The Star Democrat

Steelers on verge of playoffs after OT victory

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BALTIMORE (AP) — Ben Roethlisbe­rger delayed his retirement for a few hours and probably longer, guiding Pittsburgh to a 16-13 overtime win over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday that left the Steelers on the verge of an improbable playoff berth.

Chris Boswell made a 36yard field goal with 1:56 remaining to win the game for the Steelers, who will now make the postseason as long as Sunday night’s ChargersRa­iders game doesn’t end in a tie. Roethlisbe­rger set up the winning kick when he completed a 10-yard pass over the middle to Ray-Ray McCloud on fourth-and-8 from the Baltimore 41.

The Steelers (9-7-1) and Ravens (8-9) would have both been eliminated if this game had ended in a tie.

After the winning field goal, Roethlisbe­rger held up his right fist in celebratio­n and went slowly to the middle of the field to commiserat­e with Ravens linebacker Justin Houston.

Both Baltimore and Pittsburgh had slim playoff hopes coming in. The Steelers needed to win and have Indianapol­is lose to Jacksonvil­le to have any chance of extending Roethlisbe­rger’s career with a postseason appearance. The Ravens needed a win, a loss by the Colts — and losses by the Dolphins and Chargers later in the day.

The most unlikely part of those scenarios — Indianapol­is losing to lowly Jacksonvil­le — actually happened. The crowd in Baltimore, which included plenty of towel-waving Pittsburgh fans, roared its approval when highlights of that game were shown.

Latavius Murray put the Ravens ahead 10-3 with a 46yard touchdown run in the third quarter, but Baltimore lost its sixth straight game to end the season. Five of the losses in that skid were by three points or fewer.

The Ravens were without star quarterbac­k Lamar Jackson, who missed a fourth straight game with an ankle injury.

Roethlisbe­rger admitted before last week’s home game against Cleveland that all signs pointed to retirement after this season. With one more home game, Pittsburgh fans turned that matchup against the Cleveland Browns into a memorable celebratio­n of his career.

It looked as if this would be it for Roethlisbe­rger

when Baltimore led 10-6 and was driving in the fourth quarter, but Tyler Huntley threw an intercepti­on in the end zone.

The 39-year-old Roethlisbe­rger threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Chase Claypool with 2:54 remaining to give Pittsburgh a 13-10 lead. Justin Tucker tied it with a 46-yard field goal.

T.J. Watt of the Steelers tied Michael Strahan’s single-season record of 22 1/2 sacks, reaching that milestone late in the second quarter. That was the biggest highlight of a first half that didn’t really live up to the standards of past Ravens-Steelers clashes.

After halftime, however, it became clear that Indianapol­is was in real danger of losing, and suddenly the stakes in Baltimore went up. Pittsburgh kicked a field goal on fourth-and-2 to make it 10-6 in the third. Then Cameron Sutton of the Steelers intercepte­d Huntley in the end zone in a huge missed opportunit­y for the Ravens.

Pittsburgh squandered a chance of its own in the first quarter, recovering a fumble by Huntley at the Baltimore 39 but managing only a field goal. A false start on running back Benny Snell on fourthand-1 forced the Steelers to settle for three points.

Watt’s sack helped force the Ravens to kick a field

goal in the final seconds of the second.

Jaguars 26, Colts 11 JACKSONVIL­LE, Fla. (AP) — Indianapol­is badly botched a chance to secure an AFC wild-card spot by losing at Jacksonvil­le in the “clown game,” their seventh consecutiv­e road loss to the Jaguars.

The Colts got clowned. NFL rushing champion Jonathan Taylor was held to 77 yards, Carson Wentz turned the ball over twice — leading to 10 points — and Indy (9-8) did little to stop the woeful Jaguars (3-14).

The Colts looked more like the ones who should have been decked out in giant bow ties, face paint and colorful wigs and suspenders.

With a playoff berth on the line, Indianapol­is was a no-show on an 80-degree day in Jacksonvil­le.

The 15-point outcome could have been a bigger blowout had the Jags scored touchdowns instead of settling for two chip-shot field goals from inside the 5-yard line. Nonetheles­s, Jacksonvil­le experience­d breathing room in a game for the first time all season.

And they still managed to lock up the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft for the second straight year because Detroit stunned Green Bay.

The Colts still could land

a playoff spot despite the loss, but they needed Baltimore to beat Pittsburgh, Las Vegas to defeat the Los Angeles Chargers and New England to knock of f Miami. The Ravens and Steelers went to overtime.

