Five thoughts on the Ravens' 23-20 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers Thursday night at Heinz Field:
Win Was All About Effort And Guts
Down by 13 points early in the third quarter, the Ravens were at a crossroads. They needed to win to keep from falling to 0-4 in 2015, the deepest of holes. It was a desperate situation, their season on the line. How did they respond? By scratching and clawing their way back to win by the narrowest of margins, in overtime. It wasn't pretty, and the Steelers certainly helped; their kicker missed two key field goals and their offensive coordinator botched a key play-call in overtime. But the Ravens didn't just accept handouts. Their maligned defense took over in the second half, made two stops in overtime and didn't allow a point in the final 36 minutes. Their offense finally established a ground game and rode it to victory. The win was all about effort and guts, beating their rivals on the road, and the Ravens weren't about to downplay how good it felt after starting 0-3. "Words can't describe" the feeling, Head Coach John Harbaugh said.
Ravens Knew Tucker Would Win It
Minutes after the game, in the bowels of Heinz Field, Harbaugh stated the obvious to the press: "Justin Tucker is a great kicker," he said. The Ravens and their fans already knew that, but this game offered new evidence of Tucker's skills and his vital importance to the Ravens. Kickers were the difference in this game, period. Late in the fourth quarter, Pittsburgh's Josh Scobee could have sealed the win twice, but he missed 41-yard and 49-yard field-goal attempts, drawing boos. Then Tucker came along and drilled a pair of clutch buzzer-beaters, the first a 42-yarder at the end of regulation, and then a 52-yarder to win in overtime. That's all impressive enough, especially in a stadium that's famously rough on kickers. But even more impressive is what Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said to the coaches as they decided what to do on fourth down before the winning kick. "Just let Tucker win the game," Flacco said. They knew he would.
Steelers Gave Ravens A Gift With Fourth-Down Call
The Ravens caught a big break when Ben Roethlisberger went down with a knee injury last week, putting Michael Vick on the spot as Pittsburgh's quarterback. Vick, 35, hasn't started regularly for a team since 2012, and early Thursday night, it became clear he couldn't throw a deep ball, which made the Baltimore secondary's job easier. Jimmy Smith clamped down on Antonio Brown, who had a quiet night. Vick did move the ball at times with short passes and scrambles, and he didn't commit any of the horrific turnovers for which he is known. But the Ravens' pass rush got to him, and although he completed a high percentage of his pass attempts, he generated little yardage. In the end, the Steelers gave the Ravens a gift by calling a passing play on fourth-and-1 at the Baltimore 33 in overtime, asking Vick to make the play rather than giving the ball to Le'Veon Bell, who had a big rushing night. After Vick's pass fell incomplete, the Ravens took possession and won the game. Marshawn Lynch, anyone?
Good Game For No-Name Players
On their second possession, the Ravens finally established a rhythm in their running game for the first time all season, as Justin Forsett gashed the Steelers for several sizable back-to-back gains. Not coincidentally, the end result was a 75-yard touchdown drive. The running game then disappeared for a quarter or so, but it came back with a vengeance in the second half and overtime. Forsett had his first 100-yard game, and it made all the difference because the passing game was in dire straits without Steve Smith, Sr., who had to leave the game with a lower back contusion. Before that, the Steelers did a good job of containing him. That meant the Ravens had to find a way to make plays without their No. 1 playmaker. They did it by running the ball and by getting contributions from Kamar Aiken, who caught a touchdown pass and moved the chains; rookie tight ends Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle, who also moved the chains; and Michael Campanaro, who scored a touchdown on a run in the first half. It was a good night for the no-name crew.
Quick HitsUnder pressure all night, Flacco threw an interception in the first half, fumbled while scrambling in the second half and let a shotgun snap slip through his hands, resulting in a 12-yard loss that killed a drive. But he kept grinding and made enough plays to win … The Ravens have now won four of their last six games at Heinz Field … Campanaro's contributions included a 14-yard punt return, a pass reception that set up a touchdown and a nine-yard touchdown run on a reverse. More touches, please … Le'Veon Bell easily snapped the Baltimore defense's 29-game streak of holding opposing rushers under 100 yards … Rookie defensive end Za'Darius Smith heard his name called for the first time, coming up with a pair of sacks … The Ravens' desperation was evident. They went for it on a pair of fourth downs and even tried a fake field goal, which failed … Offensive tackle Rick Wagner made a touchdown-saving play with his lunging tackle of Pittsburgh defensive back Ross Cockrell who had intercepted Flacco and was speeding toward the end zone for a pick-six.