What began as a dream quickly turned into a nightmare in Pittsburgh on Sunday Night Football.
The Ravens took an early touchdown lead and their defense was pounding quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Then the second quarter happened.
Back-to-back turnovers jumpstarted Roethlisberger and the slumbering Steelers, and led to a 22-point quarter for the black and gold. It was a quarter the Ravens wish they could hit the reset button on, and in the end proved too much to overcome.
Roethlisberger and the Steelers pulled away from there, handing the Ravens a 43-23 loss at Heinz Field.
The Ravens handed the Steelers a 26-6 loss in Week 2. The Steelers returned the favor with a 20-point win in Week 9.
It left a very quiet Ravens locker room afterwards.
"I'm disappointed in us," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "I thought we could have found a way to play better, especially toward the end, but we didn't."
Coming off a six-touchdown performance a week ago, Roethlisberger posted another six-pack against the Ravens and their short-handed secondary. He went 25-for-37 for 340 yards and a whopping six touchdowns without throwing an interception.
The 12 touchdown passes for Roethlisberger in back-to-back weeks set a new NFL record.
"You could have never sold me on that during the week," outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "He had a hell of a day. … I guess once you get in that groove, it is what it is."
Baltimore hadn't lost to Pittsburgh by such a great margin of victory (20) since 2007. And the Ravens had never given up so many points (43) to the Steelers. The previous high was 42 points allowed in 1997.
With back-to-back losses to rivals Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, the Ravens (5-4) have now fallen from first place in the AFC North just two weeks ago to the division's cellar. Everybody in the AFC North except the Ravens won on Sunday.
"We'll bounce back," Harbaugh said. "The NFL season is long for a reason. You can go back in every season in the history and you can get blown out and come back."
The Ravens struck first, quieting Heinz Field and leaving its terrible towels limp.
On the first play of Baltimore's second drive, Flacco hung a gorgeous 35-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Torrey Smith, who had one-on-one coverage. The offense quickly gave Baltimore a 7-0 lead.
The defense did its job to keep it going, coming out in dominant fashion. The Steelers, who had poor starting field position throughout the first quarter, gained just 15 yards on their first nine plays.
On Pittsburgh's fourth drive, Baltimore notched an extremely rare sack hat trick on back-to-back-to-back plays. First it was defensive Chris Canty and safety Matt Elam bringing down Roethlisberger, then defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, then outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil.
The first quarter was a blast. The second quarter, however, was a different story.
Turnovers brought Baltimore's fast start to a screeching halt.
As the offense continued to build momentum, rookie running back Lorenzo Taliaferro coughed it up near midfield. Taliaferro fumbled and it was returned 25 yards deep into Ravens territory.
On the ensuing Steelers drive, the defense was called for three penalties on one play – including a late hit on Roethlisberger care of outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw – and the Steelers scored three plays later on a 5-yard pass to running back Le'Veon Bell.
"I've just got to protect the ball better," Taliaferro said. "We had a good game plan, we came out and unfortunately some turnovers took control. They fed off it."
Things only continued to spiral downwards.
The Ravens were near midfield on the next drive when Flacco was under pressure and tried to throw the ball away – except it went directly to linebacker Jason Worilds. Once again, the offense gave Pittsburgh starting position deep in Baltimore territory.
"It was horrible," Flacco said. "I kind of lost my mind on that play."
The Steelers scored their second touchdown just three plays later when rookie wide receiver Martavis Bryant was left wide open in the end zone for a 19-yard score.
Just like that, Pittsburgh had a 14-7 lead and all the momentum. Two turnovers. Two Steelers touchdowns.
The Ravens marched down the field, including converting on fourth-and-1 from their half of the field, and got a 49-yard field goal from kicker Justin Tucker to cut the lead to 14-10 with less than two minutes left in the first half.
But Baltimore couldn't get out of the disastrous quarter fast enough.
The Steelers came right back to tack on a touchdown before the break as wide receiver Markus Wheaton beat cornerback Lardarius Webb deep for a 47-yard touchdown. Just to make things worse, a botched extra point resulted in the Steelers throwing the ball in for a two-point conversion.
The Ravens had a 7-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. They went into halftime trailing, 22-10.
Baltimore slowed Pittsburgh's offense in the third quarter, but it still remained ugly for the Ravens.
On the Steelers' second drive of the second half, Terrell Suggs and Dumervil were hit with back-to-back 15-yard personal foul penalties. Suggs hit Bell in the hip area after his forward progress was stopped. Dumervil was flagged for pushing a Steelers offensive lineman after the play.
"Some things we wish we could take back," Dumervil said. "We've got to keep our composure, keep our poise. We struggled with that tonight."
The offense had some success, but nothing continuous as Flacco was battered – specifically by an old, familiar enemy in outside linebacker James Harrison, who came out of retirement in late September to rejoin the Steelers. Harrison finished with seven tackles, two sacks and four quarterback hits.
Pittsburgh poured it on in the fourth quarter when Roethlisberger hit wide receiver Antonio Brown to convert a long third down. The speedster used a stiff-arm to break away and eluded tacklers on his way to the end zone for a 54-yard touchdown.
Brown posted 11 catches for 144 yards and the score. The Steelers' trio of talented receivers each caught at least one touchdown as Baltimore's secondary struggled without cornerback Jimmy Smith, who missed his first game with a foot injury.
With 14 minutes remaining, Pittsburgh had a 29-10 lead. It wasn't quite over yet, however.
Jacoby Jones, who was mired in a season-long slump, returned the next kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown. The Ravens were back in it, trailing 29-17 with more than 14 minutes left.
That proved to be a short respite from the pain, however.
The Steelers marched back down the field, in part thanks to a questionable ruling on a challenge that went against Baltimore, and scored on a 19-yard touchdown pass to Bryant. It was Bryant's second touchdown of the game.
Baltimore notched a score on a 1-yard touchdown pass to rookie tight end Crockett Gillmore with less than three minutes left, but it was too late. The Ravens offense scored 5:19 into the game, and then didn't reach the end zone again until there was 2:58 remaining.
And the Steelers poured salt in the wound on the next drive, as they went for it on fourth down and converted with a 33-yard touchdown to backup tight end Matt Spaeth.
The Ravens will host the Tennessee Titans next Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium needing to dig out of a hole in hopes of reaching the playoffs and winning the division.
"Take care of your home games and do what you can on the road and you should be fine," Suggs said. "We're not flinching. We knew this was going to be a tough stretch. We're not worried about it, we're not discouraged. But we've got work to do."