Ravens report card: Offense revving up in win over Steelers

Ravens report card: Offense revving up in win over Steelers
October 2, 2015, 10:15 am
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It’s time to hand out the report card after the Ravens’ 23-20 overtime win on Thursday night at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. We begin with the offense:


Joe Flacco wasn’t great, completing 20 of 33 passes for 189 yards and one touchdown. He threw one interception, a poor throw that could have been a pick-six were it not for great hustle by tackle Rick Wagner. Flacco also lost a fumble as he tried to scramble on the first play of the second half and he had a shotgun snap go right through his hands. But give him credit: Flacco somehow engineered another victory at Heinz Field, this time despite playing the fourth quaerter and overtime without Steve Smith and then also without Michael Campanaro. And the Ravens were already missing starting tight end Crockett Gillmore. So with a hodge-podge cast that included rookie receiver Darren Waller and two rookie tight ends, Flacco kept the offense moving. His touchdown throw to Kamar Aiken was beautiful.


The Ravens have been waiting for this kind of game. Justin Forsett ran 27 times for 150 yards – surpassing his total in the first three games combined – and the Ravens finished with 191 yards on the ground (4.9 avg.). The Ravens were better than they have been lately in short-yardage, though rookie Buck Allen (5-19) couldn’t convert on third-and-1. Forsett and Allen combined for 21 rushing yards on the Ravens’ game-winning drive. With the receivers banged up the Ravens leaned more heavily on the run game and it delivered.


The line opened up some huge holes for Justin Forsett, and John Harbaugh specifically praised the job center Jeremy Zuttah did. Flacco did face heavy pressure at times and was sacked five times. Short-yardage rushing was improved, but the Ravens couldn’t get enough push for Flacco to convert a quarterback sneak on 4th-and-1. The line, though, committed no penalties, and extra credit goes to tackle Rick Wagner, who chased down Ross Cockrell after his interception and prevented a pick-six. That proved to be huge, as the ensuing Steelers drive ended with no points.


Rookies Nick Boyle (three catches, 12 yards) and Max Williams (2-17) both saw extensive action with Crockett Gillmore sidelined. The Raven had no qualms about going to Boyle, either. He gained 7 yards on fourth-and-1 on the final play of the third quarter, extending a drive that ended in a field goal, and it was Boyle who caught the fake field-goal pass from Sam Koch, though he was stopped for a 3-yard loss. But with the Raves shorthanded at wide receiver after injuries to Steve Smith and Michael Campanaro, the tight ends, especially Williams, could have been a bigger part of the offense.


Steve Smith (4-24) was held in check and then had to leave with a lower back injury. Michael Campanaro had two catches for 16 yards and also scored on a nifty 9-yard end-around, but he, too, left with a back injury. That left Kamar Aiken, Marlon Brown and rookie Darren Waller as the lone options for much of crunch time for the Ravens. Aiken had five catches for 77 yards and a touchdown, and his leaping 20-yard catch set up the field goal that forced overtime. Brown (2-9) just can’t consistently get open, and Waller made one catch for 17 yards.

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