Fourth Quarter Passing
With high playoff stakes on the line for both teams, don't be surprised if
fourth quarter passing plays a major role in determining the winner.
Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco have nearly identical completion rates in
the final quarter. The Steelers quarterback has connected on 65.7 percent of his
throws versus 64.4 percent by the second-year Ravens quarterback. Both have been
sacked too frequently in the final period with Roethlisberger being dropped 13
times and Flacco tallying 11.
The Ravens quarterback holds a slight edge in touchdown passes by a count of
seven to five, but the one large margin that is very noteworthy is that the
Flacco has thrown five interceptions during the final period this year while
Roethlisberger has yet to throw one.
Wide receiver Hines Ward is clearly Roethlisberger's go-to guy during the
final 15 minutes. His 33 passes to Ward have resulted in a team-high 20
fourth-quarter catches for 260 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Meanwhile,
Flacco's split 28 pass attempts each between running back Ray Rice and wide
receiver Derrick Mason. Rice has caught 82.1 percent of those throws for 316
yards and one touchdown while Mason has grabbed 53.6 percent for 230 yards and
Neither team likes to throw much when they have a first-and-goal situation. Flacco has only thrown three passes in
that situation this year and completed just one--but it was for a touchdown. Roethlisberger has
completed two of five passes--both for touchdowns--but was sacked twice and
threw an interception on the other attempts.
In The Zone
Joe Flacco has provided much-needed stability at the quarterback position in Baltimore.
Larry French/Getty Images
When Baltimore is in the red zone, Flacco's favorite targets are wide
receiver Derrick Mason and Ray Rice. Mason has caught seven of 11 chances (63.6
percent) for an average gain of 9.7 yards and three scores. Rice has caught five
of nine passes (55.6 percent) for an average gain of just 3.8 yards, but has yet
to score during a red-zone pass. Although he's the third favorite target,
tight end Todd Heap has been the most effective of the trio, grabbing four of
five opportunities (80 percent) for an average gain of 9.8 yards, scoring on all
Pittsburgh's Heath Miller has been deadly in the red zone, catching ten of 12
passes (83.3 percent) for five touchdowns and an average gain of 7.2 yards.
Roethlisberger's other favorite target inside the opponent's 20-yard line is Hines Ward who's caught just six of 16 throws (37.5 percent), but
has scored five times with an average gain of 8.8 yards. Wide receiver Santonio Holmes has been given nine opportunities, but has snared only three of them
(33.3 percent) for an average gain of nine yards and no touchdowns.
Ray Rice has converted six of 13 third-down rushing
opportunities for the Ravens this season with an average gain of 7.0 yards per carry. Le'Ron McClain has succeeded in earning a first down on three of six tries (50 percent)
with an average gain of 5.5 yards. Flacco has the same
number of attempts and successful runs as McClain, but his average gain is just
Pittsburgh's most effective rusher on third down has been
Roethlisberger--whether by design or simply while scrambling for his life. He's
successfully moved the chains five out of eight times (62.5 percent)
for an average gain of 4.5 yards. Running back Rashard Mendenhall is only
gaining an average of 2.5 yards per carry on third down, but that's been good
enough for six first downs on 12 attempts (50 percent). Mewelde Moore has
converted three of seven opportunities (42.9 percent) for an average gain of
When the Steelers have the ball, keep an eye on whether their offense or the
Baltimore defense draws more untimely penalties. Both of these units have been
getting plenty of attention from the officials.
Pittsburgh's offense lead the league in offensive holding penalties with 23
after 14 games. Tackle Max Starks has been the worst offender with five offensive holding
calls, followed closely by guard Chris Kemoeatu's four. Center Justin Hartwig
and tight end Heath Miller have tallied three while tackle Willie Colon, tight
end Matt Spaeth and wide receiver Hines Ward have two. Two other players have
just one each.
Baltimore's defense leads the league with 12 pass
interference calls and is tied for second for roughing the passer with five
Cornerbacks Frank Walker and Domonique Foxworth have each
drawn three pass interference flags while safety Dawan Landry has two so far. Safety Ed Reed and linebacker Ray Lewis have one call each against them, as do cornerbacks Fabian Washington and Lardarius Webb--both
of whom are on the team's injured reserve list.
As for the roughing the passer penalties, defensive tackle Trevor Pryce has
two this year while nose tackle Haloti Ngata and linebackers Jarret Johnson and
Terrell Suggs have one each.
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A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the Scout.com network and at FOXSports.com.
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