Ravens Breathe Second Life Into Season
Goodbye to the September from hell.
Hello to the October of new beginnings.
Each win counts the same on the ledger, but some are just more important than others. And Thursday night's 23-20 overtime win in Pittsburgh was perhaps the most important Week 4 contest the Ravens have ever played.
They gutted it out in a physical, ugly, hard-fought battle – exactly what a true rivalry is all about – and the victory gives Baltimore a second chance at the 2015 season.
"It might not be known for weeks, if not months," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec. "But if the Ravens go on to save their season, they'll probably look back on this October night at the home of their biggest rival and remember how their playoff run started."
The Ravens fought through a storm, and as a result, never did 1-3 feel so good.
This was a game in which Baltimore was staring an 0-4 record in the face when it trailed 20-7 in the third quarter. Joe Flacco was at fourth-and-10 with just over two minutes remaining in regulation. The Ravens appeared to be finished.
"Little did we know the fun part of the game was just starting," wrote NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal.
How in the world did they do it?
The oft-maligned defense held the Steelers scoreless on their final seven consecutive drives (not counting the one they kneeled on the end of regulation). Running back Justin Forsett put the offense on his back with 150 rushing yards, giving us flashbacks of last season. Despite previous mistakes and a relentless pass rush breathing down his neck, Flacco stood strong in the pocket to deliver a much-needed completion to receiver Kamar Aiken, who is out to prove there are playmakers outside of Steve Smith Sr. The 20-yard pass set up the game-tying field goal.
And, of course, the hero of the game, Justin Tucker, nailed the three late-game field goals. One sent the game into overtime and one sealed the victory.
"This game was over so many times before it was actually over," wrote The Sun's Alexander Pyles.
As much as the Ravens deserve credit for clawing their way to victory, plenty of pundits are also crediting the win to the Steelers' mistakes. Kicker Josh Scobee missed two field goals late* *and Head Coach Mike Tomlin kept putting the ball in backup Michael Vick's hands instead of Pro Bowl running back Le'Veon Bell's. Vick twice failed to convert on fourth down in overtime, once with a run that came up short and the other a bad throw.
"Harbaugh shook hands and said some kind words to Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, but he really should have kissed him," wrote The Sun's Peter Schmuck.
At the end of it all, the Ravens picked up their first win of 2015 and get 10 days to rest their bodies before hosting the Cleveland Browns on Oct. 11 at M&T Bank Stadium. That's not a bad spot to be in as they continue to try to turn their season around.
"The narrative following the Ravens' pulsating victory over the Steelers will be about them potentially saving the season," wrote Zrebiec. "That may turn out to be true, but only if they truly show improvement from here."
WNST's Luke Jones won't go that far, but he does see Thursday night's outcome as one colossal step forward.
"The Ravens didn't save their season on Thursday night, but Justin Tucker's 52-yard field goal … was the claw of a hammer loosening the nails of their coffin," he wrote.
Campanaro Seen In Wheelchair After Game
Oh, Michael Campanaro.
Ravens Nation hopes you are OK. The scene depicted by CSNMidAtlatantic.com's Bo Smolka did not paint a pretty picture.
Campanaro left the game with an undisclosed injury in the fourth quarter and was carted to the locker room. The second-year receiver got off to a hot start in the first quarter with an incredible touchdown run.
On third-and-2, Campanaro took the handoff from Flacco, and had nowhere to run with Steelers linebacker Arthur Moats bearing down. For real, he looked like he was about to get gobbled up.
Then Campanaro somehow shook the defender, and then another, and flipped over a third for a 9-yard score. The pylon camera caught the flip perfectly.
It was an amazing play, but his game ended like so many of the others in which he showed potential and ended up getting hurt.
"Staying healthy has been a problem for Campanaro during his young career, and the Ravens will hope his injury was not serious," wrote CSNMidAtlantic's Clifton Brown.
Smith Called Out Mitchell, But Mitchell Didn't Hit Him
Smith made headlines last night for saying Steelers safety Mike Mitchell is on his "lifetime hit list."
The 15-year veteran receiver said Mitchell, a former Panthers teammate, speared him in his back, and Smith questioned his character for perhaps doing so with intent. It certainly seemed as if Smith was referring to the play that knocked him out of the game for good.
The only problem is, Mitchell wasn't even in on that hit.
"[A] replay showed inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons hit Smith in the lower back with his helmet," wrote ESPN's Jamison Hensley. "Mitchell was not involved in the play late in the third quarter."
It's possible that Smith was mistaken. Or maybe he was reacting to a different encounter with Mitchell. In the first quarter, Mitchell notched his only tackle on Smith when he hit the receiver from behind and took him to the ground. Per ProFootballTalk.com, Smith grabbed Mitchell's jersey after the play and was shouting at him.
"Smith has always played with about as massive a chip on his shoulder as one can possibly have," wrote PFT.com's Curtis Crabtree. "It's one reason why he's managed to be so successful for so long despite his size limitations. However, it seems Smith is going a little overboard here. Mitchell tackled him. Plain and simple.
"… So Smith is angry at his old teammate for tackling him. If that's the standard, it's no wonder Smith has a chip on his shoulder all the time. Or it's possible he believes it was Mitchell, and not Timmons, that hit him in the fourth quarter as well. Either way, it should only make the rematch between the two teams in December more interesting."
Smith's X-Rays Reveal No Damage
Neither Harbaugh nor Smith discussed his availability for the next game against the Browns.
"I'm trying to get through tomorrow," Smith simply told reporters in the post-game locker room. "I'm trying to make it to the airplane safely."
The good news is that Yahoo! Sports' Eric Edholm tweeted that the X-rays on Smith's back were negative and revealed he suffered "just a contusion."
There's no word on how much time he could miss, but he has a long week to heal before the Browns come to town.
Worst Loss Of One Steeler's Career
It's customary in Baltimore to take pleasure in the Steelers' pain after a loss. Perhaps they will get the same enjoyment listening to Vick and Scobee.
"Probably the toughest [loss] of my career," Vick said after failing to convert two overtime fourth downs. "We had our chances to win the game, I had plays that I could've made, but didn't, and it's disappointing."
I, for one, feel bad for Scobee. It's actually a little painful to listen to him in the Steelers locker room (see video below) after he missed two field goals that likely would have sealed the win for Pittsburgh had he converted.
Pay Whatever It Takes To Keep Tucker
It's the tale of two kickers.
While Scobee could be on his way out in Pittsburgh, Tucker is making himself indispensable in Baltimore. I would say that Tucker is pulling a "Joe Flacco" by playing out of his mind in his contract year, but this is par for the course for Tucker.
I'm starting to believe he was born clutch.
That means the Ravens will either have to dedicate a heftier portion of salary cap funds to him this offseason, or Tucker might find another team willing to do so.
"[W]hatever amount it takes to lock up Justin Tucker, Steve Bisciotti must pay it," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Ron Fritz.