Pittsburgh Steelers @ Baltimore Ravens(28-24 Steelers)
Mike The Ace @TheAceWriter
One of the most intense rivalries in sports added another chapter to its history books this Sunday. The one-loss Ravens hosted the undefeated Steelers in a pivotal AFC North matchup.
The Steelers entered this game with the best defense in the NFL. All season, this unit has used a mix of blitzes and zone coverages to torment opposing offenses. All three levels of their defense has played well this year, and I predict that will be consistent for them throughout the second half of the season.
Pittsburgh’s defense got off to a fantastic start in this game, intercepting Ravens’ QB Lamar Jackson on the third play of the opening drive. Linebacker Robert Spillane made the interception, and returned it 33-yards for a Steelers’ touchdown. Spillane has played very well in recent weeks. That’s good news for a Steelers defense that is missing star linebacker Devin Bush.
Following the pick six, the Ravens immediately punched back with a 9 play, 75-yard scoring drive, and tied the game at 7-7. The rest of the first half was dominated by Baltimore.
The Ravens defense played lights out football themselves, and held the Steelers’ offense to just 64 yards for the half. Offensively, Baltimore established their running game. Totaling 180 yards rushing in the first two quarters. The Ravens held a 17-7 lead heading into the break.
Although the running game found success in the first half, Lamar Jackson did not play well. Jackson’s struggles would continue into the second half, as the reigning MVP finished the game just 13 of 28, for 208 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. Jackson was also sacked 4 times, and lost a fumble on one of those sacks.
Against elite defenses like the Steelers, Jackson has to play better. He didn’t make enough big throws and never got comfortable from the pocket. An efficient passing game is necessary for an elite offense, and it seems to be the missing piece from the Ravens’ offense. Jackson has to play better, but his offensive line needs to protect him better as well.
The Steelers offense woke up in the second half. Moving the ball efficiently and playing mistake free football. Pittsburgh held a 28-24 lead on the final two drives of the game. Both drives, their defense was able to come up with the big stops to win this football game.
Ravens fans should not be discouraged. With better ball security, Baltimore could have walked away with the victory. Credit the Steelers for sticking to their identity, and forcing the Ravens into mistakes. The next matchup between these two teams should be another classic.
Los Angeles Rams @ Miami Dolphins (28-17 Dolphins)
In what was Tua Tagovailoa’s first NFL start, I expected a great offensive show between Goff and Tua. What I saw was one of the strangest games of the year, with a lot of defensive swings.
Tua had, I guess what you can say was, an average NFL debut. He went 12-22, with 93 yards, and a TD. He really appeared to be rattled at some points by the Rams’ defense. Aaron Donald had him running for his life constantly, but we did also see that Tua is healing well from the hip injury. He is moving well in space. He didn’t have to do very much, as the story of the game was really the other 2 phases of the sport, defense and special teams. There was a fumble returned for a TD, a punt return for a TD, and a forced fumble by Shaq Lawson that was recovered by Kyle Van Noy on the Rams 28 yard line. The last turnover led to a one yard touchdown by runningback Miles Gaskin.
Jared Goff put up 355 yards, going 35/61 with 1 TD, and 2 Interceptions. Not the game you want from your franchise quarterback. The Dolphins defense gave him fits the whole game. The game plan was simple for head coach Brian Flores. Flores used the same defensive schemes that were used when he was the Patriots’ defensive coordinator in the Super Bowl, just a few years back. Constantly changing the defensive plays post snap and mixing up the blitz packages was just enough to throw Jared Goff off. This led to two interceptions and also the fumbles from not seeing the hot-read blitzers.
Tua had a rocky debut but showed that he is ready to lead this team. I really enjoyed watching the defense play as well. Cornerback Byron Jones had a great game, as well as defensive tackle Christian Wilkins. Wilkins, along with defensive back Eric Rowe, both grabbed interceptions in this game. This defense may be the unit that carries the Dolphins this year.