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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Post AFC Championship thoughts

Sunday's game was the seventh AFC Championship I've covered, but it was perhaps the best one that I've seen.

If you like football, you liked this game. The hitting was phenomenal. The chess match between the two teams was interesting to watch. And there were some great plays made out there.

That was the good.

The bad was the length. It just shouldn't take four hours to play an NFL game under any circumstances.

The officiating crew was an "all-star" group that included Tony Steratore at back judge. Tony is, for those of you who don't know, a Washington business owner and a McMurray resident.

Part of the problem with the length of the game, in my opinion, was that these guys weren't accustomed to working with each other. It led to a few more post-play huddles than usual.

© I thought going into this game that the play of Joe Flacco would be the difference – and I didn't mean that in a good way.

These really were two pretty evenly matched teams, with the only glaring difference being Flacco's inexperience. That proved to be the case.

Flacco never solved what the Steelers' defense was doing to him. Even though the Ravens generated more of a running game than the Steelers did, they couldn't take advantage of it.

© Limas Sweed, you've got to catch that deep ball. There's just no excuse for a guy who's paid to get open and catch the ball not to catch that pass.

On the plus side, that's two weeks in a row he's gotten himself wide open.

And he did come up with some catches later in the game while also making a crushing block on a catch by Heath Miller.

But you've got to catch the ones when you're wide open like that behind the defense.

© LaMarr Woodley has six sacks in three career postseason games. That's called a money player.

© We got a glimpse of what the Steelers offense might look like without Hines Ward and it wasn't pretty.

But Ward's got a few more years left in him and should be back for the Super Bowl. That gives some other guys – are you listening Sweed? – some time to polish their game.

© Ryan Clark's hit on Willis McGahee may have been the exclamation point on this game, but it was Carey Davis' decleater of Daren Stone on the opening kickoff that was the opening statement.

© Listeing to the radio on the way into the game, I heard my good friend Joe Starkey say that nobody has a winning record picking games in these playoffs.

Joe must not read this site – I don't know why – because I'm now 8-2 in these here playoffs picking games.

With that said, I'm picking … well you're just going to have to wait to see who I pick in the Super Bowl because I'm not even sure how I feel about this one yet.

Tampa beckons.


KMC said...

Thanks Dale for the read. I sure hope 86 heals up nice and fast because we need him in Tampa. And yes, you're 8-2 and even close on the scores as well... so I'll keep reading your blog. You seem to be more level headed than most of those ESPN posers. They drink too much Kool-Aid.

Ben said...

Dale -- I hope you're kidding. Aren't the Steelers a given pick? How can you go against the home team?

Greg Mercer said...

i think we can rattle Warner... if we get to him. Should be another home game for the Steelers. So hopefully the crowd noise will help us out.

Go Steelers!

Dale Lolley said...

I pick who I think will win, not automatically the Steelers.
If I don't think they'll win, I'll tell you.
I think they should win, but I'll get a better feeling for the game when I'm in Tampa.

Roger said...

Any later word on McGahee's condition. With all the hoopla about the Steeler victory, his status was overlooked. It is never good to see somebody carted off that way, with precautions about his movement.

The replay looks pretty clear about Clark's helmet-to-helmet hit. Will the NFL come knocking on his door this week, with hand outstretched, looking for the fine money? I think so. If not, why not? Hard-hitting football does not mean helmet-to-helmet.

adamg said...

On Clark's hit, it depended on which replay was shown how the hit was. Clark clearly lead with his shoulder. The helmets hit on the follow through and you could see Magahee's head snap back like he'd been hit by an uppercut.

I thought the play calling by Arians was once again dreadful. I heard BR defend that empty set formation on 3 and 1 as "great" and then go on to say Washington ran a different route than Holmes usually does and he didn't expect it or read it correctly. Sorry, but that is not a "great" call when
the QB and WR aren't even on the same page. A great call would have a play fake into the line and then a deep ball against one of Balt's 4th string CBs. I'm not knocking the OL because IMHO, they did a a pretty good job picking up the blitz. The way BR holds on to the ball forever, an HOF OL couldn't prevent sacks.

Polamalu, OTOH, was a monster. The interception TD return was the cap, but him literally leaping over the line to stop Flacco on 4th and 1 and then drilling him on the boot leg were game-changers, too. And, finally, an opposing team gets an offensive holding penalty for mugging James Harrison.

