Harbs-Tomlin Handshake Overblown – Watch
But the post-game handshake between the head coaches of the Ravens and Steelers, John Harbaugh and Mike Tomlin, is mostly "overblown nonsense," says ESPN's Jamison Hensley.
In the video to the right, the coaches met in the middle of the field after Shaun Suisham's winning field goal. Harbaugh extended his hand and said "Congratulations" to Tomlin. Tomlin quickly shook it, but moved on without breaking stride or saying anything in return.
It appeared as though Tomlin was disinterested in an exchange and was brushing off Harbaugh, who didn't let go of the handshake and pulled Tomin back to say, "Hey, hey, hey, I said congratulations." Tomlin looked at Harbaugh and responded, "Thank you, good job."
The coaches exchanged "a tense stare" before going their separate ways and Harbaugh looked at Tomlin a while longer as Tomlin moved on and hit Joe Flacco on the chest.
"It certainly didn't appear to be that big of a deal and neither coach was asked about it after the game," wrote The Sun Jeff Zrebiec.
The other Harbaugh brother, Jim, shared a memorable exchange with Lions Head Coach Jim Schwartz last year, and Zrebeic believes Sunday's incident will similarly be a hot topic in the coming days.
Turns out, the talking heads have already begun. Here are two analysts' takes:
Hensley: "Some will say Tomlin acted like a sore winner because he didn't initially make eye contact. Others will say Harbaugh was wrong to expect anything more than a quick handshake. My take: this is overblown nonsense. It's not like the post-game tussle between the 49ers' Jim Harbaugh and the Lions' Jim Schwartz last season. … This is a tense and physical rivalry. An awkward handshake wouldn't rank in the top 50 controversial moments between these two teams."
Chris Chase (USA Today): "Some will say Tomlin wasn't a good winner. He didn't make eye contact, he didn't acknowledge Harbaugh's initial words and he ran away from the handshake. All true and all nonsense. Perfunctory exchanges make not sportsmanship. Why does Tomlin need to act like Harbaugh's "good game" was a heartfelt expression from a defeated gladiator? It's phony. It's meaningless. You may not believe that. Regardless, can you deny Harbaugh was more of a bad loser than Tomlin was a bad winner?"
AFC North Gets Interesting
The Steelers were on the brink of being eliminated from the AFC North race (with Ravens and Bengals wins). Instead, they pulled off an upset at M&T Bank Stadium, and now it wouldn't be surprising if Pittsburgh and Baltimore were to meet again in the postseason.
"Next time you handicap the AFC playoffs, make sure to include the Pittsburgh Steelers," wrote CBSSports.com's Clark Judge. "Guaranteed, they'll be there."
"I don't know how. I don't know when. I just know they'll be there, though probably not as the AFC North champion. That should be arch-rival Baltimore, a club that was supposed to handle the Steelers Sunday for all the right reasons ... but didn't."
The Steelers making the playoff is not far-fetched.
If the season ended today, the Steelers (7-5) would hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Bengals (7-5) for the sixth and final wild-card spot. The two teams meet in Week 16, however, and the winner of the game will likely secure a postseason berth.
Of the remaining schedules in the AFC North, Pittsburgh has the most advantageous with three of the last four at home and only facing one team with a winning record (Cincy).
at Redskins (5-6)
at Cowboys (6-6)
at Eagles (3-9)
at Steelers (7-5)
at Bengals (7-5)
And if the Steelers do make it to the playoffs – watch out. They will likely have back their Super Bowl-winning quarterback. With Ben Roethlisberger under center, coupled with the league's best defense and a running game that is taking off, nobody will want to draw a matchup against them in the postseason.
"It hasn't been a smooth first three months for the Steelers, whose body of work includes losses to the Raiders, Titans and Browns. But if they can reach the playoffs, none of that will matter," wrote CSNBaltimore.com's Bo Smolka. "The slate will be wiped clean, as they say, and if Roethlisberger returns and can be effective, this team could make a deep playoff run. They'd have to win on the road, but if they can win in Baltimore, they can win anywhere."
Ravens Still Control No. 2 Seed, Home-Playoff Destiny
Moments after the Ravens lost last night, The Sun's Peter Schmuck wrote: "They'll remember this one when they board their first charter flight during the playoffs."
That may prove to be true, but it may not happen until the AFC championship (if Baltimore advances that far). While they rank No. 3 in the conference now, the Ravens actually still control the second seed and their home-playoff destiny.
If the season ended today, the top four AFC teams would be:
- Texans (11-1)
- Patriots (9-3)
- Ravens (9-3)
- Broncos (9-3)
The Ravens fell to the No. 3 playoff spot yesterday because the three-way tiebreaker between New England, Baltimore and Denver is determined by conference record. The Pats have the best.
But remember, two-way tiebreakers are determined by head-to-head matchups. The Ravens hold the advantage over the Pats after their Week 3 win.
A three-way tie is unlikely because of the Ravens' Week 15 matchup with Denver. If Baltimore wins out, plus the Pats win out, the Ravens win the head-to-head tiebreaker over New England and will take back the No. 2 seed, a first-round bye and a divisional-round home game. A loss to Denver, and Baltimore slides to No. 4.
