Stillers 26, Ravens 21 ���. Dec. 16th, 2001 ����Game #13
Stillers-Ravens Postgame Analysis and Grades
The Stillers went down to PissNet Stadium, and as I predicted, gave a royal can o� whipass to the vaunted PoeBirds, 26-21, in a final score that doesn�t begin to tell the thoroughness of the dominating asswhipping administered by the Stillers. The Stillers moved the ball at will against the Ravens, and aside from their special teams continually giving the Ravens golden field position, the Blitzburgh defense stuffed and choked the anemic Raven offense the entire game. This probably was the most satisfying win we Stiller fans have seen since the Dec. �97 whipping of the Doncos.
1. On a 3d & 14 on the Stillers� first drive, Stewart hits Troy on a deep in for 24 yards.
2. On a 3d &12 on their 2nd drive, Raven FB Ayanbadejo busts 2 tackles and rumbles 17 yards for a key first down, allowing the Ravens to keep alive a drive that culminated in a TD.
3. Ismail is just short on 3rd & 11 in the 2Q, forcing Stover to try from 47 yards, which was no good.
4. Burress bobbles and then snares a 25-yard TD in the end zone late in the 1st half, giving the Stillers a 13-7 lead.
5. A harried Stewart�s screen pass goes off AZ�s hands and into McAllister�s for a 3Q INT, but Burnett is called for a cheezy hands-to-the face penalty, nullifying the INT and giving Pgh. a first down.
6. Jermaine Lewis rips off a 62-yard punt return, giving Balt. great field position on the Pit. 26.
7. (Play of the Game) On a 3d & 7 from their own 10, Stewart hits Shaw on a post, and Shaw dashes untouched for a 90-yard TD play.
8. On 3rd down & a foot, Grbac hits Imsail for a 14-yard TD pass.
9. On 3rd & goal at the 5, Dan Kreider takes a delay handoff and runs untouched up the gut for a TD.
10. Shaw jumps high in the air to snare the onsides kickoff, snuffing out any last ditch hopes of the Ravens.
QB: What more can one say, than "MVP" ? Playing without the man (Bettis) many consider to be the MVP of the Stiller offense, and against the supposed best defense in the NFL, Stewart had the best game of his entire career. Stewart shredded the Raven defense as though he were a mad butcher chopping up a block of cheese, completing 20 of 31 for 333 yards. But, as I often preach, numbers do not tell the whole story in the game of football. Time and time again, Stewart stood poised in the face of a heavy rush, and completed clutch pass after clutch pass, many on third down to keep the drive alive. The TD passes to Plex and Shaw were prime examples of this, and there were many, many more. Kordell, for the most part, threw with good crispness and accuracy. Stew also ran the well very well, continually leaving Raven defenders lunging for air as he juked or dashed by them. There were only a couple of small miscues by Stew tonite. One was the rollout on 1st & goal on the first drive, which was stuffed for a 5-yard sack. This appeared to be a planned run, but hemmed in by Ray Lewis, Stew should have rifled the ball into the bleachers instead of keeping for a 5-yard loss. Stew also had Ward open on a deep post, but underthrew it a wee bit, and Woodson was able to get a finger on the ball at the last second. Just as I said in my pregame outlook, "Bettis or no Bettis, the key matchup will be the Stiller passing game against the #16 ranked Raven pass defense". Stewart went into hostile territory without his star RB against what was considered to be the toughest defense in the NFL, and Stewart had an awesome game and unquestionably was The Man. A+.
