Welcome to The Crow's Nest, your virtual Baltimore Ravens sports bar.
Initially, I was stunned with the rest of the crowd here at the Nest as John Harbaugh help up two fingers signaling for a 2 point conversion after the Ravens scored to make it a one point deficit with seconds left in the 4th quarter. Maybe I shouldn't have been stunned, we've seen this move plenty of times from Harbaugh with Lamar Jackson but yesterday I didn't think the offense was playing well enough to take that risk. The Ravens went for it though lock, stock and barrel and....
Great call on the play, bad throw by Lamar Jackson or Mark Andrews stopped running as the pass sailed on him. Both players took accountablility for the failure to convert so it was probably a combination of both. Game after game this team has played with fire, have danced with the devil in the final minutes and somehow have come up on the better end of most of them. Sunday, karma finally caught up with them. It's fitting somewhat that it was at Heinz Field the week that Ben Roethlisburger hinted that he's retiring at the end of this season. In 2004 I had a crappy Sprint flip phone the year that Roethlisburger replace Tommy Maddox (knocked out of a game in 2004 by the Ravens) and this game, I watched it on HD on my Iphone. My point is Big Ben has been the center of the Ravens-Steelers rivalry universe for so long that technology has evolved, the lineups have changed consistently but Roethlisberger has been there, #7 under center for the Steelers forever and for him to probably play his last one of these games at home and lead a comeback to win, I just have to tip my cap to him. The rivalry won't be the same without him. He's been the main protaginist in this rivalry and as a Ravens fan he's caused me so much angst over the years. Ben has been so damn good against Baltimore, breaking bones and shedding blood during these intense games.
Big Ben's broken nose vs. Ravens in 2004
You could see how emotional Roethlisburger was after the Ravens 2 point conversion failed. Dammit, this rivalry still means everything to him. There's still one more game left for him against Baltimore in M &T Bank Stadium, where his career started. It will probably have playoff implications with the winner making the playoffs. There's no other way I would rather have it.
OK, on to game balls and suicide laps for the Ravens after the gutting loss yesterday. Remember, there's no cheating on those laps. From Looney's in Canton Square to Max's in Fells Point and back. No stopping for a drink at that Royal Farm Store on Aliceanna either.
Devonta Freeman- As maligined as the Ravens running back core has been in this injury plagued season, Freeman showed a surprising amount of burst in his runs yesterday. He capped a 99 1/2 yard Ravens drive with a touchdown.
While Freeman's numbers don't jump off the page, he led the rushing attack and had five receptions as well. In a year where the running game has stalled, Freeman came through when necessary yesterday.
Lamar Jackson- There's something not right with Lamar. For the past month, teams have been dialing up a cover zero defense against him and he's failed to adjust to it. He's not hitting his checkdown receivers, he's holding the ball too long in the pocket and he's taking unnecessary sacks. Pittsburgh sacked Jackson seven times yesterday (3.5 from TJ Watt alone). His intereception in the first quarter on a terrible jump ball pass that Minkah Fitzpatrick intercepted in the end zone took points off the board for Baltimore. As Tony Romo consistantly pointed out in his color commentary on CBS yesterday, Jackson needs to get the ball out of his hand sooner. It seemed like he was waiting on the big play while ignoring an easy 5-10 yard gain on a crossing pattern and instead taking a sack. To me it looks like Jackson is overloaded with information and not relying on his instincts anymore. When he is forced to play fast like the last scoring drive, he's deadly. The more the Ravens simplify the gameplan, the better the Ravens will be. Go no-huddle more, get Rashod Bateman involved early and have more designed quarterback runs. The Ravens have a capable receiving core for once in my life and could dink and dunk teams to death. The 99 yard drive and the last minute drive were things of beauty because the first played to the team's strength and the last played to Jackson's strenght. Everything in-between was a bust. The Ravens season depends on getting this right.
The rivalry continues in January. The Steelers and the Ravens are always must-see TV. They are the Alabama-Auburn of the NFL. As much as I can't stand the Steelers (I've lived in both areas, for what it's worth) I have a respect for them. If you can't appreciate these games, the energy this rivalry brings to both areas and to the entire league, you're banned from our bar. We hate the Steelers here at the nest but damn if we don't respect our rival here. Enjoy your Iron City beer in the Burgh this week Steelers fans. We'll see you next month here in Charm City, so get those playoff hopes up until then.
We are already planning the Big Ben retirement party here. Can't wait!