By Samuel Njoku
The Ravens were underdogs when they walked into Pittsburgh to face the Steelers. But they walked out of Pittsburgh victorious and advanced to the divisional round of the postseason.
Offense Grade: B
The Ravens knew going in that they would have a chance to make plays on the Steelers suspect defense. Pittsburgh was aware of this as well, and they did their best to keep the ball out of the hands of Flacco. Baltimore tried to keep drives alive by moving the ball on the ground, but Pittsburgh did a decent job of stuffing Forsett as they held him to only 36 yards. What Baltimore lacked on the ground, they made up for through the air as players such as Steve Smith, Sr. shined in big moments. Smith moved across the field at will and made signature plays throughout the game, including an acrobatic grab over a defender for a huge chunk of yards. Baltimore will need these kinds of performances from their receivers as they prepare to face a superb Patriots squad.
Defense Grade: A-
Pundits were quick to point out that Ben Roethlisberger unloaded 6 touchdown passes on the Ravens defense during the regular season. The Ravens made sure that didn’t happen a second time around. The front 7 of Baltimore punished the Steelers with 5 sacks and a few more hurries that had Roethlisberger scrambling on many different occasions. At one point, it appeared as if Big Ben would not return to the game after being removed from the field due to a head injury.
The Ravens secondary continues to surprise as they held the Steelers to only 1 touchdown on the day. Rashaan Melvin and Lardarius Webb continue to blanket receivers and make it difficult for quarterbacks to throw the quick strike. Even safety Matt Elam played better than usual. This secondary deserves a lot of credit for the quick turnaround – as does Dean Pees.
Quarterback Grade: A+
Is it possible to make every game a playoff game for Joe Flacco? That way we’d get to see performances like this one on a weekly basis. It seems Flacco elevates his game entirely when the playoffs begin, and this game was no different. Many assume that Baltimore can’t survive without a proper run game, but Flacco continues to prove the pundits wrong. He finished the game with 259 yards and 2 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. Flacco hasn’t committed a turnover in the playoffs since 2011. Not only is the Ravens quarterback reading defenses well, but he’s passing the ball in areas of the football field few QBs would ever dare to try. If Flacco continues this level of play, this team could go deep into postseason.
Special Teams Grade: C+
Jacoby Jones should do a better job judging when it’s appropriate to take the football out of the endzone on kick returns. A high snap during a 4th down punt late in the game caused a block that led to a safety. Justin Tucker is still one of the best kickers in the game.
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Samuel Njoku was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Samuel has covered the Ravens for Examiner.com since 2010. Prior to 2010, Samuel was an avid blogger and radio personality in Salisbury, MD. Samuel Njoku is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.