RB: Fu got the start in place of the injured Tubby Tailback, but as the game wore on Amos Zereoue emerged as the bread & butter back. AZ had a very good game, rushing for 4.6 YPC and gaining 73 yards. Amoz helped seal the deal with a sterling 16-yard scamper late in the game, setting up the Stillers at the Raven 4. Amoz also did nice work on a screen pass, gaining 6 yards out of little. And Amoz had a superb pancake block of Ray Lewis on Stewart�s long scramble in the 3Q. AZ�s main blunder was allowing the short screen pass to glance off his hands, resulting in an INT that fortunately was over-turned due to a Balt. flag. On paper, Fu did little rushing for just 15 yards on 9 carries and catching one dump off and getting rudely horsecollared by Lewis for 0 yards. But Fu had a clutch 5-yard run on 3d & 4, just before the Burress TD, in which he read the hole up LT nicely and then powered his way with brute force for the 1st down. Just as I wrote in the pregame outlook, the end of the world wasn�t coming with The Doughboy�s absence, and the Stillers got good enough ground production to keep the Ravens honest. A.
FB: Kreider and Witman split time, although Kreider assumed more of the workload as the game got into crunch time in the 2nd half. Witman caught 2 balls for 9 yards and one plunge for 3. Kreider had 1 grab for 5 and 2 runs for 6, including a game-sealing 4-yard TD run in which Kreider read the hole and made a nice cutback to scoot in untouched. The blocking was only ok; will need to examine it more during my tape scrub. Kreider was flagged for a foolish false start when he moved forward too soon while in motion. A-.
WR: Well, so much for the PoeBirds calling Burress "Plexiglass". Hey, plexiglass sure beats SaranWrap, which is the strength-equivalent of the Raven pass defense, which got scorched all day by Burress. Plex had abused the Ravens in the 1st half of the first meeting, only to be frozen out by his own offensive coordinator and thrown zero balls in that 2nd half. Tonight, PrimeTime Plexico was thrown the pill throughout the game, and he responded by abusing McAliister and using his dominant size the way the Stillers had anticipated when they drafted him in the first round. Plex, who seems to step up his game exponentially when playing on national TV, averaged just over 20 YPC, and had big plays for his TD, as well as a few other downfield grabs, including the 38-yarder that helped set up the final TD. To his discredit, Burress dropped 2 passes, both of which were drive killers (one late in the 2Q, the other late in the 3Q.) Additionally, he bobbled the TD pass before he fortunately hauled it in, and even on the 38-yarder, he bobbled it ever so slightly before pulling it in. Ward was a bit quiet, as the Ravens were obviously over-playing him. He caught only 1 ball, a clutch 7-yarder on 3rd & 4 early in the 4Q, only to foolishly get flagged for taunting, which ruined a good drive and ultimately forced the punt that Lewis returned for 62 yards. Frankly, it�s absolutely pathetic that the NFL throws flags on such actions, but this is Ward�s 2nd foolish taunting flag and enough is enough. To his credit, Ward backed down from no one on the Raven defense and blocked with grit the entire game. I can�t recall who wrote it, but some guy in his "Loose Slag" column 3 days ago, stated, "Wondering about our 3rd down success?�.the other major factor is the depth and talent of this WR corps. I've asked before -- is there a defensive secondary out there with enough quality in their nickel/dime defense, that can cover the foursome of Ward, Plex, Shaw, and Edwards?" As we found out today in facing the supposed best defense in the NFL, that answer is no. Edwards had a huge reception on the game�s first drive, snaring a deep curl- in for 24 yards on 3d & 14. And Shaw, who did have one semi-drop after Trapp hit him as the ball arrived, had the game-breaking 90-yard TD reception, in which he abused the Raven secondary. A.
TE: Tuman had 1 grab for 6 yards, and had a clutch 11-yard catch-and-run to the Raven 3 that was nullified by the sorriest, most weak-assed offensive PI flag you will ever see in the NFL. I can only assume that this flag was thrown as an NHL-like "even-up" call on the cheesy hands-to-face flag on Burnett 3 plays prior. Cushing had a great diving catch on a low out, which netted 3 yards. The blocking was average, though they were facing a pretty stout front 7. B+.
