By Jeremy Hritz
Is it me, or does Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Steelers writer Gerry Dulac have a new-found infatuation with the Baltimore Ravens?
Each week, Dulac publishes his NFL Forecast where he selects the winners for every NFL game. Prior to the AFC Championship Game, Dulac had selected the Broncos to defeat the Ravens 28-17 and stated that the Ravens were “fortunate” to get by the Colts and their rookie quarterback. Since that selection, he has become enamored with the Ravens, and his predictions have read like flowery prose in praise of the Steelers hated rival. See for yourself:
On the AFC Championship Game:
“[The Ravens] have big-time playmakers on every level of their offense and defense, guys who have an uncanny ability to change the game when it matters most.”
On the Super Bowl:
“The Falcons were so concerned about Kaepernick getting to the edge in the NFC title game they forgot about stopping Frank Gore up the middle. One thing is certain: Kaepernick will discover that the defenses of the Falcons and Green Bay Packers bear absolutely no resemblance to the Ravens\' defense. As well as the 49ers are playing, they will be no match for the Ravens. They have playmakers at every level of their offense and defense and have exhibited throughout this season the most amazing ability to find ways to win.”
While I am not arguing that the Ravens have not played well in these playoffs, Dulac’s assessment of the Ravens to any football fan who has paid attention is a stretch.
Sure, Ray Rice is an outstanding running back who drives the Baltimore offense, but outside of Rice, Joe Flacco and his receivers have not been dominant, rather they have been inconsistent. While Torrey Smith is a legitimate deep threat, he is more Mike Wallace than Calvin Johnson. Dulac argues that the Ravens have an “uncanny ability to change the game when it matters most,” and in the Denver game, that was accurate. However, where were those game changers during the regular season in games against a battered Steelers team without Ben Roethlisberger at home, and against Philadelphia, Houston, Washington, and Denver? “Throughout the season,” give me a break.
The most confusing comments by Dulac are those about the Baltimore defense, when he says that the 49ers offense will be no match, and that the defense is above and beyond those of the Falcons and Packers. While Dulac is correct with his statement that the Falcons and Packers are porous on defense, the 2012 Ravens are not exactly the 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers, or even the 2012 version. At the conclusion of the regular season, the Ravens ranked 17th overall in team defense, below the Packers. What’s more, the Baltimore rushing defense was awful in the regular season, giving up 122 yards per game on the ground, low-lighted by succumbing 227 rushing yards to the Dallas Cowboys.
And in the postseason, they have been even worse, surrendering 415 total yards per game and 128 yards on the ground in each playoff contest. Not exactly the intimidating defense that Dulac is touting.
The area that the Ravens defense has excelled in this year’s playoffs is turnovers, the sole reason why they are in the position that they are in. In three games, they have accumulated 8 turnovers, and without those splash plays, they would have been eliminated against Denver.
Maybe I am just salty that our arch-nemesis is on the verge of winning their second Lombardi trophy, and I have yet to accept that possibility as a reality. Dulac is an insightful and credible football writer, and I am very much a fan; however, it is surprising to see his questionable evaluation of the Ravens and the 49ers. I believe that the Ravens will win the game tonight, but not because they are a dominant defense or because they have an unstoppable offense as Dulac perceives.
Whatever the outcome, it won’t be one that makes Steelers fans happy, and from my perspective, I’d rather have Dulac be incorrect and the Niners win rather than see Ray Lewis squirrel dance his way off of the field hoisting the trophy (I wonder if the Steelers feel as sick as most of us fans do?).
Let’s go 49ers.