Defense carries Ravens to win over Steelers
Team enters first place in AFC North
— It had been 41 days since the Baltimore Ravens last won.
They snapped a four-game losing streak in a desperately- needed way Sunday, topping the archrival Pittsburgh Steelers 21-14.
The 71,286 fans in attendance at M&T Bank Stadium saw the Ravens take sole possession of first place in the AFC North.
“We haven’t won since, what, September?” linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “It’s good to finally, finally get one and get back in the win column, especially against our division rival. It’s good to win. We’ve still got a tremendous amount of work to do … We’ll take the win, but we ain’t satisfied.”
Baltimore’s defense utterly stifled the Steelers for the game’s
first three quarters. Pittsburgh did not cross midfield until the fourth quarter. Its offense had just two first downs – one from a Ravens’ defensive penalty – and had recorded 69 yards of total offense entering the final period. The Steelers did not find the scoreboard until 8: 38 remained in the game.
“The biggest thing is that we stopped the running game,” defensive tackle Brandon Williams said. “Le’Veon Bell didn’t get off. I think at the half they had 16 yards rushing and then we kept the pressure on. We were being patient defensively, making sure we were keeping our gaps, executing our plays and making sure we were getting three-and-outs.”
The Ravens’ defense held star running Le’Veon Bell back to just 32 yards rushing. Antonio Brown, one of the NFL’s top wide receivers, caught just seven passes for 85 yards, though five receptions and 76 yards came in the final quarter.
Head coach John Harbaugh applauded rookie cornerback Tavon Young and the veteran Jimmy Smith.
“Tavon got one of the game balls in the locker room. Jimmy – I guess he didn’t get a game ball because we expect it out of him,” Harbaugh said. “Those corners played really, really well. They played solid, fundamentally, on-top, square, eyes-on-theirluggage football. They played their zone coverages and man coverages equally well.
“They did a great job against that team. The ability to make those plays with the weapons they have, I think, speaks volumes.”
The Ravens struck first with just over a minute left in the opening quarter on the longest regular-season play from scrimmage in the franchise’s history. Quarterback Joe Flacco threw a slant to wide receiver Mike Wallace over the middle, who turned the short completion into a 95-yard touchdown against his former team. Wallace recorded a game-high 124
yards receiving on just four catches.
“That was certainly a big score,” Flacco said. “It got the crowd even more into it than they already were.”
Baltimore grew its lead to 10-0 on a 49-yard Justin Tucker field goal three seconds before halftime.
He made another kick from 42 yards out with 4:50 left in the third quarter to bring the lead to 13-0. It was his 20th successful attempt on as many tries for the season.
Tucker’s second field goal was set up by defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan’s interception of a Ben Roethlisberger pass. Williams deflected the throw initially to
set up the pick.
Jernigan had recovered a fumble in Baltimore’s last game. He was stripped by a Jets player as he attempted to return the ball and gave possession right back New York. Jernigan knew not to make the same mistake twice.
“I was simply thinking about catching the ball and then falling. I understand the situation. I’m a fast learner,” he said. “Growing up in my household, when my mom told you to do something, whether you liked it or you didn’t like it, if you didn’t do it, there was going to be problems. I know to respect my elders, and if Coach wants me to fall on the ball,
I’ll fall on it. Period.”
Rookie wide receiver Chris Moore scored his second career touchdown just over one minute into the fourth quarter. His first score came the previous game in a nearly identical fashion.
Buck Allen blocked a Pittsburgh punt. Moore scooped up the loose ball and returned it 14 yards to the end zone.
“Buck Allen made a great play blocking that punt. I just saw it spinning like a little top, and I just did whatever I could to get it and to score,” Moore said. “It’s crazy, I never thought it would happen like that. I had never scored a special teams
touchdown in my life, now I have two. It’s amazing.”
Pittsburgh offense finally found its groove in the final 10 minutes. Roethlisberger capped a nine-play, 75-yard scoring drive with a 23-yard touchdown pass to Brown with 8:38 left.
Roethlisberger scrambled for a 4-yard touchdown run with 48 seconds remaining to pull the Steelers within a score, 21-14, but a badly botched onside kick attempt sealed the outcome.
“We played fast, really disciplined defense. Sometimes when you get into those situations where you’re protecting the lead, you might play a little differently,” Harbaugh said. “You don’t want
to give them an easy one. You don’t want to give them a quick strike. The clock is in your favor.”
For the first time in franchise history, the Ravens have won four straight games against Pittsburgh, including six of the last seven meetings and the last four played in Baltimore.
“Man, there’s no better win in this league,” safety Eric Weddle said after playing in the rivalry for the first time. “I could get used to this game, the intensity, the energy and our fans. Just an amazing team win in all three phases.”
Follow Sean Grogan on Twitter: @Sean_CecilWhig
Baltimore Ravens safety Lardarius Webb, left, defends the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Darrius Heyward-Bey on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.