OL: A so-so day from the line. Any time you gain 461 yards, your OL probably did some good work at times. And they did. Problem was, most of the yardage was gained on super-heroic efforts by the QB, WRs, and RBs. The leakage and penetration this unit allowed on both running and passing plays was reprehensible. On far too many occasions, running plays were blown to hell by penetration that got in almost as soon as the ball was handed off. And Stewart faced severe pressure -- not all caused by blitzes, but more so caused by sloppy pass protection. Tylski was absolutely pitiful on the INT, getting manhandled and shoved about like a little old lady. That was no illegal hands to the face by Burnett -- that was Burnett physically manhandling and rough-housing the inept Tylski. And Tuylski was also flagged on our first drive, which nullified a 3d down conversion on a catch by Shaw. In one of the few good plays by the OL, Fanenca threw a great block on Lewis to spring Kreider on his TD run. Certainly, this was a great front 7 they were facing, but this deep into the season, I expect better from this kind of veteran, well-oiled O-line. B-.
DL: A pretty solid effort today from this gang. Smith was strong and active. Kimo totally disrupted one running play. Even Fat Casey Hampton had 2 solos, plus some nice pressure that harassed Grbac. Bailey chipped in off the bench. B+.
LB: Earl Holmes and Jason Gildon led the way today for the :LB corps. Holmes led the crew with 5 solos, and got a paw on the late TD pass, which ended up getting snared on the deflection by Stokely. Gildon, feasting on the Tylski-like Kip Vickers, had a sack on the first series, plus nipped Grbac�s arm on the next play. KenBell had a bone-harring hit on Allen, causing a 4-yard loss. Porter was fairly quiet, and was one of the Stillers to flail poorly at Ayanbadejo on the 17-yard run. Jones got a fair amount of work in pass coverage schemes and played solidly. B.
DB: For the most part, this was a decent game by the DBs. Chad and DeWayne had pretty good, tight coverage most of the day. Chad had one INT, and were it not for blatant offensive PI, he�d have had another. Chad was flagged on the EZ lob to Taylor, which set up the short Grbac TD run. But to his credit, Chad had an overall stellar game after 2 weeks of shabby play. He had a nice stop of a flare pass on the 2nd drive. And on a 3rd & 3 late in the 3Q, Chad refused to bite on a pump fake, and the resulting deep lob was smothered by Scottie. DW defended a couple of passes. On a down note, he slipped -- as did every other Stiller at one point or another during the game -- on Ismail�s TD, and DW meekly flailed at Ayanbadejo on the 17-yard run. Logan, Brent, and Flowers chipped in a couple tackles a piece, and Brent had a big sack to help push Balt. back out of FG range after the long Lewis punt return. Townsend chipped in on the nickel, though he was flagged late in the game for a hold, and he may have gotten away with a PI earlier in the 2nd half. B+.
Spec teams: Aside from the fact that there were no hideous turnovers, this was as sickening, sorry, and shit-laden a special teams effort as you can possibly have in the National Football League. The coverage teams, in particular, sucked dead donkey dick the entire game in a display that was so passive, so feeble, and so lethargic, that words cannot adequately describe the abortion committed today by the NFL�s worst special teams unit. The Stillers kicked off 6 times, and here�s what occurred each time:
1. KO to 6, Balt. brings it back to their own 35.
2. KO to 11, Balt. brings it back to their own 44.
3. KO to 10, Balt. brings it back to their own 48
4. Balt. brings it back to their own 31 after fielding a high pooch kick to the 22.
5. Balt. brings it back to the Pit. 42, after Harris took a high pooch kick at his 25.
6. Balt. brings it back to their own 42 after taking a squib kick at their 18.
This is downright pure, unadulterated dogshit The Ravens have a shit offense, and we giftwrap all 3 TDs for them by allowing them golden field position. Just look at the 3 Raven TD drives: 56, 42, and 58 yards. And on the Lewis 62-yard punt return, no less than 3 players -- Poteat, Alexander, and Haggans -- whiffed weakly. There was also a holding on an unknown Stiller on the opening KO of the 2H, and Brown missed yet another easy FG, this time from 32. In keeping with circus-like atmosphere that pervades everything the special teams do, just before the first FG, a timeout had to be called by Josh & Kris. About the only bright spot the entire day was the shrewd jump-and-snare of the onsides kick by Bobby Shaw. If you�ve been voting for special teams captain John Fiala for the Pro Bowl, please continue to show the world your stupidity by continuing to vote for him. It�s not often that I give a grade this low, but this grade was well-earned, well-deserved; and would have been even lower if the grading scale allowed it. F-.
