When the Ravens offense puts up 27 points, that's a win, right?
Baltimore's defense was left stunned at the end of Sunday's 31-27 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers not just because it bounced the Ravens from playoff contention, but by the way it happened.
The Ravens defense, which has spent weeks as the top-ranked unit in the NFL this season, gave up 21 points in the fourth quarter.
The Steelers marched down the field with one minute, 18 seconds left in the game and wide receiver Antonio Brown fought his way through two of the Ravens' best defenders – safety Eric Weddle and linebacker C.J. Mosley – to win the game with nine seconds left.
"It sucks," outside linebacker Terrell Suggs. "It's very disappointing, especially with how our offense played. … Usually, when our offense scores 27 points and we're winning in the fourth quarter, it usually works out in our favor."
The Steelers' big three offensive weapons beat Baltimore's defense in the second half. Simply put, they showed why they may be the best trio in the NFL.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw two costly interceptions, but finished with 279 passing yards and three touchdowns. He was perfect on the Steelers' final drive, and extended plays to win the game.
Held to one catch for 7 yards in the first half, All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown finished with 10 catches for 96 yards and one touchdown. Running back Le'Veon Bell started hot, cooled, then finished strong with 20 carries for 122 yards and two touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving).
Suggs said the Steelers had so much success on the ground against Baltimore's stingy run defense, which has been atop the league rankings for much of the year, because of scheme.
He said Pittsburgh took a page out of the game plans deployed by the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles the past two weeks. Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount ran for 72 yards and a touchdown. Eagles tailback Ryan Mathews rushed for 128 yards and a score.
"[The Steelers'] back is a little bit better than those other two teams' backs. He's a good back," Suggs said. "It was the guys we didn't want to have a good game. We didn't want [Roethlisberger] to have a good game. We didn't want [Brown] and [Bell] to put their stamp on the game, and they did that."
The Ravens led, 20-10, at the start of the fourth quarter. But that's when things went downhill for Baltimore's defense, as it allowed three straight touchdown drives.
It started with a 36-yard pass interference call on rookie cornerback Tavon Young, which Weddle called "bogus" after the game. There was contact, but the pass may have been uncatchable. The play put the Steelers at Baltimore's 15-yard line and they scored two plays later on a 7-yard rush around the edge by Bell.
Bell kicked off the Steelers' next offensive series with a 13-yard run. Then Brown caught back-to-back passes for 47 yards and Roethlisberger extended a play and found Bell, who powered his way through traffic into the end zone for a 7-yard touchdown. Suddenly, the Steelers had the lead.
The Ravens offense clawed its way back down the field to take the lead on a 10-yard run by fullback Kyle Juszczyk, and it looked like it might be over.
"After we scored, in my mind, we have the best defense in the NFL, so it's a wrap," Juszczyk said.
The Steelers needed just a field goal to tie, but they were so efficient moving the ball that they had just enough time for the touchdown. Roethlisberger actually did much of the damage with his ancillary weapons.
Roethlisberger found tight end Jessie James for two catches that got them to about midfield. Then he hit wide receiver Demarcus Ayers for 9 yards, and wide receiver Eli Rogers made a spectacular grab for 20 more yards after Roethlisberger stepped up in the pocket to elude pressure.
The Ravens pass rush, which didn't sack Roethlisberger, just couldn't hit home.
"You can't just say pass rush," safety Lardarius Webb said. "We mixed up the calls. We played coverage sometimes and we blitzed a couple times. Hats off to Big Ben also."
Inside the red zone, Roethlisberger hit wide receiver Cobi Hamilton for a 6-yard gain, then James again for 9. That set up the final throw to Brown for the touchdown.
Brown caught the ball short of the goal line. Had the Ravens been able to stop him, the clock could have run out on the Steelers, who were out of timeouts. Instead, Brown took a hit from Weddle, then a shot from Mosley. Neither could bring him down before he stretched the ball over the goal line.
"Just a matter of effort," Mosley said. "I hit him and he had the extra effort and reached out. He made the play and I didn't on that one."
"It's just a bang-bang play. They made the play and we didn't," Weddle echoed. "Our offense gave us every chance to win that game, but we didn't play our part in the fourth quarter, and that's why we lost. We just needed to make one play to win the game."
In the end, that's what it came down to. The Ravens defense, which had come up with two clutch interceptions in the third quarter, needed to make one play on the Steelers' final drive to win and extend their playoff hopes.
But it was the Steelers who marched down the field without a single incompletion or negative play for the win.
"They did a good job of not being denied," Suggs said. "It's disappointing. You tip your hat. I thought it was going to come down to another fourth-down stand on our part. It's very unfortunate and we're very disappointed."