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Ravens at Steelers Game Highlights
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On a national stage, at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field, against Ben Roethlisberger, Flacco led a comeback that will echo around the NFL and be remembered in Baltimore for a long, long time.
Flacco drove 92 yards in two minutes, 16 seconds and shocked the Steelers on a 26-yard touchdown connection to receiver Torrey Smith with eight seconds remaining to win, 23-20.
It vaults the Ravens to 6-2 and puts them in a first-place tie with the Cincinnati Bengals atop the AFC North. It gives them just their second-ever series sweep of the Steelers (2006), meaning they hold the tiebreaker come playoff time.
Perhaps more important than either of those scenarios is the signature win Flacco and the Ravens have been searching for a long time.
"This is a game for men. Nobody shined brighter than Joe Flacco," Head Coach John Harbaugh said before drawing from Theodore Roosevelt.
"It's not the critic who counts. It's the man who is in the arena, whose face is covered with blood, sweat and dust. He will never be with those poor and timid who know no victory or defeat."
Flacco now has eight career game-winning, fourth-quarter drives, including two in his past couple games. Last week, the Ravens rallied from 21 points down to beat the Arizona Cardinals.
It's a statement for a quarterback who has taken countless hits from pundits outside the locker room this year. Just this week, critics said Flacco wasn't "elite."
But the argument in favor of Flacco has always been that he wins. And that's what he did Sunday night.
"Maybe people will stop putting him down now," wide receiver Anquan Boldin said. "We're sick of hearing the critics because we know what kind of quarterback we have. We'll see what they have to say now."
"You take the second half of the Arizona game and this game and there hasn't been a better quarterback in the NFL than Joe," running back Ray Rice added.
Flacco finished the game 28-for-47 for 300 yards and one touchdown. He was sharp on third down, converting on 12 of 21. The game-winning pass came on third-and-10.
Smith had a potential game-winning touchdown pass bounce off his fingertips just four plays earlier. Another pass bounced off the hands of Boldin.
But as teammates said afterwards, Flacco didn't flinch.
"You don't have anything to lose," Flacco said, showing his always cool demeanor. "You either score or you don't score."
The game-winning play was designed for Smith to run a quick out route, but the rookie wideout saw that he had one-on-one coverage and checked to a fly route. Smith got behind Steelers cornerback William Gay, who was grabbing at him to not let him by, and caught the pass as he slid to the turf.
Flacco didn't even realize Smith caught the pass. He saw a flag come out for pass interference and started jogging to the 1-yard line before he saw Smith come out holding the ball and his teammates come running at him.
Guard Marshal Yanda lifted Flacco up over his shoulder as if he was suddenly weightless. A shouting Flacco let out a fist pump.
It wasn't the first time Flacco had done this to the Steelers. He also delivered a final-minute, game-winning strike to T.J. Houshmandzadeh in the regular season last year.
But at this time of the year, after what Flacco has been through this season, this one seemingly meant more.
After a blowout 35-7 Ravens win in their Week 1 meeting this season, Baltimore and Pittsburgh traded punches throughout the night. The Ravens were consistently a jab ahead.
They led, 9-6, at the half, but it could have been more.
The Ravens looked to have a 76-yard touchdown on the first snap of the game behind a cutback run by Rice. Only it was called back on a questionable holding call on Smith. They still drove down the field but had to settle for an 18-yard field goal after Rice's forward progress was ruled short of the goal line.
The Steelers offense started to gain traction. Given time in the pocket, Roethlisberger drove down the field for a 36-yard field goal by Shaun Suisham to tie the game at 3-3.
Baltimore re-took the lead on a 43-yard field goal by Billy Cundiff, who earlier missed a 40-yarder, but Pittsburgh came right back again to tie the game at 6-6 on the next drive.
The Ravens had a minute left at the end of the half and they capitalized, driving down the field to set up a 51-yard field goal attempt by Cundiff. He nailed it, giving the Ravens a 9-6 halftime lead.
It was just the fourth field goal from beyond 50 yards in Heinz Field history. Cundiff had missed seven straight field goals from over 50 prior to that kick.
Pittsburgh marched down the field on their first offensive possession of the second half, but was halted when Suggs leapt in front of a quick outside pass for an interception. It was the first turnover in the game and came deep in Ravens territory.
The Ravens turned it into seven points the other way, notching the first touchdown of the game on a 4-yard run by Rice to take a 16-6 lead.
Pittsburgh went right back down the field, thanks to an acrobatic catch by Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown on third-and-17. Running back Rashard Mendenhall punched it in from the 1-yard line to draw the game back to three points, 16-13. It was an 11-play, 80-yard drive.
Flacco struck again, converting on third down three times on the next drive, pushing to the edge of field goal range. But on third-and-8, he was sacked by James Harrison – who was playing in his first game back since suffering an eye injury in Week 4 – for the third time and this time fumbled.
The Steelers recovered at their own 42 and drove down the field to take their first lead on a 25-yard touchdown reception by Mike Wallace with 4:59 remaining. It was on a broken play that was so familiar, with Roethlisberger running to his right and slinging the ball on the move.
Defensive end Cory Redding admitted, late in the game, there were memories of last year's playoff loss ringing in the back of his head.
"We're all human; we all had that thought in the back of our mind," Redding said. "We had all of Steeler nation against us, and all we had was us. And Joe, man, he did it."