Still this game was much closer than it needed to be because of the Steelers just made too many mistakes on offense. I am really hoping after the season Arians and Zierlein are joining millions of other Americans looking for work.

Joe said...

Holmes (non)catch at the 1. I don't understand the ruling. I know the rule they are referencing about having 2 feet down & control through hitting the ground, but I don't believe the rule was applicable in this instance. I counted Holmes had 3 feet down, a hand & made a football move towards the end zone. Does this not trump the rule referenced by the official? Do you think this should have been a catch? It didn't affect the end outcome of the gaem, but made things a lot tighter until Polamau's interception return.

Roger said...

Joe, the replay clearly showed Holmes lost control of the ball as he hit the ground. The "two feet down" has nothing to do with this case -- I don't see it. I think his problem was he was trying to reach the ball across the goal line as he was going down. If he would have tucked it under, the mark of the ball would have been about the 1 yard line, with a completed pass. But, his attempt to reach the ball forward, beyond his body, seems to be why the ball came loose from his grasp.

I believe the ruling was correct.

Anonymous said...

Ok can we now officially say the Black and Gold owned the Ravens this season? With a team of that caliber getting beat 3 times in 3 HUGE are owned.

Anonymous said...

Joe, it was payback for the call we got earlier in the last game. The refs just can't seem to keep from screwing up. It is time for professionalism to take over in this field and a real investigation into any and all links to the gambling industry.
Baseball has strict and hard rules on this stuff, football needs them. Goodell should be stepping up and fixing this problem before it ruins the game we all love.
Clark lead with the shoulder btw. Helmets sometimes just clash, he was flying with the shoulder forward.
Arians stinks. The 47 yards on 24 carries was sick to watch from Parker. One game against SD does not make up for weeks and weeks of this. The problem is not Parker it is Arians. When they had a fullback in against SD, they rushed. When they didn't against a better defense, they stunk.
Arians play calling makes no sense unless your only game plan is to connect on a few deep passes in a game and hope they end up in the end zone.
Dale, you continue to be my favorite OR writer. (though Brant's blog is more fun)

Anonymous said...


I think that he had to keep control when going to the ground because when he established posession he was in the process of being tackled.

If you get posession before a defender makes contact, you don't have to maintain posession when you go to the ground. Because the hit happened before he got two feet and made a FB move (whatever that is), he needed to keep posession. What great body control to keep his knees off the ground though.

I'm not a big fan of BA, but I thought that the game was called pretty well (except for the 3 & 1 w no RB). If Holmes makes that catch, or Sweed holds onto the deep ball, or FWP catches that swing pass this game would have been a blow out. Seems to me like we had a good game plan, decent play calling, and we adjusted well to loosing Ward. Just didn't execute as well as we could have. Still, getting 16 points on O against the Ravens is a pretty good day.

If FWP can run against the Cards, I think we will have another trophy for the case.

adamg said...

I don't know, these possession calls seem to be inconsistent. Just look at the fumble by Magahee after he was cold conked by Clark. He had the ball maybe not even as long as Holmes did, yet it was ruled a catch and fumble, not incomplete.

Correcting my earlier post, it was Ward, not Holmes, that ran the route differently.

I couldn't believe Flacco's comment
after the game that he thinks he looks off his receivers. Does he not watch the film? He stares down his primary receiver every play. Plus Mason is his security blanket. Every DB in the league must know that in the crunch, he will throw to Mason.

Anonymous said...


McGahee cought the ball, established posession then was hit.

Holmes cought the ball, then got hit, then established posession.

Holmes needed to keep the ball going to the ground. McGahee didn't

Dale Lolley said...

I thought Holmes actually took two steps with the ball in his possession, which, in my mind, established possession and negates the falling to the ground rule. A number of people in the press box felt so as well. The officials felt differently.

They used the fullback quite a bit Sunday. It wasn't working against a tough Baltimore run defense. But there weren't many tackles for losses, which is the big thing. They may have only been getting one or two yards, but it was better than taking losses.

Clark did lead with his shoulder and the helmet contact came on the follow through. McGahee was supposed to stay in the hospital overnight. Don't know if he did or not.

Anonymous said...

