Not much went right for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Third-string quarterback Charlie Batch overthrew a wide-open receiver Mike Wallace in the end zone. His strike to Emmanuel Sanders on 3rd and 11 was good for 21 yards, but he inexplicably fumbled without being touched as the Steelers lost possession deep in Ravens territory.
Still, the Steelers (7-5) won 23-20 on Shaun Suisham’s 42-yard field goal as time expired Sunday, reviving their postseason hopes and ending Baltimore’s NFL-long home winning streak at M&T Bank Stadium at 15 regular season games.
“We put ourselves in situations that weren’t good. Too many third-and-longs,” said Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who had his worst home showing of the season by going 16-for-34 for 188 yards.
His 28-yard touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin put the Ravens (9-3) up 13-3 and seemingly in control. But Flacco had a fumble deep in his own territory in the fourth quarter as the Steelers, playing their third consecutive game without starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (shoulder/ribs), were able to tie the score at 20 on a 7-yard pass from Batch to Heath Miller with 7:24 remaining in the game.
To Flacco’s point, the Ravens weren’t good on third down at all. They failed to convert from 2, 5, 3 and 4 yards in the first half alone. On their first possession in the second half, because of two penalties on Boldin, their drive stalled on 3rd-and-26.
A false start penalty on fullback Vonta Leach sabotaged the next drive and then Flacco was sacked for a 5-yard loss by Larry Foote. By the fourth quarter, the Ravens were faced 3rd-and-15 and 10 that went awry.
In all, they went 3-for-11 on third downs, or 27%.
“The only people that thought we could win were the people in Pittsburgh and the people in this locker room,” said Steelers safety Ryan Clark, whose team had lost three in a row in this rivalry. “Everyone else thought this was a done deal. Today you saw the fight this team has and the will to get it done.”
The NFL’s No. 1 defense held Baltimore’s offense to 97 total yards in the second half. Ray Rice accounted for 34 of them on a run in the third quarter when he bounced the ball outside for a touchdown. That put the Ravens up 20-13 at 5:00.
That run also gave Rice 32 rushing TDs for his career, moving him to second all-time for the franchise and past Willis McGahee.
He had 78 yards rushing on 12 carries, an average of 6.5 per attempt. Bernard Pierce had 8 for 34 yards.
“We could have ran the ball a little bit more,” Rice said. “Our offense is still a young, growing offense and we’re going to continue to try and get better each week.”
Batch, coming off three interceptions in last week’s 20-14 loss to the Cleveland Browns, outshined Flacco. He went 25-for-36 for 276 yards. The final drive to set up Suisham's field goal was 12 plays for 61 yards.
Ravens safety Ed Reed, who had recovered Sanders’ fumble that set up Rice’s touchdown run, intercepted Batch in the end zone in the fourth quarter and appeared to secure the victory if the offense could move the ball, use the clock and just get into field-goal range.
Flacco, however, held the ball too long in the pocket and was sacked by James Harrison who also got the strip. Ziggy Hood recovered at Baltimore’s 27.
Four plays later, the score was tied at 20. Flacco wouldn’t move the ball on the Ravens’ last possession
“We probably have to look back and see what we did,” said Flacco, who was bailed out for throwing an interception in Ravens territory in the second quarter to a well-covered Dennis Pitta when Corey Graham picked off a pass from Pittsburgh on a trick play two players later. “Pre-snap penalties, obviously the fumble.
“I was trying to take one for the team there. I probably should’ve gotten down. Everyone was covered down field and the defender (Harrison) was able to get his hands on me and knock the ball out.”