CBS-TV'S Phil Simms Expects Close Ravens/Steelers Game
We all know what we would like this Sunday afternoon when the Ravens and Steelers meet for the second time in three weeks.
We want the same type of game we watched the last time the Steelers came to M&T Bank Stadium. That's when (Sept. 11, 2011) we sacked Ben Roethlisberger four times, intercepted three of his passes – two by Ed Reed – and won 35-7 in the season opener a year ago.
But, that game was an oddity in this heated rivalry. Six of the last seven confrontations between the Ravens and the Steelers have been decided by three points, including our 13-10 win at Pittsburgh two weeks ago.
"It doesn't matter if Big Ben plays or doesn't play, I think this game will be close," said CBS-TV's Phil Simms, who is broadcasting from M&T Bank Stadium this Sunday. "That's what these two teams do. That's why they have Jim Nantz and me and CBS' No. 1 production crew here. Baltimore and Pittsburgh are two of the NFL's best teams, and they play each other like there's no tomorrow. We love being part of an event like this."
One other thing Phil said is that he believes those who think the Ravens* *defense is a weakness are wrong. "Those critics should check again, and that includes me. I said early in the season, we're seeing the decline. I was wrong. Even with the injuries the Ravens have on defense, this group is getting better and playing well."
Simms noted that the Ravens' home crowd is special: "Your stadium and crowd – one of the best. The fans are excited to be there. They're into the game from introductions to the end. They get it. It's fun to be part of it."
There's No Place Like Home
Consider these numbers:
- 14.4 points per game
- 53 interceptions
- 65.7 QB rating
- 285.6 yards
Now, reflect on this: The Ravens have won 15 games in a row at M&T Bank Stadium, the longest current home-winning streak in the NFL. Beyond this, we've won 23 of our last 24 in Baltimore. Incredible.
(Hope it's not bad luck to talk about these numbers.)
How'd we do it? The numbers above are clear indicators. Since 2008, when John Harbaugh started as our head coach, we've allowed just 14.4 points per game at M&T. That's the best in the NFL. Our defense has intercepted 53 passes, second to Green Bay's 63. Opposing quarterbacks have been diminished to a league-low 65.7 QB rating, another NFL best.
We've allowed the second-fewest yards at home, 285.6 per game. (OK, the Steelers are first at Heinz Field with 265.) Finally, most importantly, we have outscored teams at M&T by the huge difference of 1,001-534, an average victory margin of almost 15 points per game.
Can we all start chanting "Seven Nation Army" right now?
There's More To The M&T Magic
We're averaging 36.8 points scored per game in home games this season, which, of course, is highest in the league. WE ARE DOMINANT AT HOME!
Since the start of the 2010 season, we're 20-1 at the Bank. Since Harbs came here in 2008, 32-5 – both top marks in the league.
We've been on the road four of the last five weeks – and won three of those road games. We can't wait to get home. Bring it on, "Wall of Purple." We're a good team, and we have been a good team, but the magic at M&T Bank Stadium has a lot to do with that and the noise you create.
Here's what Matt Birk told Greg Garber of ESPN when the giant sports empire picked M&T as the "Best Home Stadium Advantage in the NFL": "No. 1, I'm going to say that over the years the Ravens have fielded a pretty good football team. No. 2, the fans here are great. It's pretty simple. There's your home-field advantage."
(Hard to hide that Harvard education, Matt.)
We've all seen the play many times this week. "Hey diddle, diddle, Ray Rice up the middle." That's what Ray Rice jokingly calls one of the best plays in Ravens history.
On ESPN, which has dissected the play about 20 different ways this week, I thought Ron Jaworksi, using the coaching tape, did the best. First, "Jaws" complimented the call by Cam Cameron. As Jaworski illustrated, Cam had four players streak up the field – Jacoby Jones, Anquan Boldin, Dennis Pitta and Torrey Smith. As these four neared the first-down distance, they were equal distance from each other across the field, and there were seven Chargers in the neighborhood.
Second, "Jaws" then complimented Joe Flacco's read of the play. "Joe sees seven guys covering four, and Joe will have to throw it over 35 yards to reach any of his receivers. He wisely checks the ball down to Ray Rice." Then Ron showed the magic of the play: "Note when Rice catches the ball, he's almost 20 yards from the nearest downfield defender. Joe has now given Ray a chance to make the play."
And make the play he did. (With a huge shout out to Anquan Boldin for his game-changing block near the first-down distance.)
Ed Reed In The Post-Game Locker Room
The win at San Diego made a festive post-game locker room and cross-country flight home. Ed Reed put it in perspective when he broke the huddle after the game: "We know what we got next week. Pittsburgh's coming. Straight up. It's not about them. It's about us, and we're on a mission. Baltimore on 3. 1, 2, 3," and they all shouted out "BALTIMORE."
OK, Baltimore, let's do it again. We've beaten the Black and Gold four of the last five times we've played, including three in a row. Let's make it four. Beat the Steelers.
Talk with you next week,