A Baltimore Ravens team that had topped the likes of Tom Brady and Philip Rivers this season was tripped up on Sunday by Batch, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 37-year-old third-string quarterback who’d posted a 38.7 passer rating in his lone start of the season. Surprised?
“Not surprising at all,” said Baltimore’s Ed Reed. The talented safety paused briefly and reconsidered. “Maybe a little bit.”
Batch’s workmanlike performance put the Steelers within striking distance late in the game, and Suisham drilled a 42-yard field goal — his third of the day — as time expired to lift the Steelers over the Ravens, 23-20.
“The only people that thought we could win were the people in Pittsburgh and the people in this locker room,” Steelers safety Ryan Clark said. “Everyone else thought this was a done deal.”
The Steelers’ victory snapped Baltimore’s 15-game winning streak at M&T Bank Stadium and kept alive Pittsburgh’s hopes of winning the AFC North title. With Roethlisberger sidelined for a third straight game, Batch was 25-of-36 passing for 276 yards and a touchdown, as the Steelers improved to 7-5. The Ravens, who travel south to face the Redskins next Sunday, saw their four-game winning streak end and fell to 9-3.
“I know there’s a lot of football left in this season,” said Ravens running back Ray Rice, who finished Sunday’s game with 78 yards and a touchdown on just 12 carries. “This game didn’t determine where we are in the AFC right now. This game didn’t determine the AFC North right now. We still can go ahead and win the division.”
Despite the late heroics, the Steelers’ offense struggled in the early stages Sunday. Pittsburgh managed only five first downs in the first two quarters, as the Ravens’ defense posted its best half of the season, allowing only 93 yards.
On their opening drive of the second half, the Steelers tied the score at 13, courtesy of Jonathan Dwyer’s 16-yard touchdown run around the left end. Midway through the quarter, Pittsburgh was moving again, as Batch faced third and 11 from the Steelers 28-yard line. The quarterback hit Emmanuel Sanders across the middle for a 21-yard gain, but Sanders fumbled the ball before any defenders even reached him.
Reed recovered at the Baltimore 37, and the Ravens quickly moved into Pittsburgh territory. From the Steelers 34, Baltimore opted for a delayed handoff. Rice took the ball and showed the slightest hesitation on the right side of quarterback Joe Flacco. Rice waited just long enough for a seam to open on the left, making the cutback and sprinting for a touchdown that gave the Ravens a 20-13 advantage.
On Baltimore’s next offensive possession, Harrison sacked Flacco and jarred the ball loose. Defensive end Ziggy Hood recovered the fumble for the Steelers, and four plays later, Batch hit Heath Miller with a seven-yard touchdown. The extra point tied the score at 20 with less than 71 / 2 minutes to play.
It was Flacco’s second turnover of the day. He finished the game 16-of-34 passing for 188 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
The Ravens’ defense was already without an injured Ray Lewis, who has been out since Oct. 14 with a torn triceps, and an arm injury forced Terrell Suggs to the sideline for Pittsburgh’s final drive. As the clock ticked down, the Steelers inched along and received a bit of help when Baltimore linebacker Paul Kruger was penalized 15 yards for roughing the passer. The costly infraction put Pittsburgh on the Ravens 19-yard line with only 1:46 on the clock.
“I just can’t believe I put my teammates in that situation,” Kruger said.
The Ravens had blown a timeout on a failed challenge in the third quarter and lost their final timeout on an injury in the final two minutes, which allowed the Steelers to milk the clock. With only three seconds remaining, Suisham trotted onto the field and had no problem hitting the game-winner.
“It’s a typical Pittsburgh-Baltimore game,” Ravens Coach John Harbaugh said. “It’s a three-point game. It’s amazing how it works out that way.”
The Steelers entered the game with the league’s top-ranked defense and held the Ravens to only 288 yards of offense. Despite the loss, Baltimore still has a two-game division lead over the Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals.
“This is far from over,” Reed said. “That’s why it’s called a season. It’s kind of like life.”