It's referred to in the coaching profession as situational football, and maybe that is the label because those situations are often the ones that determine the winner and the loser of a particular football game. That's long been a message preached by Coach Mike Tomlin, and he cited it once again today at his weekly news conference at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.
"On defense, I thought we didn't win enough of the third downs," said Tomlin in assessing Sunday's 20-17 loss to the Ravens in Baltimore. "I think they were 50 percent, 9-of-18, on third downs. That allowed them to shorten the game for our offense and highlight (our two) turnovers. It reduced the number of possessions in the game. When we don't get off the field quickly on defense – I think the time of possession may have been 10 minutes or so in their favor (34:20-25:40) – that obviously makes the margin of error much smaller."
The disparity on third downs contributed to the Ravens having the ability to run 16 more offensive plays.
"There are reasons why we weren't able win our share of third downs. I thought it was a combination of things," said Tomlin. "I thought they had a solid run game throughout, and that created manageable third downs. But I also thought there were some critical instances where we had them in second-and-long situations where we played poorly. We lost a second-and-23 on a significant drive in the second half by giving up a deep ball. I thought there were other second-and-longs that maybe didn't move the chains but created manageable third downs. There was a second-and-20 that ended up third-and-5. I think there was a second-and-19 that ended up a third-and-2."
As previously noted, the Ravens converted 9-of-18 on third down. Eight times the Ravens faced a third-and-five or less, and they converted seven of those. They faced third-and-9 or more seven times and converted only one of those.
"When you get people behind the chains, we have to work hard to keep them behind the chains," said Tomlin. "That will allow us to get off the field and quickly get the ball back to our offense so that we can maintain a personality that we like. I thought the inability to get off the field on third downs was a critical element of the game."
TOMLIN'S INJURY UPDATE
"From a health standpoint, we put Roosevelt Nix on the Reserve/Injured List yesterday. He has a fracture in his foot, his fifth metatarsal. He has surgery coming a little later this week. We have a couple of guys nursing some injuries that happened in the game or prior to the game that continue to be issues for them, Antwon Blake with a back injury and Mike Mitchell with a shoulder injury. The rest of the management and injuries will probably be maintenance things for us as we get ready. We will watch and monitor some of those veteran players like we always do at the early portions of the week."