Following yesterday’s beatdown of the Steelers, head coach John Harbaugh and a handful of his players repeated a common NFL expression.
The Ravens’ 35-7 win was just one game, they said. There are 15 more to go. Let’s not get too excited about one win, especially when that win comes in mid-September.
Excuse me, Mr. Harbaugh, sir, but we’ll just have to agree to disagree on this one.
Yesterday afternoon, in front of 71,434 at M&T Bank Stadium and millions watching at home across the country, the Ravens made a statement.
Yes, they’d lost six of their last eight games to their arch-rivals. Yes, the Steelers had bounced them from the playoffs in two of the last three seasons, both times in absolute gut-wrenching fashion. Yes, like a few of the Steelers had suggested, the rivalry had been a bit one-sided, and maybe there were some in the Pittsburgh locker room who felt they might just have the Ravens’ number.
Yes, Ben Roethlisberger had tormented the Baltimore defense and Hines Ward had dished out a few headaches (literally) and Joe Flacco had often looked overwhelmed and a bit lost against Pittsburgh’s defense.
But Sunday afternoon, none of that mattered. This time, it was the Ravens outmuscling their division rivals, dishing out the monster hits (check out Jarret Johnson’s enormous shot on Ward at the beginning of this clip) and piling up points at a dizzying pace.
With new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano at the helm, the Ravens made Roethlisberger’s life an absolute mess for 60 minutes. They blitzed the Steelers quarterback, threw him around like a rag doll, and then pushed his face into the turf for good measure. They held Roethlisberger to nearly a 50 percent completion percentage, forced him into five individual turnovers (three interceptions and two fumbles) to just one touchdown, and sacked him four times.
On the other side of the ball, the Ravens moved down the field with ease, and Flacco appeared as comfortable as I could ever remember him being in the pocket. The Ravens’ offense didn’t just chip away at the Steelers’ vaunted defense, they bashed their heads in. Flacco was given time to survey the field, and he picked up yardage in huge chunks. Ray Rice, who had a total of 84 rushing yards in three games against Pittsburgh last year, had 107 on the ground yesterday alone, and embarrassed a few Steelers linebackers with the way he juked them out of their cleats.
Then, once the Ravens had the Steelers on the ropes, they put them away with an exclamation point, outscoring Pittsburgh 14-0 after halftime, forcing six second-half turnovers and even running in a fake extra point for a two-point conversion.
Really? A punter running into the end zone untouched for a two-point conversion against his team’s tormenting rival? What was this, a bad “Remember the Titans” ripoff?
You could see it on Harbaugh’s face when he started raising the roof in the second half, imploring the fans in attendance to enjoy every second of the demolition occurring on the field. You could see it when Johnson was so fired up after one of the seemingly endless turnovers forced by the Baltimore defense that he threw his helmet towards the Ravens’ sideline and shouted for the fans behind the bench to bring the noise.
A team official told me yesterday’s game was the loudest he had ever heard M&T Bank Stadium. A certain member of the coaching staff told me it was the most fun he’s ever had while coaching.
Believe it or not, that stuff means something. It’s just Week 1, but if you can get those type of emotions going inside a locker room, it can carry you to something special.
The Ravens didn’t wrap up a division title yesterday. They didn’t clinch a first-round playoff bye and they certainly didn’t punch their ticket to the Super Bowl.
But this wasn’t just a single win. Yesterday, the Ravens put the Steelers and the rest of the league on notice.
They’re not going to be pushed around anymore. This time, the Ravens might do some pushing of their own.
Here’s your weekly Monday morning question: What part of yesterday’s win was most enjoyable or satisfying for you, as a fan?