Ravens Q&A with Mike Preston

Bradley M.: Mike what was the press box like when Torrey Smith caught the touchdown to win the game?

Let's see, the prime rib was pretty raw, cookies were great and the pizza hot (just joking).


Ahhh, the catch.

In all my years of covering the NFL, since 1987, I have never seen a stadium go so quiet, get so numb. It will long be remember as the day Heinz Field was unplugged. In the press box, it looked like a catch, but we kept waiting for the officials to signal a touchdown. In the meantime, you knew it was a touchdown because the Ravens officials sitting behind us were trying extremely hard not to cheer, which is forbidden in the press box. If I were a Ravens official, I would have been doing the "Bernie."


Victory aside, it was just a great night to be a sportswriter. When two teams with such great traditions play, it's just fun to watch. Whenever the Ravens play Pittsburgh, you have to take time out to look around and give thanks for what you do for a living. Ravens vs Steelers, it doesn't get much better in the world of sports.

Schisler in Westminster: A second straight game-winning drive in the final seconds in Heinz Field is quite epic. Here's the real question: does this 92-yard drive inspire this team to a Super Bowl against the Packers? And further, does this get the haters off Joe Flacco's back -- at least for a while?

This team was inspired to get back to the playoffs after losing to Pittsburgh in the post season in 2010. They knew they had the better team and should have won that game.

As for Flacco, if he wants to get haters off his back, he needs to become more consistent. Everyone knows Flacco has the pure talent, but he just doesn't play at a high level of consistency. It's unfair the way he has been judged. Fans seem to either love or hate him. I just think he is a pretty good quarterback who isn't elite, but good enough to win a Super Bowl given the right talent around him. But the key for Flacco, as for any player in the NFL, is to play at a consistently high level every week.

A year ago, some fans were saying the same thing about Flacco with the last-minute touchdown pass to T.J. Houshmandzadeh in Pittsburgh. Remember? He had arrived. He had turned the corner. It's about consistency, consistency, consistency. If he struggles against Seattle on Sunday, the critics will be out again Monday morning.

Eric in Abingdon: The Steelers went to the no-huddle in the second half to neutralize the Ravens' pass rush. Although very effective, it's a double-edged sword because the Steelers' defense looked tired and out-of-sync on that last drive due to playing the majority of the second half. Flacco bailed out the Ravens and won the game, but I feel more teams will now try no-huddle earlier to give their offense the early edge. How can the Ravens' defense adjust to the no-huddle? Are our corners talented enough to hold their own if the pass rush is neutralized by the no-huddle?

I'm not sure the Steelers went to the no-huddle just to neutralize the Ravens' pass rush. They also had to jump-start their offense, and they did well against the Ravens in the second half. The Ravens have a lot of sub packages in their defensive scheme and, like most teams, couldn't always get their personnel on the field. Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano and the Ravens should be prepared for the no-huddle because they see it in practice. You do the best you can, but defenses can't always control down and distance change.

The Ravens' cornerbacks have played well since they lost to Tennessee, and they are a lot more aggressive and confident. To answer the latter part of your question, if you can't get a pass rush, it makes no difference if you have Deion Sanders and Rod Woodson on the corners. If a quarterback gets time to throw, the offense is going to succeed. The no-huddle has been around for a long time, and it will become more of a weapon. Defenses attack more than in previous decades, and offenses have to counter by not allowing them to get their sub packages on the field.

Question from a Steelers fan: How come when the Ravens scored all those points in the second half last week against Arizona it's labeled a great comeback, yet when the Steelers scored all those points in the second half of that playoff game last year or overcame that insurmountable 10-point lead in the second half Sunday night it's because the Ravens blew the lead? Signed, Confused in Pittsburgh

Mr. Confused: Don't your have your own team and hometown newspaper, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette?

I suggest you start your own Q&A with your beat writers. I got a couple of questions you might want to ask. Why did we get a delay-of-game penalty to take us out of field-goal range late in the fourth quarter? Why did we continue to play press coverage late in the game when the Ravens receivers were blowing by our cornerbacks? Why isn't "Smiley," Hines Ward, smiling these days? Is it because he had to get the broom out of the closet, or because the Steelers might not get a playoff game at home in 2011?

Maybe this will help clear up some of the confusion.


Gene in Towson: I am very happy with the win, but what in the world was John Harbaugh thinking when he decided to kick the field goal after the first drive. Seems to me he was telling the Steelers and the world that he had no confidence in our offensive line. That had to be demoralizing for our players.

Ravens and Steelers games have been close over the years and usually defensive battles. In those type of games, a field goal is nearly as precious as a touchdown. Maybe if you're playing Cleveland or Seattle on the road, you go for it. But against Pittsburgh, I take the three points. Good call by Harbaugh.

JSchrader: Why does Ray Rice duck out of the way of blitzers? He misses more blitz pickups than any back in the league. Explosive player, terrible blocker. Once in awhile take one for the team Ray!!!

Rice has been a strong blocker, but in the past couple of games, he has gotten wasted by blitzing linebackers. Take one for the team? Are you kidding me? He has taken a lot for the Ravens throughout the years. When you have a 6-4, 6-5, 235-pound linebacker or 290-pound defensive end matched against Ray Rice and they have a running start, Rice probably isn't going to win that matchup as far as pass blocking.

If you are referring to James Harrison hurdling over Rice, there isn't much he can do about that but watch him fly or grow about six inches in a hurry. I thought it was a great effort by Harrison. Great players make great plays, and Harrison is one of the best.

LordBern: Is it just me or does Vonta Leach tip off the defense sometimes by trotting either left or right and not setting himself in anticipation of the play? You can always tell which side Ray Rice will run by watching Leach dance over to one side. He did it many times [Sunday] night.

I think the Ravens have switched up, and at certain times used Leach as a pass blocker in that situation. I really don't mind the way they use Leach as long as he stays in front of Rice consistently as a blocker. But as the year goes on, it's something to keep an eye on because the Ravens might be tipping their plays. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron swears he doesn't read our material, but I know he does religiously.


Cam, LordBern might have given you a tip. Go to the film room and check it out.


Walker: Have you noticed a lot of teams picking on Lardarius Webb lately? I think it's time to start giving Jimmy Smith more time on the field. When do you think he will start seeing the field on defense?

I have no problems with the Ravens' secondary. Considering the talent of the Steelers receivers and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the group has played well. Webb is much improved from a year ago. As for Smith, he'll eventually get back onto the field. They have to play him because he is a first-round draft pick.

But for right now, if it ain't broke, leave it alone.

Richard in Dallas: Why is everyone seemingly overlooking the Bengals? They always play their best against the Ravens, and this year, they are much improved.

No one in Baltimore overlooks the Bengals. They have been a royal pain in the butt for years, and Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis has mastered shutting down the Ravens' offense by taking Rice out of the game. Cincy is also playing great defense this year.

But, I must point out, the Bengals are notorious for crashing at some point in the season, especially in the second half. Unfortunately, they always play well against Baltimore, regardless of their overall situation.

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