Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Boneheaded play hurts Ravens comeback attempt

The play-by-play chart on NFL.com for the game's opening play reads: 6-S.Hauschka kicks 56 yards from BAL 30 to PIT 14. 33-G.Russell to PIT 34 for 20 yards (81-M.Smith). BAL-39-D.Stone was injured during the play. His return is Doubtful.

If we were only that lucky.

You’ve probably heard of Robert “Hands of Stone” Duran. And unfortunately you are most definitely familiar with Daren “Head of Bone” Stone.

Let’s set the stage…

The Ravens fight and claw their way to a two point deficit against the Steelers during the AFC Championship Game. Trailing 16-14 the Ravens force a key three-and-out and subsequently the Steelers punt with 7:00 minutes left in the game. As he’s done so often, Pittsburgh punter Mitch Berger hits a relatively lame punt 38 yards to the Ravens 28 and Jim Leonhard returns it to his own 39.

First and 10 with 6:50 to go.

(Commercial break)

We all begin to feel it. The Ravens just might do to the Steelers what the Steelers had done to the Ravens twice during the regular season – snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

(Return from commercial break)

Oh, the horror!

Replaying before us in what amounts to the biggest boneheaded play in Ravens history considering the magnitude of the game and the major swing in momentum in the Ravens’ favor, is Daren Stone tossing a Steelers’ player well out of bounds. He’s flagged for a 15 yard penalty for unnecessary roughness from the spot.

Momentum back to Pittsburgh…

The crowd pounces on the shift in momentum as the Ravens now start their drive from the 14 yard line.

Five plays and 2:11 later, Troy Polamalu picks off a Joe Flacco pass and returns it 40 yards for the score.

Game, set, match, likely end of Stone as a Raven.

That will be the one play that we’ll ponder during the long off-season and ask, “What if?”

It’s tough to pin a loss on one play and Stone’s teammates and coaches will and have said the same. Yet during the course of a game, there are pivotal plays or mistakes that heavily affect a game’s outcome and clearly this was a mistake of monumental proportions.

How are you sleeping these days Daren?

Yes I did it – I watched that Championship game again. And here are a few of my notes and observations that unfortunately will linger for a while…

I know all about the rule and its impact on the Santonio Holmes non-catch at the goal line. And what a great job by Harbaugh’s staff picking up on it. But I have to say, we got away with one there and I wonder if Mike Tomlin’s flag had beaten Harbaugh’s if the officials would have reached the same conclusion that the pass was incomplete. Make up call for the TD in Baltimore during the Ravens 13-9 loss in December?...Ed Reed was just a step slow during the 45 yard catch and run by Hines Ward on the Steelers’ first possession. A slightly quicker step on that play and Reed would have been off to the races again…How many were thinking about Larry Fitzgerald on that deep sideline pass that just eluded the outstretched hands of the Ravens of Mark Clayton in the first quarter?...Back to Holmes for a second, he grates on my nerves, you? To me, he’s a shorter, faster version of Plaxico Burress…Hey Yamon, I hope you are renting…On third and 1 and then fourth and 1, why did the Ravens empty the backfield? Why isn’t Lorenzo Neal on the field? And if you wanted to get cute and go downfield, that’s cool but wouldn’t the full backfield draw the desired defenders into the box even more during play action?...Ray Rice was effective in limited action. I’m wondering why he was so limited…Cam Cameron was outfoxed by the oldest assistant coach in the NFL – Dick LeBeau. LeBeau used a Cover 2 with press on the edges often and he dropped his linebackers. That screamed for more rushes off the edge and less of the deep ball activity that the Ravens employed. That crossing route to Todd Heap in the fourth quarter was exactly the kind of pattern that would have proven to be more successful given the depth in the drop of the Steelers’ safeties. That said, the Pittsburgh secondary did play a much better game than most of us expected, particularly Cameron…Props to Willis McGahee. He played with heart that we haven’t seen much if at all from him all season. He was outstanding picking up blitzing Steelers. Here’s to continuing that in 2009.

7 comments :

Idiots not allowed said...

Darren Stone has just given a new meaning to the phrase, "He's a Stoner."

What a nit-wit! How many players can say they are known for making a play to prevent his team from going to the Super Bowl?

Felix Unger said...

Some are making excuses for Stone saying that he had a concussion, etc. But if he could run down the field and engage an opponent, then he knew enough not to try and practice his judo 5 yards out of bounds with the Steelers' Oscar (or whatever his forgettable ass' first name is) Madison.

Anonymous said...

As far as I'm concerned, Darren Stone was one of the few bright spots (aside from Koch) on STs all year. Yeah...he made one stupid play that cost us 25 yards. But taken in context, he was NOT the reason we lost the game, and should not be scapegoated because of one stupid play.

Jerry B said...

Not sure I agree with this assessment, TL. While the penalty certainly took us out of field position that "may" have led to the game winning score, the real reason we lost this game was poor game planning and play calling by Cam Cameron. There never seemed to be any attempt to produce a sustained drive at any point in the game. And, the play calling following our fumble recovery that led to a "4 and out" was as atrocious as it was inexplicable! Where was a "fresh" Ray Rice; where were screens, flares, passes in the flat; where was Heap, etc., etc., etc.! We seemed to be stuck on run into the middle, throw deep, look for a well-guarded Mason and.....punt!

The officiating over the years has become so suspect that the NFL probably should make EVERY call reviewable! Check out the rule book re: "head-to-head" penalty and what you'll find is no such reference, but this instead: "any tackle that uses the head to butt, spear or ram" is subject to penalty. Now, go back to the hit on McGahee and tell me what you see. This, too, could have been a game changer as we would have retained possession of the ball with an additional 15 yards.......

Anyway, great season with a bright future on the horizon.

Regards,

Jerry

Tony Lombardi said...

I didn't say that Stone's egregious error (Brian Billick would be proud) was the reason we lost. What I wrote was:

"It’s tough to pin a loss on one play and Stone’s teammates and coaches will and have said the same. Yet during the course of a game, there are pivotal plays or mistakes that heavily affect a game’s outcome and clearly this was a mistake of monumental proportions."

This was the equivalent in my mind of Bill Buckner's error in the 86 World series (or whenever it was). It wasn't the only reason the Sox lost (they gave up the winning run later) but it sure did contribute in a big way at the most inopportune time.

Thanks for checking in....the future looks bright

Bob said...

I find it difficult to believe that it's Daren Stone's fault the Ravens lost.No doubt a stupid play yet but you think THIS cost them the game?

How about.........Troy Polamalu picks off a Joe Flacco pass and returns it 40 yards for the score. ???


Take Care,
Bob

Harryos29 said...

Harry O 29 Jan 25th
...Although we cannot blame the loss on STONE-HENGE, Daren Stone, he sure didnt' help the Ravens on that play
...I heard one report that Daren was extracting some Revenge for the play that he was knocked senseless on, during the games first play? Also, when the inital hit ocurred...it was reported that Stone's return was doubtful. What a shame that he returned. Surely coach could have put Corey ivy or another player in at the Gunner position. But, he did not and we lost the game.
..It will be interested to see how the CARDS match up against the number one defense and interesting to see Larry Fitzgerald against the STEELERs Secondary. I'm looking fwd to the game, but not nearly as much, had the RAVENS been going to Tampa.
Daren I will personally pay for your plane fare back to Oakland; and as I said earlier. I would personally drive to BWI to make sure that BOLDIN made it safely to the Castle in Owings Mills.
Have a great off season everybody!