I also did not like the Holmes call. It was either a misinterpretation of a rule or just a bad rule that needs to be looked at in the off-season. It was pretty clear, to me, that he caught the ball thus gaining possession right away (there was no bobbling), tucked it away while touch at least 2 (maybe 3 feet) down and then even touching a hand down also then dove towards the endzone and lost the ball after hitting the ground. The only difference between the holmes play and the mcgahee fumble is that mcgahee didnt have the ball as long as holmes did...which really makes the holmes call make even less sense to me...but thats just me

Anonymous said...

Also, that holmes catch getting overturned reminded me alot of the infamous Troy play from the 05 playoff game against the colts where they called it a pick but then overturned it after review...they admitted they made the wrong call on that one...Dale, have you heard about any kind of explanation/apology being made by Pereira for the holmes call?

adamgh said...

There's a great picture, either in the BC Times or the P-G of Holmes with the ball clearly tucked in the crook of his arm and taking a step. Clearly, it was a catch. I continue to think the refs are just not consistent interpreting the rule with respect to catching the ball and then falling to the ground and losing possession. To me, the Holmes play should have been, at worst, a catch and fumble.

BTW, did we all the see on the Holmes TD where Ed Reed, the greatest safety ever, got blocked away from Holmes by a mere stiff arm from Nate Washington?

ESPNNews just said Magahee has been released from UPMC.

Anonymous said...

So Hines Ward being out of the lineup made Limas Sweed drop a touchdown and a 20-7 lead?


Patrick said...

My quick thoughts

-I'm not sure if it is because Sweed is going against inferior competition, or they know he can't catch, or what it is, but his ability to get WIDE OPEN is almost uncanny. How many times have we seen this guy have complete seperation? I think it is a sign that he has all the skills to be a really good WR but the light bulb needs to go on quick with his hands or he might not be on this team in 2 years. And that wasn't a difficult catch he dropped, that was a mental/lack of concentration thing, not a physical thing.

-Willie Parker also had a huge drop early in the game that was painful to watch.

-Is Moore hurt? I'm all for letting Parker get into a groove in a game, but after awile, it was getting obvious that he was going nowhere. Why not give Moore a series?

-Moore was also not making good decisions on his punt returns

-Dick LeBeau needs to get to game planning for the Cardinals. Besides the obvious fact that Whisenhunt knows all too well what this team is all about, they called a GREAT game against the Eagles in the first half. AZ used the Eagles aggresiveness against them with quick passes, screens, draws, a good mix of run/pass and Gadget plays. I know the Steelers will prepare for it, but I hope these schemes don't leave Fitzgerald one on one down the field. I love Ike Taylor, but no one can cover that guy man to man for an entire game.

Can't wait for the SB.

adamg said...

It was reported that Moore hurt his ankle sometime during the first half and that's why he wasn't in for the rest of the game.

Greg Mercer said...

i got real sick of us running FWP up the middle EVERY first down. it was like BA didn't get the memo that B'more was using their equipment manager in nickel situations.

Anonymous said...

Sweed had the one in his hands. Parker got scared of being hit and dropped a perfect pass. Holmes should of tucked the ball and mae the catch. Parker needs to hold on to the ball. Washington needs to look the ball into his hands.
All those things need to be fixed. However, after the toughest season in 20+ years. We're in the Super Bowl baby!
Now break out the jug machine and lets get to work.

Anonymous said...

aren't u allowed to dress more players in the Super Bowl?

any chance Dallas Baker takes Sweed's spot?

Anonymous said...

No chance that Baker takes Sweed's roster spot unless Ward's injury is more serious than feared. Then, he may rejoin the team but Sweed isn't going to clear waivers.

Baker will get a ring though if we win in will Davenport, Ernster, and the others that have played on the team throughout the year.

Anonymous said...

I wasnt suggesting we cut Sweed, just move him from #4 to #5 WR on the depth chart like it was earlier in the season

Dale Lolley said...

They could make a move at WR depending on Ward's knee. But no, they don't get any extra players for the Super Bowl.
They could activate Dallas Baker or the kid from Miami, Ohio. But we'll see.

Moore has an ankle injury, but he played in the second half. He got nailed by Bart Scott on that screen play in the second half and didn't return.

alexrkirby said...

They should just take the screen out of the playbook this season, its a joke every time we try to run it. It is one of the best examples of our oline's total lack of talent.