Maybe easy is a bit of an exaggeration, but the Baltimore Ravens didn’t face a whole lot of trouble as they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 26-6 in a very efficient day from Joe Flacco, making the whole Ray Rice ordeal go away, at least for a few hours.
This was only the second time in the last 11 meetings between the fierce division rivals that ended with more than 3 points separating the two teams. It was also the first time in which the Ravens managed to hold the Steelers to an entire game without a touchdown, limiting them to just two Shaun Suisham field goals in the second and third quarter, when the game was still close.
This wasn’t a classic blowout. The Ravens scored 12 of their 26 points through field goals. They gained only 22 yards more than the Steelers and finished averaging just five yards per play. The Ravens aren’t built to explode on teams, especially not against a good Steelers defense that did a very good job on most occasions when the Ravens were getting close to the end zone. It was more about how bad the Ravens made Ben Roethlisberger look.
Roethlisberger looked great in week 1 against the Cleveland Browns but finished with just 5.9 yards per attempt against the Ravens, completing 22-of-37 passes for 217 yards and an interception. He was sacked twice (both by Elvis Dumervil) and took some big hits early on that might have been the reason for him looking so bad. Not all the incompletions were his fault, but this wasn’t a case of the receivers dropping the ball at each opportunity. He didn’t handle the pressure well, and might have been injured as well.
For Flacco, the pressure and being under duress helped play even better. He focused on the short game, with 21 of his 29 pass attempts travelling five or fewer yards in the air. He was 11-of-13 with both of the touchdown passes (both times finding tight end Owen Daniels for the score) when facing a five-man pass rush or more. Last season and through week 1 of this season, Flacco was the worst quarterback in the NFL in terms of yards per attempt with just 5.3.
Things worked well for him thanks to his tight ends and a very efficient play action execution, both touchdowns coming on PAs. He was 8-of-9 when targeting his tight ends, while both Bernard Pierce (22 carries, 96 yards) and Justin Forsett (8 carries, 56 yards) did an excellent job of getting the ground game back on track, making it seem like Ray Rice has never been actually missed. Considering how badly Rice played last season, maybe him not being out there playing is a blessing in disguise, but then you remember all the havoc his suspension has created.
The Steelers make us confused when it comes to trying to understand who the real team is – the one that blew away the Browns in the first half on opening week or the team that has scored only nine points over the last six quarters of football? We got a much better idea of how well the Ravens can bounce back from losses. Now it’s going to be the Steelers and especially Ben Roethlisberger who have that to prove.