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Team Grades: Justin Tucker Saves Season As Ravens Beat Steelers In OT

By Samuel Njoku

Starting 0-3 is bad. Starting 0-4 is disastrous. The Ravens avoided disaster in Pittsburgh on Thursday night as Justin Tucker sailed a game winning field goal through the uprights to move Baltimore to 1-3 on the year. It was a typical Ravens/Steelers slugfest between these 2 arch rivals, but thanks to a reinvigorated running game and a little luck, Baltimore was able to get the 23-20 victory.

Offense: B+

There was a legitimate need at wide receiver with Steve Smith as the only viable weapon on the Ravens roster. When he went down late in the game, it was gut-check time for this unit. Joe Flacco has only had confidence in the 36 year old veteran 4 weeks in to the regular season. This confidence was a big factor in the interception thrown when he threw a unwarranted pass to Smith on a comeback route when he was well covered. But besides that, Joe played extremely well given the circumstances. This team misses Eugene Monroe. Edge rushers are having their way with James Hurst. And when he appears to be playing better, teams like Pittsburgh are confusing him with stunts and overload blitzes in his direction. Flacco didn't have much time in the pocket to take advantage of a subpar Steelers defense.

With Justin Forsett rattling off 150 yards on the ground, Flacco didn't need to save the game on his own. Not only were the yards huge for Baltimore, the attempts on the ground were critical in keeping the ball in their hands and out of the hands of Pittsburgh's offense. Baltimore ran the ball 39 times and moved the ball much better than in previous weeks. If the running game continues to perform like this, it will take some much needed pressure off of Flacco.

Defense: C

Granted, the Ravens only had a short week to prepare for this game. But their approach to stopping Michael Vick was baffling. It's clear that Baltimore was going to focus on containing Antonio Brown and stopping Le'Veon Bell. Their execution to the latter was poor. Bell ran all over the place against the Ravens front seven. Baltimore relinquished 129 yards to Bell and by doing so gave up 100 yards to a rusher for the first time in nearly 2 years.

The containment of Antonio Brown was a entirely different story. While Brown had his moments against Baltimore's secondary, the gameplan going into this game was brilliant. A lot of Brown's success has to do with Roethlisberger's ability to extend plays and buy his receivers time. He didn't have that luxury this week and Baltimore took advantage. Kudos to the Ravens defensive backs for a solid game.

Special Teams: B+

When your special teams Ace hits the game winner, it's a good day for your unit. Tucker was 3 for 3 on the day and kept Baltimore in it late in the 2nd half. The kick and punt coverage by the special teams unit was poor tonight and cost them field position on a few occasions. Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg will almost certainly have a stern talk as plays like that can lose a game for you.

Coaching: A-

I love the gutsiness by John Harbaugh. Going for it on fourth down is usually reserved for players of EA Sports Madden NFL. But not this guy. He believes in being aggressive. And it usually pays off -- just not tonight. The fake field goal is the play most people will talk about. But the call was genius and would have worked if not for a heads up play by Steelers Sean Spence. Solid job overall by the coaching staff, especially given the short week of preparation time.

Samuel Njoku was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Samuel has covered the Ravens for since 2010. Prior to 2010, Samuel was an avid blogger and radio personality in Salisbury, MD. Samuel Njoku is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.

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