It's a tall order, but the Ravens still control their own destiny.
They just have to do it with the most difficult remaining schedule of the top four AFC teams.
According to AccuScore, as laid out by ESPNBoston.com's Field Yates,
Patriots have the best chance at that No. 2 seed at 47 percent. The Broncos are second with 30 percent and the Ravens have a 23 percent chance.
Batch Outdueled Flacco
The Ravens insist they didn't underestimate third-string quarterback Charlie Batch and his ability to lead his team to victory at M&T Bank Stadium.
But just about everyone else did.
"I knew the Ravens' winning streak at M&T Bank Stadium wouldn't last forever, but I didn't think it would go down like this, with Charlie Batch — the 37-year-old Charlie Batch — shredding the Ravens secondary in the second half," wrote The Sun's Matt Vensel.
Batch even outshined Flacco, says Hensely, after completing all five passes on the game's final drive that set up the game-winning field goal. Batch finished with the victory and the better numbers: 25-of-36 for 276 yards and a touchdown (Batch) vs. 16-of-34 for 188 yards and a touchdown (Flacco).
"[The Steelers] beat the Ravens at home … with a third-string quarterback who turns 38 this week," wrote Judge. "That would be Charlie Batch, and if the name sounds familiar it should. He's the has-been critics said couldn't play anymore, couldn't win anymore, especially after the Steelers committed eight turnovers in his first start last week.
"Only he did."
The Sun's Kevin Cowherd says it's time for Flacco to step up in big games too.
The fifth-year veteran appeared out of rhythm and errant on many of his throws. His shining moment was a beautiful 28-yard touchdown toss to Boldin in the second quarter.
"The bottom line is this: Flacco is in his fifth season now and he has to play better in big games like this, on the big stage of a late-season playoff run," Cowherd wrote. "The fact is, Flacco's been a damn good quarterback for the Ravens. And all he's done over the past four seasons is win and help the Ravens make the playoffs every year.
"But as we all know, this is a cruel business and a bottom-line league. And the bottom line for Flacco is this: he'll have to play better in big games than he did Sunday — way better — if he wants to cash in like the other big names at his position."
Batch Overthrow A Mystery
Batch won the game, but he was far from perfect.
How he overthrew wide receiver Mike Wallace as bad as he did in the end zone when Wallace was wide, WIDE,WIDEopen, is a mystery.
The microphone operator working in the back of the end zone had to take cover – check out the animated GIF below:
Judge: For Crying Out Loud, Give Ball To Rice
Running back Ray Rice did not get an offensive touch in the fourth quarter of Sunday's loss, according to ESPN Stats and Information. And that was after he gained 44 yards on his last two carries in the third quarter, including an impressive 34-yard touchdown scamper.
Rich finished with 13 total touches, his fewest since Week 1.
Judge does not approve.
"I'm sorry, but there's no way Ray Rice should touch the ball only 13 times," the columnist wrote. "Every so often, Ravens Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron seems to forget he has Rice in the lineup, and that happened again Sunday.
"Rice is the Ravens' best playmaker. So put the ball in his hands, for crying out loud."
- @albertbreer [NFL Network]: Wow. Paul [Kruger has to be sick to his stomach](http://twitter.com/AlbertBreer/status/275395983091826688 /) right now. [Twitter]
- @pkruger99: Can't believe it, hit him too high.. My apologizes to my teammates and ravenation, should never happen. [Twitter]
- @ravensinsider: Ed Dickson told me regarding his knee: 'We did the right thing and rested it. I'm blessed it's not serious. I hope to come back this week.' [Twitter]
- @ravensinsider: Injured middle linebacker Ray Lewis declined an interview request, only saying, "I'm getting better." [Twitter]
- Wide receiver Anquan Boldin was "steamed" about an official's decision to flag him for pushing off of a Steelers defender, negating a 15-yard gain on third-and 11. It ultimately led to a stalled crucial series in the third quarter. "They were making bad calls all night," he said, per Aaron Wilson. "I know they don't want me to say it, but it's what it was. You can't allow a guy to hold and then when a receiver breaks free, call a pass interference. You can't have it both ways. If you're going to allow us to play football, let us play football. Guys want to hold, I know how to get a guy off of me. But you can't just let the guy hold somebody and then complain about a guy throwing somebody off when he's trying to get out on a route." [The Baltimore Sun]
- Safety Ed Reed sounded off on the league again, accusing it of being hypocritical on player safety. "All of a sudden, the NFL is starting to get sued for all the stuff they haven't protected over the years, and they haven't done ... now you want to take it out on us?" Reed asked. "Take it out on yourself. It's easy for them to do the things they're doing, fining us and make us look bad, like we're the bad guy, when we're not. If they were really so concerned about the violence and the injuries, players getting hurt, answer this question for me ... why is there Thursday Night Football? We played three games in 17 days. Why is there Thursday Night Football? Come on, man." [SI.com]