Charlie Batch out duels Joe Flacco in the 4th quarter that propels the Steelers to an improbable win.
Some of the most dramatic moments in recent Steeler history have occurred in Baltimore. Santonio Holmes' game winning touchdown catch. Polamalu's strip sack of Flacco. Ben's stiff arm of Suggs. There were many highlights in this game also, but the one I'll remember was Batch imploring the offense as the clock winded down the the two minute warning. All eyes were on Batch. Batch was telling the offense that this was there time. Forget about what happened previously. Batch was saying that this was the time for big-time players to step up and make plays. Can you imagine Joe Flacco doing the same thing? Me neither.
One of my best friends played basketball against Batch once a few years ago. My friend spent the entire next day telling me what an idiot Batch was. He was absolutely insufferable. He talked trash. He was arrogant. He was unbearable. I thought of that as I saw Batch pick himself up after getting drilled by Ngata. Ask any coach in the NFL what they want in their players and it is competitiveness. Scouts get enamored with stats and what players can do in combines. But, what is a guy going to do in a hostile environment, with a banged-up offensive line, and a beleaguered wide receiver crew? Batch answered the bell. I once saw Thomas Hearns interviewed about his 1985 fight with Marvin Hagler. Hearns hit Hagler so hard in the first round that he broke his hand on Hagler's head. Hearns reported that he saw Hagler in the hospital after the fight. He asked Hearns, "How did you not go down in the first round?" Hagler's simple response was, "Because I didn't want to."
Batch was able to move the ball because he was able to attack the entire field. While he was not able to complete the deep ball, the threat opened up the middle to Miller. Batch was also able to complete the long crossing routes over the middle. Batch also made the quick screens to his receivers which helped keep the defense honest. But, honestly, you expect him to make the smart, efficient plays. What you don't expect Batch to do is complete a 15 yard out across the field on 3rd and long during the game winning drive. That ball, which is thrown before Wallace makes his break, takes guts to throw. As anyone familiar with Pythagoras knows, it is one of the longest and most difficult throws you can make. It's the same one that got picked last week. Batch delivered it because the competitor inside of him belied what his body and arm should be able to do.
At some point in his career, Joe Flacco may throw the ball in tight windows over the middle to consistently win games. Tonight, he threw deep and to the fullback in the flat. It was not enough to beat the banged-up Steelers. Flacco may have those moments that define an elite quarteback's career. But, right now, I have a feeling that my friend would have nothing but great things to say about him after a friendly game of basketball.