blocking than carrying (it looked like). Willis McGahee got his hands on the ball quite a few times, putting up all of 7 yards. But without Heap to run it out, Flacco merely had Houshmanzadeh, Boldin and Mason to dish it up to. Apparently that wasn’t enough.
(3) Just a close game, man. It turned around when Polamalu stripped Flacco and the Steelers recovered the fumble on the Ravens’ goal line. Had the Ravens been down by three, Ray Lewis would have been just as likely to do the same to Roethlisberger. You have two aggressive football teams, playing the second match of the season in a storied rivalry, shooting for top of the division and that first week bye. I’m not surprised it came down to the wire.
Here’s hoping for one more shot in the postseason.