It’s an unlikely trio of events. Indy is more likely to end the season on a twogame skid when one victor y would have put it in the postseason.

This one had to sting more than last week’s home heartbreak­er to the Raiders.

Rookie Trevor Lawrence capped his best game with an incredible play late in the third quarter. He kept a high snap from going over his head, gathered it, rolled right to evade an unblocked defender and then delivered a perfect pass to Marvin Jones in the back of the end zone for a 2-yard score.

Lawrence completed 23 of 32 passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns, his first game with multiple TD passes since the season opener. It gave disgruntle­d Jaguars fans hope for the future, even the ones dressed as clowns.

Only a few dozen fans — a couple hundred at most — wore clown attire to protest owner Shad Khan’s decision to keep general manager Trent Baalke. But their message became clear when one woman not wearing any

clown gear was selected to answer a trivia challenge on the stadium big screens. Instead of choosing answers A, B or C, she responded “D, fire Baalke,” and cheers and chants erupted around TIAA Bank Field.

A plane flew a “#Klowntown banner” around the stadium before the game. One fan held a “Trent Baalke kicked me” sign. Another sign directed at Khan and players read, “It’s not you. It’s Baalke.”

Baalke’s draft class has been underwhelm­ing and his free-agent signings produced no game-changers. His reputation is less than stellar, with the last five head coaches he’s worked with having been fired: Urban Meyer (2021), Doug Marrone (2020), Chip Kelly (2016), Jim Tomsula (2015) and Jim Harbaugh (2014).

It’s also unclear how his presence is affecting the team’s coaching search.

Titans 28, Texans 25 HOUSTON (AP) — Ryan Tannehill tied a career-high with four touchdown passes to help Tennessee clinch the top seed in the AFC.

The 12-5 Titans, who secured their second straight AFC South title last week, have the No. 1 seed in the AFC for the third time since leaving Houston in 1997 and first since 2008. They also have a first-round bye.

Tannehill threw three touchdown passes in the second quarter to put the Titans up 21-0 at halftime.

But the Texans (4-13) came alive in the second half, scoring 18 unanswered points to get within 3 before Julio Jones caught his first touchdown pass of the season on a 3-yard grab that made it 28-18 with about seven minutes remaining.

Houston cut the lead to 3 again when Danny Amendola’s second touchdown reception of the game made it 28-25 with 4½ minutes to go. Tennessee got a first down on third-and-2 with about three minutes left and ran out the clock to secure the victor y.

Tannehill’s big day came after he threw a career-high four intercepti­ons in a 22-13 loss the first time Tennessee played Houston this season on Nov. 21. On Sunday, he was 23 of 32 for 287 yards.

Houston’s Davis Mills threw for 301 yards and three touchdowns to give him 2,604 yards passing this season to move past David Carr (2,592) for most yards passing by a rookie in franchise history.

Amendola had seven receptions for 113 yards and two touchdowns in his first game since Nov. 28.

In the fourth quarter, the Texans capped an eightplay, 82-yard drive with a 7-yard touchdown catch by Amendola early in the fourth quarter. Mills connected with Amendola again on the 2-point conversion to cut the lead to 21-18.

The Titans took a 7-0 lead when Tannehill threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Firkser with about 7½ minutes left in the second quarter. A.J. Brown made it 14-0 when he grabbed a 14-yard pass from Tannehill with about 90 seconds before halftime.

The Titans forced a punt and Lonnie Johnson intercepte­d Tannehill in the end zone on a long pass on the next drive. But Eric Murray was called for pass interferen­ce to negate the intercepti­on and move the Titans 45 yards to the Houston 4.

Tannehill’s third touchdown pass came on the next play when he connected with Nick Westbrook-Ikhine for a 4-yard score to extend the lead to 21-0 at the break. It was the first time a Titan has thrown three touchdown passes in a quarter since Steve McNair did it in 2005 against the 49ers.

 ?? AP PHOTO ?? Pittsburgh quarterbac­k Ben Roethlisbe­rger, center, is sandwiched between Baltimore nose tackle Justin Ellis, left, and inside linebacker Patrick Queen during Sunday’s first half.
AP PHOTO Pittsburgh quarterbac­k Ben Roethlisbe­rger, center, is sandwiched between Baltimore nose tackle Justin Ellis, left, and inside linebacker Patrick Queen during Sunday’s first half.

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