Ravens-Steelers film study

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Ravens 16, Chargers 13 (OT)

Strategy: Cam Cameron heavily utilized the shotgun formation, 51 times overall with 42 during regulation. This plays to Joe Flacco's strengths, allowing him to see the field and get the football out of his hands despite suspect pass blocking. The no-huddle has been scrapped on the road, and wasn't used once in San Diego. A steady diet of intermediate throws with the occasional timely deep shot paid dividends. There were no complaints about Ray Rice's workload: 22 rushes for 97 yards and eight catches on nine targets for 67 yards. Getting the ball in the hands of Torrey Smith was emphasized as he made seven catches for 144 yards on 13 targets, including a 54-yarder on a crossing pattern for the Ravens' longest offensive play of the year and a 31-yard sideline route that set up the game-winning field goal in overtime. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees used extra linebackers to help the pass rush get a season-high six sacks. Pees' 3-4 base scheme was stout enough to contain Ryan Mathews. Cornerbacks Cary Williams and Corey Graham challenged imposing receivers Malcom Floyd and Danario Alexander with mixed success. 


Personnel: The Ravens' iron men with 100 percent participation were linemen Marshal Yanda, Michael Oher, Jah Reid, Kelechi Osemele and Matt Birk, as well as Flacco, Jameel McClain, Ed Reed, Bernard Pollard and Williams. With tight end Ed Dickson sidelined, Dennis Pitta played 81 snaps and had six catches and a touchdown. Jacoby Jones made five catches in 46 snaps. Vonta Leach made the most of his 31 plays, clearing pathways for Rice. Terrell Suggs is up to 90 percent participation and had a sack. Paul Kruger and Courtney Upshaw played 41 snaps apiece, and each recorded a sack. Defensive end Arthur Jones only played 32 snaps, but had his first two NFL sacks. Ma'ake Kemoeatu (25 snaps) and Terrence Cody (18 snaps) closely divided playing time at nose guard..

What went right: Rice's determination, vision, speed, balance and instincts were displayed on his spectacular 4th-and-29 jaunt, a first down that led to the game-tying field goal in regulation. Anquan Boldin's crushing block on Eric Weddle was pivotal. Boldin also sent safety Atari Bigby flying into the air when he bashed into him following a catch. Smith's speed and leaping ability are rare attributes. Pitta is tough to stop in the red zone. Kruger's stutter step and bull rush on hapless Chargers tackle Jeromey Clary were impressive. Philip Rivers appeared flustered.


What went wrong: The line was shaky in protection, with Osemele the primary culprit. He was beaten for two sacks. Oher surrendered one sack and four quarterback hurries. Reid is struggling and has had two false starts in his first two starts. Sunday, he allowed four hurries. Jones was off his usual gold standard, making poor decisions and not providing big returns. On Rivers' lone touchdown pass, Williams got spun around and Pollard was too late arriving.

Turning point: Trailing 13-10 in a seemingly hopeless situation, Rice transformed a humble dump pass into an instant classic. Without that first down, the Ravens never make it to overtime.

X-factor: Kruger has already embarrassed Steelers rookie tackle Mike Adams. Now, the swift situational pass rusher squares off with replacement Kelvin Beachum in his first NFL start.

Browns 20, Steelers 14

Strategy: With their top two quarterbacks, Ben Roethlisberger and Byron Leftwich, out with injuries, the Steelers tried to attack the Browns with their running game early, but the results weren't what they hoped for. With the soft-tossing Charlie Batch under center, they used a lot of short throws to running backs and tight ends. Defensively, it was vintage Dick LeBeau again, as the Steelers, whose base defense is a 3-4, slowed down the Browns with their zone-blitz scheme.

Personnel: Roethlisberger wasn't the only standout player the Steelers were without. They did not have wide receiver Antonio Brown or safety Troy Polamalu, and linebacker LaMarr Woodley suffered an ankle injury and did not return. Emmanuel Sanders thrived again while filling in for Brown in the starting lineup, and the Steelers signed veteran Plaxico Burress to be a red-zone threat. Cornerback Ike Taylor and Keenan Lewis are playing at a high level right now.

What went right: The defense got off to a great start, as linebacker Lawrence Timmons picked off a tipped Brandon Weeden pass and returned it for a touchdown on Cleveland's first possession. The Steelers got great penetration up front and smothered running back Trent Richardson, who averaged 2.9 yards per carry, and they made eight tackles for a loss. The Steelers prevented passes down the field and shut down the Browns when they used play action. Sanders and tight end Heath Miller were productive and gained yards after the catch.

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What went wrong: Even though the offense sputtered, averaging just 4.4 yards per play, the bigger issue was turnovers. The Steelers fumbled the ball eight times, losing five of them, including one from each of their four running backs. Batch threw three interceptions, two in the fourth quarter. The defense did its best to limit the damage, but the Browns scored 17 of their points off turnovers. Speedy wideout Mike Wallace was a non-factor as Batch threw ducks down the field. It didn't help that they often put themselves in third-and-long situations.


Turning point: Despite it being a disastrous afternoon for the offense, the Steelers had a chance to retake the lead early in the fourth quarter. Trailing, 20-14, they advanced to Cleveland's 30-yard line. But Batch threw an inaccurate pass behind Wallace, who was running a slant, and the ball bounced off Wallace and a pair of Browns to defensive tackle Billy Winn, who picked it off. It would be the last time that the 37-year-old Batch moved the Steelers offense past midfield.

X-factor: James Harrison, who is 34 and coming off a knee injury that sidelined him for the Steelers' first three games, had his most productive game of the season. He had a sack for a second straight game and made nine tackles, including four for a loss. He has 10 sacks in 10 games against the Ravens, and he will test their young offensive tackles again this weekend.