BreakPoint Wk5: The Play That Changed the Game in Pittsburgh

 

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Photo Credit: Shawn Hubbard and BaltimoreRavens.com

Take a deep breath in… now let it out. That one was stressful. It wasn’t pretty by any means, but divisional games, especially on the road, almost never are. An ugly win counts just the same as any other, and the Ravens are lucky to escape with one to improve to 3-2.

Early on this game looked like an easy win. With 3 straight scoring drives to open the game and an interception on defense, it looked like we may cruise against an inferior team. But this is the Ravens we’re talking about, so you know this one couldn’t be easy. The offense lost all of its rhythm, and the defense did its best to contain the Steelers, who were gifted great field position numerous times. The only thing dependable throughout the game was the horrendous officiating against both teams and the Ravens’ excellent special teams unit.

Justin Tucker was perfect on field goals in one of the toughest stadiums to kick in, and he routinely put the ball high on kickoffs to pin the Steelers deep after every scoring drive. Sam Koch boomed multiple deep punts to flip the field position when lesser punters could have given Pittsburgh a chance to get back in the game. It’s often mentioned that John Harbaugh was a former special teams coordinator, but it truly showed today. Justin Tucker came up with 2 clutch field goals once again, one to send the game to overtime, then one to win it all. In between those 2 kicks is where we find our BreakPoint play of week 5.

After Tucker was able to squeeze a 48 yarder inside the right post with time winding down, the Steelers won the overtime coin toss and chose to kick for some reason. I think 31 other coaches would’ve done the opposite, but at the end of the day it didn’t matter. The Ravens’ offense looked lost and we gave the ball right to them with decent field position. With any score ending the game and a Ravens defense that has looked suspect throughout the season on the field, this one felt like a heartbreaking loss. But then…

Marlon Punch

“Big-time players make big-time plays in big-time games.” This play is about as big-time as it gets. With everything on the line, Marlon Humphrey personally ensured the Ravens wouldn’t be falling below .500 this week. The punch-out that forced the fumble would’ve been good enough, but the presence of mind and hustle from Humphrey to recover the ball himself will make this play an iconic moment in the Ravens-Steelers rivalry. The fact that this was in overtime and essentially won the game just makes it that much sweeter.

Marlon Humphrey doesn’t normally play in the slot. Slot corner is essentially a different position that requires a different skillset. It’s a role normally suited for smaller, more agile guys. But with Jimmy Smith down, the Ravens have relied on Humphrey to shadow the opposing teams’ top receivers with great success. JuJu Smith-Schuster plays a high percentage of snaps from the slot, so it would’ve made sense to change up the gameplan defensively, but the Ravens had faith in Marlon being up to the task. Aside from the touchdown grab, the decision paid off once again.

Failed Attempt

On that first-quarter touchdown catch-and-run, Humphrey actually attempted the same technique that would go on to make him a hero in overtime. On the sideline, Deshon Elliot told him to wrap up instead, but Marlon was determined to make a big play when it mattered most and went for it again.

Marlon Punch2

The second attempt would, of course, go much better. His form was much better this time around. His left arm is in place to secure the tackle in case the punch didn’t work, and the right hand comes in at a much straighter angle. This is a textbook “Peanut punch”, which Charles Tillman made popular in his time with the Bears, and seems perfectly fitting for a guy who goes by “Fruit PUNCH” on Twitter.

Statistically speaking, Marlon Humphrey has been one of the best cornerbacks in the league since the day he was drafted. National media has had him pegged as a potential breakout superstar for the last 2 seasons, and he’s playing like a guy who deserves that type of recognition. In his third season in the NFL, Marlon Humphrey is undoubtedly the best player on the Ravens defense, and there will be plenty more highlights to come for the 23-year-old. “Big-time players make big-time plays in big-time games”, and if he hadn’t already, Marlon Humphrey just established himself as a big-time player.

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Photo Credit: Shawn Hubbard and BaltimoreRavens.com

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