View Full Version : Ravens win could come down to Flacco performing in clutch

tony hipchest
01-11-2011, 06:12 PM
nice breakdown with relevant stats from pat kirwan.


There are no secrets when the Ravens and Steelers get together. Everyone expects a low-scoring defensive battle likely to come down to the final possession.

The two division foes, who meet on Saturday in an AFC divisional playoff game, split the season series -- with each winning on the other's home turf -- and both teams have scored 27 total points against the other. Don't expect a 100-yard rusher when these teams meet, despite the fact that both teams will average more than 20 carries in hopes of keeping the offense balanced. The longest run from scrimmage in the two previous matchups: 14 yards, and that was on a quarterback scramble by Joe Flacco.

Both defenses operate from the 3-4, with the Steelers creating more pressure on quarterbacks than the Ravens did all season, but injuries to the Steelers' offensive line could neutralize the significant difference in sacks.

The winner of this game will move on to the AFC Championship Game, but you've got to wonder what will be left of these teams after playing the most physical game of the divisional round.

Here are four pressing questions, as the Ravens and Steelers prepare to go at it for a third time:

Which QB has advantage?
Ben Roethlisberger, who was suspended at the time, did not play in the 17-14 loss to the Ravens back in Week 4, but he played in the 13-10 win in Baltimore last month. Flacco, who threw a touchdown in both games, was willing to pass an average of 38 times against the Steelers with his new weapons, Anquan Bolding and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. We know there's going to be a lot of passing, so let's break down these quarterbacks.

Roethlisberger is 8-3 all time, including playoffs, against the Ravens, but he's even better at Heinz Field where he's 6-1 against Baltimore with 13 touchdown passes and just six interceptions. He's been sacked 21 times in those seven games, but they never seem to bother him. Big Ben has been really good on third downs against the Ravens, especially in the last six games in which he has completed 65 percent of his third-down attempts at over 10 yards an attempt with eight touchdowns and zero interceptions. That's a hard act to follow for Flacco, but he looked really good last week in Kansas City.

The Steelers' defense is ranked No. 2 in the NFL and is significantly better than Kansas City's. Flacco is 2-5 all time against Pittsburgh and just 1-3 at Heinz Field. Last week, Flacco showed a willingness to run with the ball, and his seven carries for 26 yards might not seem like a big deal, but it is a critical component to moving the chains and not letting Pittsburgh play certain coverages. The last time they met on this field, the mighty Steelers pass rush only sacked Flacco once in 33 pass plays and only hit him two times. Anquan Boldin caught 12 passes for 186 yards in the previous two Steelers games, and he will be a favorite target once again. Todd Heap had a career game last week and needs another game like that again this week.

Whose pass rush will apply more pressure?
Pittsburgh -- or "Blitzburgh," if you will -- had 48 sacks in the regular season as compared to 27 for the Ravens, who did get to Matt Cassel three times last week facing a better Chiefs offensive line than the one they'll face on Saturday.

Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs has had success in the past getting to the Steelers' quarterback, posting 12.5 sacks in his 16 games. James Harrison of the Steelers has played the Ravens an equal number of games, but only has 6 sacks. Lamar Woodley is a key to the Steelers pressure against Baltimore, with 7.5 sacks in nine games.

Roethlisberger gets sacked one in 10 attempts against the Ravens, and the same is true for Flacco against the Steelers. It really comes down to which team can apply the most pressure in the fourth quarter, when the game is on the line. Flacco has only thrown one touchdown in the fourth quarter of seven games against the Steelers and has been sacked one in seven attempts.

Who are X-factors?
The X-factor for the Steelers used to be Santonio Holmes when it came to playing the Ravens, but he's gone now. Holmes had eight touchdowns in nine games against Baltimore, and when you consider Hines Ward has not scored a touchdown in the last 13 games against the Ravens, and that Heath Miller hasn't hit pay dirt in the last eight games, the X-factor has to be Mike Wallace.

