Balanced offense, tough defense lead Ravens past Steelers 26-6

After a tumultuous week that seemed to last a month, the Baltimore Ravens finally got back to football and dominated their rival Pittsburgh Steelers 26-6 in primetime on CBS Thursday Night Football.

Joe Flacco and the offense came out sharp, mixing running and passing plays on their way to a 12 play, 85-yard drive capped by a 2-yard touchdown to a wide-open Owen Daniels.

The Ravens clearly came into the game with the mindset of sticking with the run after abandoning it early on last week against Cincinnati. Bernard Pierce, who rushed for 96 yards on 22 carries, looked much better this week after being benched against the Bengals for fumbling. Anyone who watches the Ravens on a regular basis knows that play-action is one of the strongest aspects of Joe Flacco’s game. The only way to maximize that talent is to stick with the running game, even after a few 2- and 3-yard runs.

When the Ravens did throw it, they were efficient. Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak has already made his mark on this offense. He loves to utilize the tight end, and the Ravens have two good ones in Dennis Pitta and Owen Daniels, who ran Kubiak’s system in Houston for years. Pitta had three catches for 30 yards and Daniels had five catches for 28 yards and two wide-open touchdowns.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Ravens swarmed the ball, forcing three turnovers (two fumbles, one interception). It seemed on every Pittsburgh carry or reception there were three or four Ravens making the tackle. They played with an energy and fire that was missing last week. Speaking of energy, welcome back to the Baltimore Ravens, Elvis Dumervil. Dumervil was quiet last week and at the end of last season, but Thursday night he got incredible push and played with a motor and a burst that rewarded him with two sacks.

The secondary, which has been a point of concern, stepped up without top-corner Lardarius Webb for the second straight week. Jimmy Smith, who seems to be emerging as one of the leagues top corners (man, I hope I didn’t just jinx that) did an excellent job shadowing Antonio Brown. When Asa Jackson left the game with a concussion, Chykie Brown, who struggled in training camp, preseason and against the Bengals, came in and played a solid game.

All in all, this was a much needed win for the Ravens after an embarrassing week for the organization. Now, the Ravens have a mini bye-week to get healthy and prepare for the Cleveland Browns, their third-straight division game.

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