OC: Mularkey had his usual ups and downs today. Yes, he didn�t freeze out Burress in the 2nd half, as he did in the previous meeting. And, to his credit, he was willing to call plays beyond the sticks on 3rd and long, such as Shaw�s post and Edwards� deep in. The use of 3-back sets was a bit bizarre, but springing Kreider out of the split-back set for the TD was clever, and presumably was something seen on previous gamefilm. But the bad overshadows the good. Take the first series, where we moved the ball to a 1st & goal at the Raven 8. Mularkey calls for a Stewart keeper, which was snuffed and engulfed for -5 by the fastest defense in the NFL. A 5-yard curl to Shaw was broken up, and on 3rd & goal from the 13, another measly curl to Troy is completed for all of 9 yards. I can�t say it any other way -- this is pussy playcalling, folks. For chrissakes, show some balls and take an attempt INTO the end zone. And if you�re not gonna do that, then at least hit players with their face -- not their backs -- toward the goal line, so that they actually have forward momentum and a chance to get RAC yardage and dive over the goal line. Asking players to take a curl at the 5-yard line, and then pirouette 360 degrees and run from a dead stop toward the goal line, all against the league�s fastest defense, is akin to asking Michael Johnson to win a 400-meter race with a 90 pound sack of potatoes strapped to his back. The next foray inside the dead zone wasn�t much better. On 1st down from the 19, Fu ran up the gut for 0; Stew was sacked for -6; and then a 9-yard crosser to a double-covered Ward was inc. The playcall that enraged me the most was on 3rd & 14 on the opening drive of the 2nd half, from the Balt. 18. Instead of showing some guts and allowing the red-hot combo of Stew and Plex to take a stab at either the first down or the TD, Mularkey calls for his ever-popular 3rd & long call of the QB draw, which nets a whopping 4 yards, and Kris Brown follows it by shanking a 32-yard FG. There was also the wasted timeout on the first drive of the 3Q, in which the playclock was near zero. This looked entirely like a playcall that was very late getting into the huddle. The 461 yards was awesome, but the gutless dead zone playcalling, while not all Mularkey�s fault, will be a fiasco if it continues in the playoffs. C.
DC: Lewis had the luck to face a Raven offense decimated by injury at RB, so he was able to fight a one-dimensional battle all day. Lewis took the wraps off the flaccid defense he�d been playing the past 3 weeks, and had good blitz pressure on Grbac most of the day. In fact, you could clearly see the effect the blitz pressure had on Grbac, even when we didn�t send a jailhouse blitz at him. Grbac was getting happy feet all day, and missed several passes because he rushed throws that really didn�t need to be rushed. I was a bit mortified when Shape went on a deep seam route and was covered by run-stuffing LB Earl Holmes, but Holmes had solid coverage and the pass was a bit too long I also thought Lewis got a bit too soft and passive on the final raven march, which resulted in a TD. Take a page from Rick Pitino, Lewis -- pressure forces your opponent to rush things and make errors. B+.
