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Stillers-Ravens Postgame Analysis and Grades

December 15, 2008 by Still Mill

Stillers 13, Ravens 9 ���Game #14
Stillers 13, Ravens 9��. Dec. 14, 2008 ����Game #14��


Stillers-Ravens Postgame Analysis and Grades


The Stillers, essentially behind nearly the entire game in what was a genuine slopfest, scored a rare TD with less than a minute remaining to take the led, 13-9, and then held on for a big win over the hated Ratbirds.With the win, the Stillers have wrapped up the AFC North crown!���




QB:Spike Roethlisberger had an okay game, although he was victimized by 4 or 5 drops. ��He finished 22 of 40 for 246 and no INTs.The late game, 92-march was Ben at his best, going 7 of 11 and hitting Holmes for the winning TD.


The 1st half was spotty.He had a good completion to Miller for 17 yards on 3d & 5.But on the next play, he threw what is becoming a regular, gimpy-assed sidearm screen to Parker, which was incomplete.It�s to the point where I don�t think there is another starting QB in the league who throw a worse screen pass.He also had a low, weak-assed out pass to Nate late in the 2Q.


The 2H wasn�t all too impressive until late.Ben refused to throw the ball away on Reed�s sack in the 3Q.On the first play of the 4Q, on a critical 3d & 1, Benji rolled right, then once again refused to throw the ball away.Actually, since they were well within FG range, he could have simply eaten the ball for a 3-yard loss.�� Instead, Ben tried this assaholic pass while wrapped up and his arm grabbed, so putrid that it conjured memories of Garo Yepremian�s fateful flub of a pass after a botched FG in the Super Bowl vs. Wash. some 35 years ago.�� Like Garo�s batted flub of a pass, Ben�s was picked off (it was actually ruled a fumble) and 3 points were essentially taken off the board.


Right next to that boner was Ben�s utterly incomprehensible insistence on spiking the ball after Ward�s catch set up a 1st & G at the Raven 4-yard line with 1:04 remaining in the game.In that amount of time, with the ball at the 4-yard line and the Stillers owning 1 timeout, there was absolutely no reason whatsoever to spike the ball in this situation.The Stillers had enough time, in such an incredibly short distance, to run 6 or 7 plays (ie, overcoming a holding flag, etc.) and still would have had time left over.�� Really, for a QB like Spike Roth in his 5th season in the NFL, this was as dumb as it gets.I�m trying to think which spike was more lamebrained -- Plexico Burress� late in the Jaguar game back in 2000 (when he grabbed a deep crosser, fell to the ground untouched, and got up and spiked the ball in snide jubilation), or Ben�s foolhardy down-killer of a spike today.����� B-


RB:Parker and Moore each got some work, with Parker toting it 14 times for 47 yards and Moore 7 for 16.Strangely enough, Moore was held off the stat sheet in the receiving department, while Parker, who has been neglected like a leper in the passing game, had 2 grabs for 9 yards.(Parker actually caught a flare pass today�.hooray!)Parker broke a tackle by RayRay late in the 3Q and got 7, and he had a nice 10-yard run in the 4Q.


Russell appeared to be stonewalled short of the sticks on a 3d & 1 plunge in the 2Q, but the line judge ruled it a 1st down.




FB: Little use in this particular game.�� Inc.


WR:Ward snapped out of the mini-funk with a superb game, snaring 8 balls for 107 yards.�� It seems like nothing brings out the best in Ward as does the Poebirds.Most of his yardage was off RAC, as Ward churned, spun, and plowed for extra yardage.Ward got the final drive going with 2 consecutive 13-yard grabs, and his spinning, 3rd-effort RAC set up the late goal-to-go at the 4.For all the talk about how the Ravens were getting �up� to face Ward and so on, Ward never wavered or backed down an inch, as he continually made fearless catches over the middle.��


Nate dropped a 2nd down out pass on the first series, and had another drop later on.But he came back overall with a solid effort.He had a good spin RAC after a short out and gained 18, although he nearly fumbled.Nate then made 3 clutch catches on the final drive, good for 16, 9, and 24 yards.


