Published November 20, 2014
Joe Flacco made certain that Ben Roethlisberger's suspension wouldn't end perfectly for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Flacco withstood Pittsburgh's goal-line stand and go-ahead touchdown in the closing minutes to throw an 18-yard scoring pass to T.J. Houshmandzadeh with 32 seconds remaining, and the Baltimore Ravens prevented the Steelers from going unbeaten without their suspended quarterback by winning 17-14 on Sunday.
The Steelers (3-1) took a 14-10 lead on Rashard Mendenhall's 7-yard run midway through the fourth quarter, and appeared ready to win after turning away Baltimore on third- and fourth-down plays from the 2 with over 2 minutes remaining.
But a holding call on a punt gave Baltimore (3-1) the ball at Pittsburgh's 40 with 55 seconds remaining, and Flacco found Anquan Boldin on two passes for 12 yards and Houshmandzadeh for 10 to set up the winning score.
Flacco, winning for the first time in four games in Pittsburgh, froze the Steelers' defense with a pump fake that freed up Houshmandzadeh in the end zone for the game winner.
Now, instead of being two games down in the AFC North to Pittsburgh with Roethlisberger to go for the rest of the season, the Ravens are tied for the division lead after beating the Steelers in Heinz Field for only the second time in 11 games.
Baltimore appeared to squander any chance at winning when, after driving from its 30 to the Steelers 2 with just over three minutes remaining, Flacco threw incomplete on two plays from the 2. Cornerback William Gay knocked away a pass intended for Boldin near the corner of the end zone on fourth down.
Two false-start penalties set back the Steelers as they tried to run out the clock, and Keyaron Fox's holding penalty on the punt gave Baltimore another precious 10 yards to work with in the final 1:08.
Flacco finished 24 of 37 for 256 yards and an interception to outplay Charlie Batch, the No. 4 quarterback who couldn't win only his second start since 2007 for Pittsburgh. Batch, a 38-13 winner at Tampa Bay the week before, went 12 of 21 for 141 yards and an interception.
The Ravens won despite getting almost nothing from their running game. Willis McGahee had 14 carries for 37 yards and a touchdown and Ray Rice, playing despite a bruised right knee, had eight carries for 20 yards — 121 fewer than he had in Pittsburgh last season.
The Steelers, who twice failed to capitalize on turnovers inside the 40 when Jeff Reed missed field goal attempts in the second half, now get a week off for Roethlisberger to settle back into the offense. But he won't be inheriting an unbeaten team when he takes over Oct. 17 against Cleveland.
As usual, the game was physical, low-scoring and close, the fifth consecutive matchup between the mirror-image rivals that was decided by four points or fewer.
Both teams scored touchdowns early, an unlikely scenario given the Ravens came in leading the NFL in total defense and Pittsburgh was tops in scoring defense. Batch's 34-yard completion to Antwaan Randle El set up Mendenhall's 1-yard run late in the first quarter.
Baltimore answered almost immediately. Flacco found Derrick Mason for 40 yards in front of safety Ryan Clark and Boldin for 18 yards ahead of McGahee's 9-yard touchdown run 1:27 into the second quarter.
Billy Cundiff kicked a 33-yard field goal on the final play of the first half, and the Ravens made the 10-7 lead hold up despite twice turning the ball over in the third quarter.
The Steelers couldn't take advantage of McGahee's fumble at his own 27 when Reed's 49-yard field goal attempt struck the right upright. Flacco later was intercepted by Ike Taylor at the Ravens 33, but Reed was wide left this time from the 45. Reed already has as many misses (four) as he did last season.
The opportunity the Steelers missed was nearly as big.