A sure Steelers score turned into a Ravens score and a sure Steelers victory turned into a Baltimore win, making this weekend’s confrontation with the Cincinnati Bengals a must win.
“We swept them, but don’t be fooled—we’ll see them again in January,” Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “This is the only team in the world that can play like we play and match us blow for blow.
The Steelers, Ravens rivalry is the greatest in football, and when the two do battle it’s generally some of the best defensive football in the NFL. Last weekend was no exception. As the announcers rightfully said, the difference in the game will be determined by who makes the first mistake, or turnover. And before they could get it out their mouths, Ben Roethlisberger threw an interception to Terrell Suggs that led to a score by the Ravens which was the difference in the game. No one could understand why he threw the ball with Suggs clearly standing between him and the receiver.
After getting that score back and taking its first lead (20-16), and the Ravens pinned back on the 8 yard line, it was all about running the clock out. No way were the Ravens going to march 92 yards for a touchdown?
The game, and maybe the course of the Steelers’ season, was decided by third-and-10 from the Steelers 26-yard line with 14 seconds left. Joe Flacco lofted a pass down the right sideline for rookie receiver Torrey Smith, who had gotten behind cornerback William Gay for a touchdown. Safety Ryan Clark was supposed to help Gay on the play but did not get over in time.
The Ravens finished having converted 14-of-21 on third downs (67 percent). It was a third-and-8 from the Steelers 36-yard line with under eight minutes to play in the fourth quarter. James Harrison broke through for his third sack, and he also forced a fumble that William Gay recovered at the Steelers 42-yard line.
On a third-and-5 from the Ravens 25-yard line with 5:08 left in the fourth quarter, Roethlisberger was flushed out of the pocket, and as he was sprinting to his right Antonio Brown was wide open but Mike Wallace running along the goal line grabbed the ball for the touchdown to give the Steelers the 20-16 lead.
On a play earlier in the second quarter, Ray Lewis leveled Hines Ward with a helmet-to-helmet hit that was not flagged, but then late in the quarter Ryan Clark was flagged for a 15-yard personal foul for hitting a defenseless receiver, tight end Ed Dickson. The yardage was critical because Billy Cundiff kicked a 51-yard field goal as time expired to give the Ravens a 9-6 halftime lead.
The Steelers had a nice drive going to open the second half with Roethlisberger operating the no-huddle. Starting at their own 20-yard line, the Steelers got four first downs on the way to a first down at the Ravens 14-yard line. But then Roethlisberger got careless, and an attempted quick screen out in the flat to Wallace was intercepted by Terrell Suggs.
The Steelers were leading, 20-16, with 2:34 left, and they were facing a fourth-and-5 at the Ravens 29-yard line. Before Shaun Suisham could attempt the 47-yard field goal, the 25-second clock expired and the Steelers were flagged for delay of game. Instead, Jeremy Kapinos punted, and the Ravens took over at their own 8-yard line. This was supposed to seal the deal, but the Ravens marched down field against a prevent defense which surprised most, including TV analyst Tony Dungy.
Coach Mike Tomlin on the game after the game: “Boy that’s a tough defeat for us. But we tip our caps to Baltimore. They finished better than we did. Our guys fought extremely hard. I feel like we have a really good football team. We will have more opportunities to show it but that doesn’t lessen the fact that we weren’t able to get the job done tonight, just that. Baltimore earned it tonight.”
On the penalty on extra point: “I accept responsibility for that. There was some hesitation on my part. I was concerned about that distance. We had some changes in personnel with a new holder. Under the circumstances, I didn’t want to give them the ball on that short of a field.”
On James Harrison’s performance: “That’s the type of effort we expect from James, because he consistently delivers it. He’s a special player and a special man. We are glad that he’s healthy and playing for us again.”
The Bengals are on a roll unlike anything seen by this franchise since 1988 with five straight wins, and coach Marvin Lewis says it doesn’t matter.
“Half of these guys weren’t even alive 23 years ago,” Lewis said.
Rookie quarterback Andy Dalton threw for three touchdowns and 217 yards, and the Cincinnati Bengals rallied from a 10-point deficit and beat the Tennessee Titans 24-17 Sunday for their fifth straight victory.
The Bengals (6-2) last won five in a row in 1988 when they took the AFC championship and went to their second Super Bowl.