The Ravens are very much back in playoff position and they can thank Joe Flacco’s arm, Justin Tucker’s foot and the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Emmanuel Sanders’ hands. Who needs any variation of the wildcat offense when your quarterback is keeping the ball out of harm’s way and your kicker can’t seem to miss? The Ravens built a lead, thanks to Flacco’s first-half touchdown pass to Torrey Smith and five field goals by Tucker, four of them in the second half. They then held on for a 22-20 victory as Sanders dropped the potential game-tying two-point conversion in the final minute, allowing the announced crowd of 71,005 on Thanksgiving night to finally exhale. The victory got the Ravens back to .500 at 6-6, and they are now in possession of the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC with a home game against the Minnesota Vikings looming in 10 days. The Steelers are now 5-7 and saw their three-game winning streak come to an end. The pulsating win marked the fifth consecutive game in the series decided by three points or less. Tucker’s 48-yard field goal with 5:37 to go gave the Ravens a 22-14 lead, and put the game back on the shoulders of Ben Roethlisberger. The Ravens’ defense, which has bemoaned its inability to get off the field late in games, again couldn’t get a final stop. The Steelers took over at their own 21 with 5:31 to go, and finally scored when Roethlisberger hit Jerricho Cotchery on a 1-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-goal with a 1:06 to play. The Steelers thought that they had scored on two previous plays on the drive, but both were reviewed and overturned. However, Cotchery’s touchdown counted and cut the Ravens’ lead to 22-20. On the two-point conversion attempt, Roethlisberger found Sanders, but he dropped the ball in the corner of the end zone. The Steelers were forced to go for the onside kick and were called for illegal touching on the play, allowing the Ravens to kneel down and run out the clock. Flacco, who took every snap with backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor remaining on the sideline, was 24-for-35 for 251 yards and a touchdown. He didn’t turn the ball over. Smith made six catches for 93 yards and a touchdown. Trailing, 13-0, after Tucker’s 34-yard field goal ended the Ravens’ first drive of the second half, the Steelers finally got into a rhythm on offense. A 43-yard run by rookie Le’Veon Bell on third-and-2 set up a first-and-goal situation. On third down, Roethlisberger bought some time by moving out of the pocket and found Sanders alone in the back of the end zone. The 8-yard touchdown pass cut the Ravens’ lead to 13-7 and was the first that the Ravens had given up in two weeks. But Jacoby Jones gave the Ravens the momentum right back. He returned the ensuing kickoff 73 yards, dodging Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, who curiously had his back turned and was standing partially on the field. Cortez Allen ultimately caught Jones from behind to make the touchdown-saving tackle. The Ravens advanced all the way to the Steelers’ 11 before they had to settle for Tucker’s 38-yard field goal that made it a 16-7 game. The Ravens forced a quick three-and-out, and a 34-yard completion from Flacco to Jones again put the ball deep in Steelers’ territory. However, a dropped pass by Smith and Michael Oher’s third penalty of the night bogged down a drive. Tucker’s fourth field goal and his 26thconsecutive make – this one from 45 yards – extended the Ravens’ lead to 19-7 with 13:59 left in the fourth quarter. Pittsburgh, though, was far from done. Roethlisberger engineered a 10-play, 60-yard drive that made it a one-possession game. Bell plunged it for a 1-yard touchdown run, just the second rushing touchdown the Ravens have allowed all season and the first since Week Four in Buffalo.
Ravens hold off Steelers' rally for 22-20 victory
Baltimore Sun | Nov 29