The Ravens agonized for nearly a year about their inability to get one defensive stop last Christmas when the Pittsburgh Steelers drove 75 yards on Christmas Day for the game-winning Antonio Brown touchdown in the final seconds to win the AFC North.
Given another opportunity the Ravens squandered it again in similar fashion. Chris Boswell’s 46-yard field goal with 42 seconds capped the Steelers’ comeback from 11 points down in the fourth quarter and gave Pittsburgh a pulsating 39-38 victory over the Ravens in front of an announced 60,069 at Heinz Field.
The Ravens led 38-29 with just seven minutes to go when Buck Allen scored on a 9-yard run. However, the Ravens defense just couldn’t get a stop.
The Steelers made it a two-point game when Le’Veon Bell powered in from 11 yards out for his third touchdown of the game. The Ravens then went three-and-out and the Steelers took over at their own 17 with 2:25 to play.
Ben Roethlisberger hit Jesse James for 16 yards on third-and-13. And then he found Brown with a beautiful throw down the right sideline for 34 yards. That play, which gave Brown 11 catches for 213 yards, was the decisive one in setting up Boswell for the field goal. It was his fourth game-winning field goal in the past five games.
The Ravens got the ball back, but Flacco was sacked in the final seconds as the Steelers swept the Ravens for the first time since 2008.
With the win, the Steelers (11-2) clinched the AFC North title at the expense of their rival.
The Ravens, meanwhile, fell to 7-6 and had their three-game winning streak end in agonizing fashion. They still hold the sixth and final playoff spot based on tiebreaker criteria.
Trailing by 14 points early in the second quarter and by six at halftime, the Ravens ran off 17 consecutive points in the third quarter to build a 31-20 lead. It started with the defense getting three consecutive stops to start the half.
The Steelers went six of seven on third down in the first half, but the Ravens stopped them on three consecutive third downs in the third quarter. They parlayed the first stop into a 47-yard field goal by Justin Tucker, which was set up by a 40-yard completion from Flacco to Mike Wallace.
It could’ve been a touchdown as Wallace got behind a Steelers defensive back, but Flacco underthrew him. On the Ravens’ next drive, Flacco hit Jeremy Maclin for 10 yards and Buck Allen for 12. Collins then got the ball down to the Steelers 1-yard line with a 17-yard scamper before Allen powered in for the touchdown.
Allen’s fifth touchdown on the season gave the Ravens their first lead at 24-20. And they’d build on it, thanks to some more good, hard running by Collins. He got the edge for a 21-yard gain, pushing him over 100 yards.
An unnecessary roughness penalty on the Collins and a pass-interference call two plays later created a fiorst-and-goal and Flacco hit defensive tackle-turned fallback Pat Ricard for a 6-yard touchdown run. It was the undrafted rookie’s second touchdown catch in as many weeks. The score gave the Ravens the 11-point lead, but it was the Steelers’ turn to grab the offensive momentum.
Ben Roethlisberger, who competed 44 of 66 passes for 506 yards and two touchdowns, led a 15-play, 80-yard drive that ended on a 24-yard field goal by Boswell after the Ravens’ defense held on a goal-to-go situation.
After the Ravens first punt since the first quarter, Roethlisberger hit Brown for a 57-yard completion on third down. A pass-interference call on Brandon Carr in the end zone preceded Roethlisberger’s 1-yard touchdown catch by Steelers fullback Roosevelt Nix who caught the ball while on top of Ravens safety Tony Jefferson. The Ravens stopped the 2-point conversion attempt.
Much of the focus entering Sunday’s prime-time game was on how prepared and emotionally ready the Steelers would be as they were playing on a short week after a physical Monday night victory over the Cincinnati Bengals and the significant back/spine injury to standout inside linebacker Ryan Shazier.
However, it was the Ravens who got off to a listless start and they found themselves down 14-0 as a result.
The mistakes started when Flacco was picked off by former Maryland defensive back Sean Davis on the Ravens’ first drive. Flacco had completed his first five passes in driving the Ravens into Pittsburgh territory.
However, he curiously tried to fit the ball in deep down the middle to Maclin, who was surrounded by three defenders, and he was intercepted for the first time in three weeks. The Steelers wasted no time in capitalizing.
It took them just eight plays to get in the end zone as Roethlisberger hit Bell for a 20-yard touchdown pass. Lined up in the slot, Bell beat Ravens safety Tony Jefferson and then broke tackle attempts by C.J. Mosley and Eric Weddle on his way into the end zone.
After another Ravens’ drive stalled in Steelers’ territory, Roethlisberger went to work again in picking apart a vulnerable Ravens’ defense. Working the middle of the field with his tight ends, Roethlisberger led a 12-play, 90-yard march that ended with Bell scoring on a 1-yard touchdown run to give the Steelers a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter.
The drive included a key 28-yard third-down completion to Brown and a questionable pass interference call in the end zone on Ravens cornerback Maurice Canady.
Bell’s touchdown was his seventh against the Ravens over the past five games. At that point, it appeared that a rout was possible at Heinz Field. However, the Ravens offense started to find its footing behind its run game. Collins ran the ball five times for 28 yards and then Flacco took advantage of a Steelers defense expecting the run by hitting Chris Moore over the top for a 30-yard touchdown.
Moore easily beat Davis and was alone in the back of the end zone. Pittsburgh added to their lead on Boswell’s 52-yard field goal after Terrell Suggs dropped a potential interception that would have held the Steelers off the board.
But the Ravens answered again as Flacco hit Mike Wallace for 18 yards and then Collins turned a simple pass to the flat into a 37-yard gain by breaking a tackle and then tip-toeing down the sideline. Three plays later, Collins burst through the middle and then cut outside for an 18-yard touchdown run.
His fifth touchdown in the past three games cut the Steelers’ lead to 17-14. Boswell’s 43 yard field goal with six seconds left in the second quarter gave the Steelers a 20-14 lead heading into halftime.
The Steelers got points on all four of their first-half possessions, but the Ravens trailed by only six points and their offense had tilted some momentum to the visitors.