It’s rare to see the Ravens defense surrender two fourth-quarter touchdowns.
It’s just as rare to see the Steelers defense allow a 92-yard drive in the final minutes ending in the game’s final score.
Yet in the latest installment of this intense rivalry, one highlighted by the strength of both defenses, fans watched both teams falter on the defensive side of the ball.
Following a first half that saw five field goals account for the scoring, the final 15 minutes saw Baltimore’s defense give up 14 points, while Pittsburgh couldn’t stop Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who drove his offense the length of the field late in the fourth quarter, culminating in the game-winning touchdown as Baltimore won 23-20. The Ravens sweep the regular-season series against the Steelers for the first time since 2006.
Entering the second half, the Ravens held a 9-6 advantage, thanks to three field goals from kicker Billy Cundiff. As expected, neither team had found the end zone yet, until with 4:27 left in the third quarter, Ray Rice capped off a 12-play drive with a touchdown run up the middle, pushing Baltimore’s lead to 16-6.
At the time it seemed like a secure cushion, but as the Steelers often do, they cut that deficit immediately. With less than a minute gone in the fourth quarter, Ben Roethlisberger led an 11-play drive that ended with a Rashard Mendenhall touchdown run. Then, on the ensuing Ravens drive, linebacker James Harrison, who was questionable with an orbital bone injury, forced a key turnover which led to Roethlisberger’s lone touchdown of the night, a 25-yard pass to Mike Wallace, putting Pittsburgh ahead 20-16.
Then, with time running down, Flacco, who has faced constant criticism in regards to his inability to beat Pittsburgh in “big games,” was able to guide the Ravens against the Steelers’ top-rated pass defense for a game-winning touchdown pass to rookie Torrey Smith.
For the Ravens fans, my colleague Dan Kolko will have plenty of reaction from tonight’s win, but as for the Steelers, they now fall to third in the AFC North behind Baltimore and Cincinnati. The Ravens also hold the tiebreaker between the two teams, should they both finish with the same record.
It wasn’t a must win for the Steelers, at least not today. But that could all change a month from now.