Holmes had a long, and poor, day, up until his big catch in which he astutely got both feet down in the EZ for the correctly-ruled TD.He dropped an easy 3d & 6 pass that was right in his gut on the 2nd series.Then, on 1st down from our own 1 in the 3Q, he caught a short plant and promptly was stripped faster than a Las Vegas prostitute, giving the Woodpeckers the ball at the Stiller 16.This gave the Ravens a FG and a 9-3 lead.


Sweed did nothing.���� Ward:A+���� Nate:B+���� Holmes:C


TE:Miller had 3 grabs for 26 yards, which was pretty good when you consider his dim-bulbed OC forced him to spend most of the game pass blocking back in the pocket.Miller did have a total whiff on Suggs on the 3d & 1 play early in the 4Q, which led to Ben�s fumble.


But that blunder aside, Miller had nothing compared to Matt Spaeth, who gave one of the very worst, most feeble-assed performances that I can recall from a Stiller in the past 5 years.�� The guy was a wretched, steaming pile of shit the entire game.Honest to goodness, Spaeth was either getting paid to throw this game today, or he had no regard to the work ethic and toughness required to excel at the NFL level.He was thoroughly manhandled by Pryce on the 2nd series, which caused a 1-yard loss.He then totally whiffed on Suggs, which forced a hasty incompletion on a PAP that appeared to be a designed deep-ball.On the 1st play of the 3Q, Speath was again abused by Pryce, which forced a throw-away.Mind you, none of these plays required super-athletic, Dermonti Dawson kind of blocking.Had Spaeth simply held his ground, with his head up, he could have at least gotten in the way of a defender instead of imitating a goddamned matador.As if he hadn�t embarrassed himself and his team enough during the first 59 minutes of the game, Spaeth, on 2d & goal from the 4, dropped what would have likely been a TD on the play just before Holmes� heroic TD.


McHugh had 1 grab for 7 yards before carelessly stepping OOB and losing 1-2 yards in the process.


Miller:�� B���� Speath:�� F


OL: An okay performance against a stout from 7 that was able to gun their blitzes because nearly every snap occurred with 1 second remaining on the playclock.The running game, which was used only sporadically, never really got untracked, but the Raven run-blitz scheme enabled an untouched blitzer to bottle most ground plays.The line struggled more in communication and reading than in actual physical grappling.Stapleton passed off a rusher on 3d & 5 in the 1Q, and then failed to re-direct himself on RayRay, who flashed in untouched for a bruising sack.Hartwig failed to peel off a double-team and pick up Reed, who flashed in untouched for a sack in the 3Q.Willie The Colon was flagged for a false start and then a hold that negated Parker�s 1--yard run.�� Staple was flagged for a hold on a run when he blatantly grabbed RayRay.Starks may have saved a TD by nabbing the dangerous Reed after the fumble recovery deep in Stiller territory.The overall blocking was pretty solid on the 12-play, 92-yard march.���� B


DL:The line had some struggles with the quick-hitting plunges that Balt. likes to use.McClain gashed them several times for good chunks of yardage.Smith was mauled inside on MClain�s 8-yard run in the 2Q.Kirschke was rumbled over by McClain on a 7-yard gain in the 3Q.Fat Casey was mauled on McClain�s 10-yard plunge midway thru the 4Q.