Wallace is averaging 21 yards a catch and has 10 touchdowns this year, but he has never scored against the Ravens, who completely eliminated Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe last week. Wallace has a big challenge, and look for his big plays to come off Roethlisberger scrambling.

For the Ravens, their X-factor is Ed Reed. He roams the middle of the field and has seen those Roethlisberger scramble plays that turn into big-play bombs. Reed hasn't picked off Roethlisberger in the last six games they have met and only has three interceptions in the 15 games he has faced the Steelers. By the way, his counterpart, Troy Polamalu, only has one interception against the Ravens in 14 games.

Can either team's running game protect a lead?
Rashard Mendenhall will get his carries against Baltimore. He had 44 carries for 124 yards in the first two games for a poor 2.75 yards a carry, but he did score twice and a 60- yard, one-touchdown day could be enough to put the Steelers over the top.

As for the Ravens, Ray Rice and Willis McGahee will get close to 20 carries between them, but don't expect them to average over 3 yards a carry. Rice has never scored a touchdown against the Steelers in the 80 touches he has had in six games. I don't think either team can sit on a lead and try to kill the clock running the ball. If they do, they risk punting after a quick three-and-out.

There is a lot of momentum for the Ravens coming off that dominating win over the Chiefs, and they do average 22 points a game on the road while only giving up 16. But the Steelers average 26 points a game at home and only give up 12. I'll take Pittsburgh 13-10.

01-12-2011, 04:24 PM
Steelers are going to run a lot of screens, swing passes, and play action hitches to frustrate the fast and powerful Ravens pass rush up the gut, and make the slow, tired LB's work. When the DB's move up, its Logan time deep.
No huddle and hurry up should wear them down before halftime. they ain't deep.

This thing should be over by the end of the third quarter. A long season and lack of depth should do-in the Ravens rather quickly.

The Ravens like to play 2 deep, Ben won't try them until the 2 deep move up to help the tired LB's.

01-12-2011, 04:42 PM
Suggs is a lot of things but slow isn't one of them.

01-12-2011, 05:02 PM
The Ravens would love the Steelers to run Screen passes all day as they can stop that with out a problem.

The way to beat the Ravens is short passes 7-15 yards.

I agree, the game will come down to Flacco making a play or two.

Fire Arians
01-12-2011, 05:14 PM
the chance of ben delivering in the clutch is higher than jacco

01-12-2011, 05:16 PM
What I really want to know are the chances of Arians performing in the clutch? I have all the faith in the world about our players out doing there's this weekend. We just need a well called game, or at least Ben to take over with some no huddle in the 2nd half

01-12-2011, 05:30 PM
Flacco isn't going to have a chance to win the game at the end. We're rested and pretty healthy compared to the last time we met. It's not an easy win by any means, but we can beat them a little each quarter and at the end of the game it won't matter who has the ball. But if Flacco does end up having to win the game at the end against Harrison, Woodley and Polamalu, I'll take that.

01-12-2011, 08:55 PM
the chance of ben delivering in the clutch is higher than jacco

At this point I would say you are correct as Flacco is sill young but is getting close to being clutch.

Flacco isn't going to have a chance to win the game at the end. We're rested and pretty healthy compared to the last time we met. It's not an easy win by any means, but we can beat them a little each quarter and at the end of the game it won't matter who has the ball. But if Flacco does end up having to win the game at the end against Harrison, Woodley and Polamalu, I'll take that.

Like I told another poster the game like all other games in this series will go down to the forth quarter and you may recall that Flacco did have to win the game vs Troy, Harrison and Woodley and did win the game.

Also remember that the Chiefs game could have been a bye for the Ravens as our D was not on the field that much and our Offense is getting better.

01-12-2011, 10:28 PM
Good points, Ravenfan, well taken. Personally, this may be hubris talking, I think the game will be well in the Steelers hands by the 4th qtr. Call it a hunch, but it's time to put the Ravens to bed.