Week 18 – Ravens Recap & Grades

Steelers 16, Ravens 13 (OT) : Week 18 – Recap & Grades : Offense – One of the least impressive performances of the season in the most important game, this group just struggled to get it going all day long, sputtering out of the gate & never finding their footing for most of the game. Tyler Huntley passes for 141 yards, but throws 2 crucial interceptions, including 1 in the endzone & also rushes for 72 yards on 12 carries, an average of 6.0 yards per carry. Latavius Murray rushes for 150 yards on 16 carries, an average of 9.4 yards per carry, including a 46 yard TD run. They rush for 249 on the ground & average 6.9 yards per carry as a team as they gash the Steelers run Defense all day long but just can’t make them pay in the red zone, settling for 2 FG’s & an an INT. Mark Andrews hauls in 8 passes for 85 yards, an average of 10.6 yards per reception & setting the Ravens single season receiving record in the process. They really missed both Nick Boyle & Patrick Ricard in this game because T.J. Watt was allowed to wreak havoc all day long no matter who was lined up across from him & he wrecked the game, registering 3 sacks on the day. The gameplan went south on numerous occasions but the biggest head scratcher was by OC Greg Roman to pass the ball on 1st down in the redzone which led to the interception in the endzone after Murray had gashed them on the ground the whole game. Calling over 30 pass plays & allowing Watt to continuously feast when the ground game was gashing all day was a major head scratcher. This group has got to get better in the redzone next season & the play calling continues to lack explosiveness or high yardage gains, especially through the air. That needs to improve.
Grade : C
Defense – This group played well all day long, they kept fighting to get stops, they stopped the run & generated a little pressure, while holding the Pittsburgh Offense in check for most of the game. They clamped down in the red zone, holding the Steelers to 3 FG’s until finally allowing the go ahead TD in the 4th quarter when they were just exhausting from spending so much time on the field. Geno Stone records his 1st career interception to force the only turnover of the day & they allow only 244 yards passing by Big Ben. They also allow only 79 yards rushing as a team, including only just 28 on 11 carries by Najee Harris, who also leaves the game before returning in the 4th quarter, an average of just 2.5 yards per carry & only 314 total yards on the day while registering 1 sack on Ben Roethlisberger despite constant pressure. The injury ravaged secondary holds up well for most of the game until it runs out of gas late in the 2nd half & OT. This entire group played well all day long while losing edge rushers Justin Houston for a short period of time before returning & Tyus Bowser to a torn achilles in the 2nd half. Every player who stepped on the field performed admirably, showing the fight that this group has had all season & playing well enough to keep the team in this game. There were no breakdowns in communication like there had been for most of the season but they were carved up in the 4th quarter by the savvy veteran Roethlisberger, who leads the go ahead drives in the 4th quarter & OT w/ his arm. It would of been a great send off of Big Ben to beat him @ home in his final regular season game & the same place where his career began. Instead, he went out the same way he came in – beating the Ravens in Baltimore in dramatic fashion.
Grade : B-
Special Teams – Another solid performance by this unit as they once again are the bright spot of this team & clearly the most consistent of the 3 phases. Justin Tucker connects on both of his FG attempts from 24 & 46 yards out (which ties the game in the 4th) & Sam Koch punts it away 7 times for 268 yards, an average of 38.3 yards per punt – also throws his first career incompletion on a fake punt in the 2nd quarter. Needing to get something going Offensively, you can understand the fake punt call but it was nothing more than a desperate attempt to jump start the Offense & the fact that it didn’t work just about sums up this entire Ravens season. Devin Duvernay returns 5 kicks for 113 yards, an average of 22.6 yards per return & also returns a punt for 0 yards. Duvernay makes his 1st career Pro-Bowl along w/ his ST mate Tucker & TE Mark Andrews. The kick coverage is solid all day long as well, allowing only 95 total return yards by Ray Ray McCloud, 66 via the return game on 3 returns for an average of 22.0 yards per return & 29 on 2 punt returns, an average of 14.5 yards per return on 2 punt returns. This was the strongest & most consistent point of this team all season long, they allowed only 1 kick return TD & 0 punt return TD’s – the coverage was usually solid week in & week out, as well as the return game, ranking among the best in the league in almost every category. When the Offense had it’s redzone issues this group was there to bail them out & when they needed to pin an opponent deep in their own territory or generate good field position, this unit was there when called upon almost everytime.
Grade : A-
Coaching : Coach Harbaugh & his staff might of had this team ready to go but it didn’t translate to what was on the field. The team got off to a sluggish start early & never really got it going in what was the biggest game of the season. The sense of urgency might of been there as well but it wasn’t applied to winning this game, as the message didn’t seem to resonate amongst the team. Either that or this team was just completely out of gas which may have also been the issue & if it was, can you really blame them? The entire coaching staff has been tested this season & even they have run out of messages & speeches to motivate this unit. The players played & they played as hard as they have all season, the fight was there but the results were not, especially Offensively. Defensively the message & sense of urgency seemed to have gotten through as they played like their hair was on fire all day despite wearing down late after being on the field all day long. The lack of talent on this roster, especially in the 2nd half of the season was the ultimate undoing of this entire team & one of the reasons for the 6 game losing streak to end the season, the coaches have definitely made some questionable calls (going for 2 in back to back weeks) but you got the feeling they were made to compensate for that same lack of talent. This game played out differently & coach Harbaugh finally played for overtime, the result however showed you why he probably didn’t play for it before. There were definitely some questionable calls made by this staff this season but this game wasn’t that, this game was just a team that was too beat up to continue the fight. They finally bowed out when the kick went through the uprights, finally ending this brutal season. Back to the drawing board for this entire staff after a long off-season & much needed time to reflect. It just hurts to be swept by Pittsburgh 2 years in a row.
Grade : B-
Overall Grade : B-