Smitty did have a good effort on a sack of Jacco in the 3Q, and he was involved in a plethora of stops in the ground game.Kirschke clumsily booted the pigskin while trying to pick up the loose ball after a Jacco fumble in the 4Q; the imbecile should have simply fallen on the ball, rather than trying to pick it up.��� Overall, not shabby, but hardly stupendous.�� B-


LB:After being ravaged by Jamie Harrison in the prior meeting, the Ravens went nearly overboard to limit Harrison with a host of unbalanced lines and chip blocking schemes.�� Harrison was held to a fairly quiet day, although he should have drawn at least 2 holding flags, and he applied some pressure on Jacco, including the Smith sack.Harrison was sealed badly inside on Jacco�s option keeper in the 1Q,a s he got sucked in and then sealed while Jacco gained about 6.


Taunto Farrior led all Stillers with 8 solos and 4 A�s.Don�t let the paper stats fool you, of course, as Farrior struggled like a sub-prime mortgage firm.He continually mis-read and mis-judged plunges, going directly to where the runner was not, in a manner as alarming and assaholic as Spaeth�s futilities on the other side of the ball.�� On the 2nd series of the game, he ambled way to his left on a McClain run up LG that gained an easy 7 yards up a huge hole.He whiffed on McGahee, turning a 2 yard gain into 5 in the 2Q.He weakly paw-pawed -- reminiscent of Jason GilDong -- on a McClain plunge that netted 6 in the 2Q.He had a lucky bust-up on a 3d & 7 pass to McGahee in the 3Q, in which he was tooled badly by Willis on the pass route, and only a poor pass behind the receiver enabled Farrior�s last-second arm-stab to break the play up.Taunto was walled off on McClain�s 10-yard run in the 4Q.Then, a short while later, The Winged God of LB Coverage moved like pond water on a simple curl route by Mason, which moved the chains on 3d & 7.


Foote started and did extremely little.He did an absurd flop on a 2Q screen pass to Neal that netted 11 yards.He was shoved way back on a McClain run early in the 3Q that gained 7.


Woodley was quiet, with just 1 solo and 1 A.He did drop back into coverage more than expected -- and more than we�d like -- and was tooled in coverage of Heap in the 2Q that gained 24 yards.He did force a TA late in the 2Q.


Timmons had a silly whiff on a sack on a 3d & 7 late in the 2Q, which was then completed for a 17-yard gain.Timmy did have a nice reaction and soft hands on the Jacco TA that bounced off the crossbar late in the 2Q, which, if the rules allowed, would have been a terrific INT.Timmer then laid a huge hit on a 3d & 4 pass in the 4Q, which caused the ball to dislodge and was nearly picked off by Townsend.Timmons also had a huge sack n� strip in the 4Q, coming off the left edge, which knocked Balt. out of FG range and set up the fateful 92-yard TD march.In a nutshell, Timmons had more game-impacting type of plays (3) in 32 minutes than Foote has had in his entire feeble career.Gee, it�s a good thing that Timmons continues to rot the bench behind a superstar of Foote�s caliber.


Farrior:C��� Harrison:B�� Woodley:C+��� Foote:C��� Timmons:B+


DB:lke had a decent game, although he was boxed out by Mason on a deep ball in the EZ in the 2Q, but Mason mistimed his jump and failed to reach his apex as the ball arrived.�� Ike forced the Clark INT with superb coverage and the deflected ball was corralled for an INT.


Pola had a fairly quiet evening.�� He was slow off the LOS to cover Heap on a flag in the 1Q, and only a poor misfire by Jacco allowed this 20-yarder to fall inc.Pola was beaten on a deep flag to Mason in the EZ in the 3Q, but again a Jacco overthrow saved the day.Pola also whiffed on a dumpoff to McClain late in the game, allowing an extra 5 yards on the 14-yard play.