HC: Because of all the Raven smack talk and the bitter defeat despite the domination in game 1, it really shouldn�t have been any work whatsoever for Cowher to have his men ready for this tilt. This was a great win and one to savor, but lost amidst this win are ominous signs that will ultimately cause this team�s demise in the playoffs. The continued turtling and gutless playcalling in the dead zone is undeniably Billy Ball football -- the same brand that has snatched countless playoff defeats from victory for both Billy and his father, Anakin Shittenheimer. The Ravens should have been buried by at least 21 points today, yet there were the Stillers, clinging to a flimsy 6-poiint led with 10 minutes left in the game, and a 5-point lead deep in the 4Q. Furthermore, Cowher proved again today that no team performs time mismanagement to the level of the Stillers. A scarce timeout wasted in the 1st quarter, just before a simple, routine 22-yard FG. Another TO wasted in the 3Q. And then there�s the abortion of time mismanagement at the end of the 1st half. On a 3rd & 16 from midfield, Stew ran for 11 yards on the over-used QB draw. Stew was stopped at 0:28. The offense then stood around, with Stew looking at and gesturing at the sideline staff, before calling their 2nd TO at 0:09. Because they�d allowed the clock to run down so much, it appeared the Stillers -- clinging to a 13-6 lead -- were going to try a 57-yard FG on 4th & 5 from the Raven 39. Nope; after the TO, the offense came out and threw a Hail Mary as the half ended. Total chaos, total confusion, total stupidity. With the way our defense had been playing, combined with the ineptitude of the Raven offense and the fact that we had one more TO, the intelligent thing to do when Stewart was stopped on 3rd down, was call a TO with, say, 25 secs left. With the way our passing game was toying with the Ravens defense, this would have given us the option to take a stab at Shaw, Ward, Plex, or Troy on 4th & 5, and then continue with another play or 2 before kicking a much shorter FG. So what if the 4th & 5 had been incomplete�.? Sitting on their own 39 with perhaps 19 seconds remaining & having seen Grabac throw a hideous INT on the previous series, do you really think Billick would have done anything but kneel and take it onto the locker room? And special teams?? Special, as in severely lacking all motor skills and intelligence, thus qualified to ride the short bus to practice every day. Do not scoff at the special teams and dismiss it as an aberration, or a few meaningless plays out of the 70 that the Stillers ran on offense. Special teams can and will kill a team in the playoffs, and the repeated goatscrews on special teams today were thoroughly inexcusable with the kind of depth and health this team enjoys this late in the season. Cowher is a former special teams ace and spec teams coach, yet his coverage teams today -- as they have ALL season -- played like they had plungers jammed up their asses and lead poured into their shoes. And while we�re on the topic of shoes, this might seem rather trivial amidst this huge victory, but I�m about tired of seeing every member of the Stillers slip, stumble, and trip while members of the opposing teams aren�t having even one-tenth the problems. Last week, the blame lay mostly on Heinz Field, although the Jets didn�t have half the problems we did. Today, Amoz slipped while all alone on a flare pass. Washington slipped badly on Ismail�s TD. At least 34 other Stillers slipped and slid during the game, while the Ravens looked as sure-footed as Barry Sanders on astroturf. Cowher is the same coach who oversaw the shameful lack of preparation for Super Bowl 30, in which the Stillers clearly were not wearing the correct cleats at the start of that game. The road throughout the AFC playoffs will be on grass, and it�s high time Cowher gets his team on firm footing -- pun fully intended -- in preparation for the playoffs. C.
Synopsis: The Ravens knew full well that we dominated them in the first meeting, and they knew they�d lucked out with the FG misses. Knowing they were in for another severe beating, the Ravens resorted to running their mouths like cowardly juveniles, and all they had to show for it were a lot of fat lips from being punched, bitch-slapped, and bludgeoned the entire game on both sides of the trenches. I don�t want to hear any rationalizing or excuse-making on the part of the PoeBirds. They had their chance, in their own backyard, on national TV, to show the world and silence their critics. Instead, they got their asses handed back to them by the very team that they�d spent all week ridiculing and deriding. How sweet it is !! AFC Central Division Champs !!! And it couldn�t have come against a better team to destroy and dominate, than America�s loudmouthed jerks, the Baltimore Ravens.