Ravens’ second half collapse leads to Steelers’ victory

Baltimore Ravens’ quarterback Joe Flacco (5) is sacked by James Harrison (92) of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the second half of their AFC Divisional NFL playoff football game in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, January 15, 2011. REUTERS/Jason Cohn (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Here are five quick-hit thoughts on the Steelers’ 31-24 victory over the Ravens in the NFL Divisional Round.

1. Ravens pick a horrible time to play their worst football.
Baltimore’s second half collapse in this game was one of the worst I have ever seen. They did such a great job building all of this momentum in the first half only to give it right back on their first offensive possession in the third quarter. The Ravens took a two-touchdown lead into the second half but quickly allowed Pittsburgh back into the game with sloppy play. From Ray Rice and Joe Flacco’s fumbles to two huge drops by Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh at the end of the game, the Ravens saved their worst for the most important game of the year. That said…

2. …what a great job by the Steelers to capitalize on Baltimore’s mistakes.
You have to hand it to the Steelers: they always seem to make plays when it matters most. When Rice fumbled at the start of the third quarter, they turned the gift into seven points. When the defense picked off Flacco, they again put the ball into the end zone. When Boldin dropped that key pass on third down late in the game, Ben Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown on an improbable 58-yard pass to set up the eventual game-winning touchdown. Pittsburgh played a horrible first half, but it didn’t matter in the end. Because when the other shoe eventually dropped, the Steelers took full advantage.

3. Flacco must elevate his game in the playoffs.
In his third year, Joe Flacco has done some great things. You can tell he “gets it” and that he’s going to be a very good player for a long time. But if the Ravens want to win anything of any substance, he has to elevate his game when they get to the playoffs. He only threw for 125 yards and while he did have one touchdown, his fumble and interception in the second half proved costly. Granted, if Boldin catches that ball at the goal line on third down or Houshmandzadeh doesn’t drop that fourth down pass, maybe I’m signing Flacco’s praises right now. But those two drops don’t excuse Flacco’s lackluster play in the second half.

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Ravens sign T.J. Houshmandzadeh

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh (L) runs past Tennessee Titans defenders Michael Griffin R)and Collin Alfred in the 2nd quarter at Qwest Field in Seattle on January 3, 2010. The Titans beat the Seahawks 17-13. UPI /Jim Bryant Photo via Newscom

Adam Schefter tweeted the details:

Ravens reached agreement with former Seahawks wide receiver TJ Houshmandzadeh on a one-year, $855,000 deal. More at espn.com.

Personnel-wise, this is a strange fit, seeing as the Ravens already have a couple of talented possession-type receivers in Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason. But Housh is a cheap upgrade at WR2/WR3 and he gives Joe Flacco another sure-handed route-runner.

From a fantasy standpoint, this probably hurts Derrick Mason more than Boldin, who will get his looks as the Ravens’ WR1. It gives Flacco a little boost because his receiver corps has more depth and could weather an injury to one of the aforementioned WRs.

As for Housh, he’s probably only worth a late round flyer at this point because he’s joining a new team and his role is unclear. It’s going to take him some time to get settled.

Is T.J. Houshmandzadeh’s career finished in Seattle?

SEATTLE - DECEMBER 6:  T.J. Houshmandzadeh #84 of the Seattle Seahawks catches the ball during their NFL game against the San Francisco 49ers on December 6, 2009 at Qwest Field in Seattle, Washington. The Seahawks defeated the 49ers 20-17. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images)

ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting that T.J. Houshmandzadeh will be released if the Seahawks can’t trade him by Saturday’s final cuts. Schefter writes that once Seattle gives Housh the boot, former Lions’ first round pick Mike Williams will be entered into the starting lineup.

That wasn’t a misprint – Mike Williams will start for the Seahawks this season.

First of all, how bad does Houshmandzadeh have to be if Seattle wants to go with Williams over him? And not only that, but pay Housh $7 million (which is his guaranteed salary this year) just to stay away?

Secondly, how thin are the Seahawks at receiver if Williams is being viewed as a starter? I realize he’s looked good so far in preseason and Matt Hasselbeck seems to like him, but this is a guy that many people thought would have to move to tight end because of how big and slow he is. I could see him being a decent No. 3 or No. 4, but a No. 2? Holy smokes.

I wonder if the Seahawks are gearing up to trade for Vincent Jackson. They clearly have a need at receiver and have expressed interest in him before; I just don’t know if they’ll be willing to part with two draft picks (which is reportedly what San Diego wants in return for him) and pay him whatever he’s currently seeking (especially given Houshmandzadeh’s contract).

Either way, after they cut Housh on Saturday the Hawks are going to look awfully thin at wideout.

Nice game, T.J. Houshmandzadeh

You got to love when an athlete talks trash leading up to a game and does next to nothing to back it up.

Take Seattle wideout T.J. Houshmandzadeh for example.

In the week leading up to the Seahawks’ game with the Bears on Sunday, Houshmandzadeh said that he would win 95 percent of his matchups against Chicago’s secondary. He also proclaimed that he would make Bears’ GM Jerry Angelo regret not signing him when he was a free agent this offseason.

But when the dust settled on Sunday, Housh was targeted nine times, caught just four passes for 35 yards and also had a fumble that led to a Bears’ touchdown.

Nice game, Housh. My guess is that Jerry Angelo won’t get much sleep tonight.

Thanks to Jay Cutler’s 36-yard touchdown pass to Devin Hester with 1:52 remaining, the Bears escaped Seattle with a 25-19 victory. Chicago was far from perfect, but Cutler was outstanding, completing 21 of 27 passes for 247 yards and three touchdowns.

Honestly, it was a little surprising that the Bears needed a last-minute touchdown to beat a depleted Seahawks team playing without starting quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. But wins in the NFL don’t come cheap, especially in Seattle where the Seahawks always play tough.

At the end of the day, the Bears are 2-1 and Cutler has rebounded nicely following his ugly performance in Green Bay. With the Vikings and Packers also winning today, this was a nice victory for Da Bears.

T.J. Houshmandzadeh is a bitter man

Apparently Seahawks wideout T.J. Houshmandzadeh is still bitter that the Bears didn’t sign him this offseason and is hell bent on making them pay this weekend when Chicago visits Quest Field.

From the Seattle Post Intelligencer:

During a conference call with Chicago reporters Wednesday, Houshmandzadeh promised he could beat Bears cornerbacks Charles Tillman and Zack Bowman “95 percent” of the time in this Sunday’s game at Qwest Field.

“I feel like I’m going to get open every play, every time,” Houshmandzadeh said. “But that’s not going to be the case. Those guys get paid well. I feel I’m going to win regardless, but I have to be realistic. I feel I’m going to win 95 percent of the time and they can get the other 5.”

The Bears’ defense is ranked fifth in the NFL with 267 yards allowed per game, and eighth against the pass at 176.5 yards per game. They have a lone turnover, an interception by Tillman.
Houshmandzadeh also had a promise for Bears general manager Jerry Angelo, whom he said ignored him during free agency in March when Chicago was in the market for a wide receiver.

“Jerry Angelo probably didn’t think I could play,” he said. “So I’m going to show him Sunday.”

If Seneca Wallace starts, I’m willing to bet that Houshmandzadeh is complaining to Jim Mora and Greg Knapp by the midway point in the second quarter because he’s not getting the ball enough.

For as productive as Housh is, he’ll become unfocused easily if he’s not a big part of the offense early and often. He was always in the ear of Marvin Lewis when he was in Cincinnati, so hopefully Mora and Knapp have devised a plan to get him the ball as much as possible or else they’re going to have a whiny receiver on their hands.

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