Ryan �Roadkill� Clark had nearly as gawd-awful a game as Spaeth did, getting run over by McClain with the same regularity as groundhogs attempting to cross a 4-lane highway.For the amount of time Clark spent on his back during this game, he ought to ask the equipment manager to re-sew his uniform numbers and lettering, as the stitching has probably been tattered from all the wear n� tear.�� Clark is one of those fellows who talks a big game, all full of bravado, but then meekly fails to back it up.He missed an easy sack of Jacco on an untouched blitz in the 2Q on a key 3d & 7, which allowed Jacco to hit Heap for a 24-yard gainer.Later in the 2Q, he was trucked by McClain on 2 succesive plays.At 9:00 4Q, he was again trucked by McClain in the backfield, turning a 1-yard loss into a 2-yard gain.He got tooled by Clayton on a deep in, good for 19 yards.Not satisfied enough, Clark was plowed over by McClain on a 10-yard run.


Clark did have a Dong interception when Ike�s coverage caused a high deflection that floated into the hands of Clark.After that pick, Colbert will probably rush out and offer Clark a 4-year extension by the end of the week.


McFadd returned to the lineup after his arm injury, and played solidly.He was far too soft in coverage on Mason, late in the 2Q and deep in Stiller territory.At his age, Mason is no deep burner (he never really was, even in his prime), and that far in Stiller territory, there is no chance of being beaten �deep�.To his credit, he was active in run and short-pass support, and finished with 4 solos.��


Townsend chipped in some.Gay had the big INT on the Raven�s last play, snaring a deep ball in the EZ to seal the deal.


Clark:D��� Pola:�� C+����� All others:B+


Spec teams:The spec teams had been quietly adequate�.until today.They picked a fine time to squat down and lay an egg.


The coverage teams were of Cowher-like quality early on.The KO coverage was weak on the opening KO, allowing a 39-yard return, with Fox�s whiff helping to ease the way.Mid 1Q, poor punt coverage allowed an 18-yard return.Then, on the final play of the 1Q, Berger finally got off a decent 46-yard punt that bounced and rolled some to the 11, and the entire coverage team, led by Bailey and Roadkill Clark, simply stopped in their tracks and gazed at the ball and the return man (Leonard) .Bailey whiffed, while Clark, who was just a couple yards from Leonard when the punt was fielded, simply stood flatfooted and was never a factor.Berger saved the TD with the stop, but the return gained 46 yards.


Moore was flagged for blocking after he�d signaled for a FC.Reed drew a dumbassed penalty after the late PAT, when he shoved a Raven.The flag was ticky-tack, but a kicker should never, ever, be involved in some silly-assed shoving match like this in such a tight game.Due to the flag, Reed had to KO from his own 15, and after the squib kick, the Ravens set up shop at their own 47.


Berger began the game with a shitty 28-yard punt, and had some other shankers to go along with a 51-yarder.


Holmes, as if his evening wasn�t shoddy enough, coughed up a punt while trying to field it on the run in the 3Q.Luckily, Fox was able to grab the loose ball, and then advance it 18 yards for one of the longer punt returns all seasons from this crew.


Fox had a good stop in KO cover in the 2Q.Frazier and Madison each made a good stop in punt coverage in the 3Q.Timmons showed terrific speed and athleticism by swooping in on Leonard in punt coverage and cutting him down.(Side note:when Chas Noll roamed the sidelines, great plays on special teams earned you more playing time.In the current-day Steeler system, great plays on spec teams earn you nothing.)�� Bailey laid a nice hit on the slipping Figures in KO coverage in the 4Q.




OC:Arians continued his late-season swoon, with his plodding, pondering offense that has no rhythm, no sense of urgency, and seemingly no purpose.


Not satisfied with last week�s game-opening DGO penalty, Arians tried a new approach today -- earning a DOG penalty on the second play of the game, on a simple 2nd and 10 inches play.This insanity continued the entire game, with the playcall taking eons of time to get to the huddle, then the offense dawdling around getting set up, and then Hartwig snapping the ball at 0:01 or even 0:00.This foolishness forced Ben to burn a TO at 11:04 of the 4Q.Worse, it allowed Raven defenders to simply read the playclock all game long and gun their blitzes with little fear of being called offsides, knowing that either the ball had to be snapped at 0:01 or a DOG penalty would occur.��


Arians� short-yardage 3rd down offense, which ranked dead last going into the game at a 43.5% conversion rate, continued it struggles.Russell fully appeared to be stopped on a 3d & 1 plunge in the 2Q, but a poor spot by the ref kept alive a drive that culminated in a FG.Ben�s rollout and fumble in the 4Q was on another 3d & 1.


