January 16, 2011
This game was all it was billed to be, a defensive battle. With 5 turnovers and a total of 389 yds combined by both teams, the score 31-24, is more reflective of the turnovers than the offensive performance of either team.
Both of these teams that rely heavily on the run, but got little production from their rushing attacks. So the onus fell upon the QB’s and this is where the advantage swung in the Steelers favor. Roethlisberger made his mistakes in the 1st half and was able to overcome them in the second half. Flacco made his in the 2nd half when the game was on the line. I’m still of the opinion that experience is the greatest teacher in this game, and for all of the good football that Joe Flacco played during the regular season, there’s not pressure like playoff pressure. In Flacco’s defense, Boldin and Houshmandzadeh dropped some passes at critical moments.
One other major factor in this game was Pittsburgh’s speed at the WR position. Wallace, Brown and Sanders give the Steelers the ability to stretch the field at crucial times. The Ravens have 3 possession WR’s that are not deep threats at all, and that condenses the field of play for defenses. Advantage Pittsburgh, because the deep ball opened up opportunities and kept the chains moving in 3rd down situation, the Steelers had 21 first downs to 12 by the Ravens. Most of them coming in the second half when the game was on the line.
The difference in this game was Ben Roethlisberger, having been in this situation before with 2 Super Bowl victories and much more experience than Joe Flacco. Flacco in his 3rd year is still learning and developing, today was just another learning experience for him, unfortunately for the likes of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed the clock is ticking and they’re running out of time for one more Super Bowl run.
After a dominating first half by the Ravens, taking advantage of 2 Pittsburgh turnovers and going to the lockeroom with a 21-7 half time lead, things began to unravel in the second half. They turned the ball over to the Steelers 3 times in the 3rd period. The first possession of the second half Ray Rice fumbled, leading to a Steelers two play drive and a 21-14 score. On the first play of their next possession, Flacco threw an interception leading to a four play scoring drive that tied the game at 21-21. On the ensuing possession Flacco fumbled the snap from center setting up a 35 yd field goal by Shaun Suisham. All that the Ravens could manage in the second half was a field goal. The big play in the game for Pittsburgh came on a 3rd and 19, Roethlisberger completed a 58 yd pass to Antonio Brown, setting up a 2 yd Rashard Mendenhall TD with 1:33 left that sealed it.
Any turnover can be devastating to a team, but turnovers in the second half of a playoff game is the kiss of death. You can overcome first half turnovers as long as the game is still in hand, second half turnovers are so final because you don’t have an additional 30 minutes to make amends.