BALTIMORE - Monday morning musings following the Baltimore Ravens stunning 35-7 whipping of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
* One of the many shocks registered at M&T Bank Stadium was the total dominance displayed by the Ravens revamped offensive line against a Steelers squad that led the NFL last year in sacks with 48. On Sunday they managed just one, that coming late in the game.
“I thought those guys did a great job,” Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco said of his O-line. “I felt comfortable back there all day. I think they may have sacked me one time, but I was really untouched.”
What a damning indictment of the fabled ferocious Steelers blitz.
No one had a bigger day on Baltimore’s offensive line than newly acquired Bryant McKinnie, who was released by the Vikings at the start of their training camp for reporting grossly overweight and out of shape. He absolutely destroyed and nullified Steelers rush linebacker James Harrison.
“When I got here, what I was told was that they were like a bully,” McKinnie said of the fierce rivalry between the teams. “They tried to bully and do little cheap stuff. You’ve got to go out there sometimes and fight the bully, show the bully that just because he’s trying to bully everybody else, we’re not going to let you push us around.”
Harrison eventually left the game with an injured knee.
* Flacco has this love-hate relationship with the fans, sort of like the one that Mark Sanchez of the Jets and Tony Romo of the Cowboys also have. All three are young heralded quarterbacks that have yet to lead their team to the big prize and are criticized for it.
The cry in all three cities is the same — can he win the big one?
Aaron Rodgers sort of went through the same scrutiny in Green Bay, but not to the same degree, the fans in Green Bay being so polite and all. But now that he led his team to a Super Bowl triumph, Rodgers is off the hook.
Flacco, meanwhile, lived up to his “Joe Cool” tag against the Steelers, going 17-for-29 for 224 yards with three touchdowns and zero picks. Just as importantly, Flacco wasn’t dumping the ball off as he has done in other ‘big’ games. On this day he was pumping it downfield.
Still, he knows his critics will be silenced only as long as the team keeps winning.
“I don’t know. There’s always going to be critics,” he said. “Ten weeks down the road something might happen (a bad game) and it’s back again. Who knows? For the time being, maybe, but I doubt it will last too long.”
* The Ravens brought wide receiver Lee Evans on board as a younger, faster version of Derrick Mason with the idea being that he would add downfield speed and take some of the coverage away from their top wide receiver Anquan Boldin. That was the plan anyway.
But on Sunday, Flacco seldom looked his way. Evans ended the day as the target on four occasions, none of them deep, and did not make a catch.
Rookie tight end Ed Dickson, who replaced veteran Todd Heap, caught five passes for 59 yards and one touchdown. Boldin, meanwhile, was Flacco’s prime target as usual. Flacco threw to him on seven occasions and Boldin ended the day with four catches for 74 yards and the one touchdown.
* Getting back to the Ravens offensive line, it paved the way for running back Ray Rice to total 107 yards on 19 carries for a 5.6-yard average. His longest run was 36 yards on the first play of the game and he also scored a touchdown on a one-yard plunge.
In their past 51 games, the Steelers, who excel against the run, have allowed only two 100-yard rushing performances and both have been turned in by Rice. His other one was a 141 yard total he racked up Dec. 27, 2009.
* Overall the Steelers veteran defence looked old and slow. It was pushed around up front and was slow to react to the ball in the secondary. On that issue, Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin isn’t about to concede anything just yet.
“I’m not ready to judge it from a speed standpoint,” he said of his team’s poor defensive performance. “We didn’t get off well enough on third down. We didn’t create turnovers. Usually speed is part of that equation but I’m not ready to say that at this juncture.”