By Andrew Kahn
For just the second time in the past 11 regular-season games between Pittsburgh and Baltimore, the outcome was decided by more than a field goal, as the Ravens crushed the Steelers 26-6 last night at home. Baltimore won the turnover battle 3-0, a near-perfect recipe for a win in the NFL.
Those who thought Ray Rice might be a distraction for the Ravens could not have been more wrong. In fact, at least after the game, the players were claiming he was an inspiration. “We wanted to get [win] for Ray,” linebacker C.J. Mosley told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He was part of this organization for a long time. He put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into it.” Veteran Terrell Suggs said, “It was a very emotional game. He’s done a lot for this city. We love our brother.” And Torrey Smith added, “Ray is still a great guy. He’s a model man. He made a huge mistake, but he's still a great person.” Disagree with those sentiments if you want—and as someone who played sports with Rice in high school, I find it particularly difficult to assess this situation—but it’s clear all the Rice talk this week only sharpened Baltimore’s focus.
Running without Rice
Of course, the Ravens could easily say they were not distracted since they won the game. And they did it with the help of their running game. Coming off a poor performance against Cincinnati in Week 1, the Rice-less backfield gained 157 yards last night. Bernard Pierce and Justin Forsett combined for 152 on 30 carries, good for five yards a pop. Forsett showed an explosive burst late into the game that can only be attributed to fresh legs, as he just missed scoring from 41 yards out on a fourth quarter carry.
When Ben Roethlisberger was sacked on third down during the opening series of the game, it looked like Pittsburgh would have to punt. But a flag was thrown—and explained as “roughing the passer” by referee Ed Hochuli—and the Steelers got an automatic first down. Courtney Upshaw had in fact planted the top of his helmet into Roethlisberger’s chest, and you can’t do that to a quarterback, even if he has the ball and you don’t make contact with his helmet. The calls went both ways, however, as Pittsburgh’s safeties got hit with unnecessary roughness penalties on a touchdown drive that gave Baltimore a 17-6 lead. Both were for hits on receivers that left fans at home questioning the rules.
After a first half outburst against Cleveland last week in which the Steelers scored 27 points, Pittsburgh has tallied just three field goals in its 15 drives since. They’ve had nine punts, two lost fumbles, and an interception during that span. It won’t be easy finding a groove against a stingy Carolina defense, on the road, Sunday night (September 21).
CBS gets serious
Kudos to CBS for handling its first Thursday night NFL game with class and sensitivity. The network nixed its planned pregame intro from Rihanna and another bit involving a comedian, and replaced it with reports about the Ray Rice situation and a heartfelt plea from host James Brown to curb domestic violence. Brown called for an “ongoing, comprehensive education of men about what healthy, respectful manhood is all about” because “our silence [on domestic violence issues] is deafening and deadly.” Fans tuned in for the game, and once the ball was kicked, that’s exactly what they got. But the significance of the off-field issues was not lost on the network, nor was it downplayed for entertainment purposes.
Andrew Kahn is a regular contributor to CBS Local who also writes for Newsday and The Wall Street Journal. He writes about the NFL and other sports at AndrewJKahn.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn
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