Perhaps the worst tactic seen all night was the sheer idiocy of wasting Heath Miller as an extra blocker in the backfield on numerous 3rd down passing plays.Sure, you want an extra blocker to protect Ben.�� But you�re big, talented, soft-handed TE who is the 3rd best all-around receiver on the entire team ??��� Balt. faced a similar dilemma in slowing down James Harrison, and Cam Cameron, who is 10 times the OC that Arians is, used a backup tackle, Terry, to assist in the blocking.You didn�t see Cameron take Todd Heap and make him the designated pass blocker, which is exactly what Arians did for most of the first 3 quarters.Miller was kept in to block in the backfield on:


����������� - 3d & 11, 1Q(no conversion)

����������� - 3d & 6, 1st series of the 3Q(no conversion)

����������� - 3d & 7, 5:00 3Q (Holmes actually converted this one)

����������� - 3d & 6 (3 plays later, no conversion)


Finally, at 13:18 4Q, Miller was permitted to run a pass pattern, and his clear-out enabled Ward to snag a short slant and rumble 30 yards, which happened to be the longest play all day.�� Miller was also allowed to run patterns on the late-game march.��


It�s amazing, although not surprising, to see how well the offense does in the up-tempo, no-huddle offense.Without Arians� interfering with his slow-assed decision making and foolhardy playcalls, the Stiller NH offense has performed 8 times better this season than the regular, pondering, slowpoke offense.It would make sense to go NH far more often, but Arians fully appears to want no part in using something that actually adds tempo and production to his offense.


The biggest hurdle for the Stillers to get to the Super Bowl is not any of their AFC foes, but rather the diabolical sabotage of Bruce Arians.��� D


DC:Dick�s defense did a fine job of limiting Balt. to 3 meager FGs after golden FP was provided via a long punt return and via Tonio�s fumble at the PIT 16.The D held the Peckers to 3 FGs.�� Two of the long 3D conversions (17 and 24 yards) were schematically sound, but whiffed hits on the QB allowed these gainers to occur.The long, laborious, 15-play, 69-yard FG march was nothing to be proud of, but overall the D kept the team in the game and played stoutly.Keeping things in perspective, of course, it�s difficult -- for me, at least -- to gloat too much about stopping a weakling offense led by rookie Joe Jacco and a mediocre supporting cast.Lastly, McClain�s old-fashioned, quick-hitting plunges gave the defense some problems, and this could be a chink in the armor that opposing offenses may look to exploit come playoff time.�� B+

HC:Tomlin�s self confidence and worry-free demeanor seems to be having a positive effect on this club, as they once again showed considerable poise and moxie in yet another comeback victory.The spec teams leaks need to be addressed, and obviously the offense has got to get something going long before the final 5 minutes of the game.B+


Synopsis:The Stillers are once again the champs of the AFC North, sweeping the season series from the Ratbirds!!�� Nevermore, quoteth the Raven!�� And the Stillers did so in yet another stirring, late-game comeback.On one hand, winning close game instills moxie and fortitude.On the other, it provides a razor-thin fine line where 1 stubbed toe could easily result in a loss come playoff time against a top-shelf opponent.The conference title is on the line this upcoming week, with a huge road game against the 12-2 Titans, who are coming off a close loss to the Texans.If nothing else, this game in Tennessee, much like today�s game, will serve as a superb tune-up for dealing with playoff intensity, crowd noise, and pressure.


(Still Mill and -- when it comes to the analysis of the Pittsburgh Stillers, no one else comes close�.)




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