During forty-five years of watching professional football, I support the “no-call” rule when two players are going for the ball—more often than not, the referees let them play. I don’t like it when the zebras determine the outcome of any game. Check the video of any Hail Mary pass. Bodies are piled up, arms are held, and yes, receivers are knocked down while the ball is in flight. We played the Falcons in Atlanta a few years back and Roddy White shoved down a defender on his way to the game-winning score—no call.
On Sunday, Steve Smith, Sr. and Bengal safety George Iloka went up for a bomb with less than a minute to go. Down 27-24, Joe Flacco escaped the pocket with 44 seconds left and unleashed a missile 60 yards across the length of the stadium. Smith, Sr. hauled it in, winning the pigskin from Iloka after a handfight and a shove. He ran diagonally into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown. For a split-second, the Ravens had distanced themselves from the Bengals and the Steelers atop the division and solidified their playoff position.
It wasn’t meant to be. Smith, Sr. was called for offensive interference.
At five- foot nine and one-hundred and ninety pounds, Steve Smith, Sr. is dwarfed by the six foot-four, two-hundred and twenty pound Iloka. The theatrical safety fell away from Smith’s arm like a scarecrow in a hurricane. The zebras were there to flag it and give the Bengals the game.
Truthfully, we shouldn’t have been in this position to begin with. Our defense had taken over the game. They mustered two late turnovers. Haloti Ngata is silencing the radio pundits who don’t believe he is worth the money with one of his best seasons ever. Once again he demonstrated his superior agility as he tapped the ball out of Andy Dalton’s hand upfield and Daryl Smith hauled it in, racing toward the end zone. Lorenzo Taliaferro scored on the next play. After an interception, the Ravens took a four point lead. The die-hard Bengals faithful, some dressed as empty seats, headed for the exits.
Unfortunately, the defense couldn’t hold the Bengals on the final drive. Namely, our secondary faltered. Dalton scrambled and hit Mohammed Sanu down the left sideline. On a 4th and 1 from the goal line, Dalton rumbled in behind Andrew Whitworth to give the Bengals a 3 point lead.
We had our chances early. We outplayed Cincinnati—but we couldn’t make critical plays when we needed them. On the Bengals 2 yard line in the first half, we had two chances to punch it in. On 4th down, we opted for a pass instead of playing “smashmouth” football. That’s the second time this year we’ve gotten too cute when it counted near the end zone.
If you can’t gain two yards in the NFL when you need them, you don’t deserve to win.
Now we head to Pittsburgh to face a resurgent Steelers team that crushed the Colts, 51-34. We’re banged up. We’re angry. And we’re headed into Joe Green Night at Heinz Field. In the history of the Ravens franchise, these conditions have always been a recipe for success.