What a great third quarter! The Steelers came out of half time with a well-founded sense of urgency, taking the ball away from Baltimore three times and scoring two touchdowns to tie it up at 21, all. If they can keep this going in the fourth quarter and put the Ravens away, they will have punched a ticket to their second AFC Championship in the last three seasons. Here are some of my observations from the third quarter. Be sure to check out my first and second quarter notes, too.
- Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco has been playing it safe all game (under 4 YPA), but Ray Rice fumbled on his sixth dump-off, creating a possible turning point after a disastrous first half. A couple plays later, after a 14-yard burst from Rashard Mendenhall, Ben Roethlisberger connected with tight end 9-yard touchdown. This is exactly the kind of start to the second half the Steelers needed, closing the Ravens lead to just seven points.
- I feel a little bad for Pittsburgh's defense, who has played lights out. However, it will take a little work to distill their competence from the stat sheet; some people might see Baltimore's 21-point explosion in the first half and assume that the Steelers defense got torched, when really they've been dominant. Through three quarters, they have three sacks, three takeaways, and are allowing just 2.76 yards per play.
- I've come to the conclusion that Ed Reed just doesn't like getting blocked. It seems like every time he and Hines Ward are jawing at one another after a play, it's because Ward has - shock! - hit Reed, who would (understandably) rather run around the field unimpeded.
- I'd be happy if the Steelers never ran an end-around again. It seems like two thirds of the time they do, it results in a 6-yard loss, as was the case during a Pittsburgh drive late into the third quarter. And it seems like the upside of that call is...a 6-yard gain. Why do we call these?
- I wrote earlier this week that the Steelers own Joe Flacco, and they certainly seem to be continuing that trend today. Flacco inexplicably chucked the ball right into the safety help, and Ryan Clark capitalized, snagging it easily and took it back for 17 yards. A few plays later, Ward caught an 8-yard bullet on a slant route, Roethlisberger's second score of the day.
- Two plays from scrimmage later, Flacco and center Matt Birk fumbled their exchange, putting Pittsburgh in prime position to take the lead in the fourth quarter. Here we go, indeed.