Ultimately, despite a valiant effort, the Ravens absorbed a dramatic 20-19
defeat to the defending AFC North champions as Steelers kicker Jeff Reed won the
game with a 37-yard field goal with 1:36 remaining.
An instant replay review with 1:06 to play upheld an official's ruling that Ravens wide receiver Derrick Mason never got both feet in bounds on quarterback Anthony Wright's pass deep into Steelers territory.
On the next play, Wright was sacked. Then, he threw short of the first down marker on fourth down to running back Chester Taylor. His dropped pass with 20 seconds left marked the Ravens' final offensive play, which clinched the game for Pittsburgh (5-2).
Using a much less cautious game plan that actually featured the forward pass, Baltimore (2-5) transformed a game expected to be a blowout into a competitive contest that it looked like it had finally gained control of on veteran kicker Matt Stover's 47-yard field goal with 3:21 remaining to take a 19-17 lead.
That score was set up by a bizarre Steelers mistake.
Long snapper Greg Warren mistakenly, unexpectedly snapped the football into the leg of receiver Sean Morey, who quickly lateraled to punter Chris Gardocki. Gardocki threw incomplete on fourth down to give Baltimore possession at the Steelers' 45.
That directly led to Stover's fourth field goal of the game.
The Ravens arrived shorthanded without six injured starters, including the heart and soul of their defense -- middle linebacker Ray Lewis and Ed Reed -- along with quarterback Kyle Boller. Although they entered the game installed as 11 ½ point underdogs, the Ravens kept matching the Steelers shot for shot.
Practically everything was clicking for Baltimore until they opted for an ill-advised, flea-flicker pass on their first drive of the second half.
Wright handed off to Jamal Lewis, who pitched the ball back to Wright. Then, Wright uncorked a bomb to Randy Hymes even though the wide receiver was draped in double-coverage. Steelers safety Chris Hope easily intercepted the floater.
And Pittsburgh would capitalize on the miscue.
When Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger connected on his second touchdown pass of the game to rookie tight end Heath Miller in the third quarter, it gave Pittsburgh (5-2) a 17-10 advantage.
Free safety Will Demps, who failed to cover Miller in the first half on his first touchdown, slipped to the ground. That made it easy for Roethlisberger to hit the first-round draft pick in stride.
The Ravens were resilient, though, as Stover connected on his second and third field goals of the night, including a 49-yarder with 9:40 left in the fourth quarter, to bring Baltimore to within one point.
Although the Ravens didn't pull off the upset, they did improve markedly on offense.
After a controversial week where he admitted that he was concerned about getting injured in a contract year and complained about being the scapegoat for a dormant offense, Lewis ran hard. Wright missed reads and threw one unsightly interception, but did keep the offense moving.
Pittsburgh began the game as if it was going to rout the Ravens.
The Steelers methodically marched 79 yards in a staggering 8 minutes and 57 seconds, capping the 15-play opening drive with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger pulling off a familiar play.
His crisp play-action fake froze Demps for a split-second, enough time to slip a 5-yard touchdown pass to Miller for a 7-0 lead.
The touchdown was set up by a questionable unnecessary roughness penalty on linebacker Bart Scott, who pushed Hines Ward along the sideline when the receiver clearly had both feet in bounds.
The Ravens immediately answered, though, with an impressive drive of their own.
Mixing Jamal Lewis runs, a 31-yard crossing pass to Mason and a defensive holding penalty on Steelers cornerback Deshea Townsend for grabbing tight end Todd Heap on third down at the Pittsburgh 15, the Ravens got themselves in position.
Four plays later, Wright rolled out to his right and located Taylor in the flat.
Taylor did the rest of the work, scampering upfield before leaping high into the air from the 3-yard line and stretching the football over the goal line for the Ravens' first touchdown in 20 drives.
With the score tied at 7 following a 9-play, 73-yard drive that lasted 4 minutes and 9 seconds, Lewis promptly fumbled.
Headed out of his own end zone and breaking tackles, Lewis lost his grip while running over Townsend, who batted the ball away. With cornerback Ike Taylor recovering the fumble at the Ravens' 12, the Ravens stuffed Pittsburgh on three plays as Peter Boulware and Terrell Suggs sacked Roethlisberger for a 12-yard loss.
That limited the Steelers to a 42-yard Jeff Reed field goal to create a 10-7 advantage.
Again, Baltimore countered.
Outside linebacker Adalius Thomas intercepted Roethlisberger at the Ravens' 30 and returned it 28 yards to the Steelers' 42.
When Wright didn't see an open Todd Heap and a wide-open Mason in the end zone eight plays later, he overthrew Hymes in double-coverage. That limited the Ravens to a 22-yard field goal from Stover to tie the game again at 10.
Nickel back Dale Carter forced Ricardo Colclough to fumble on the ensuing kickoff with Roderick Green recovering in a wild scrum. However, the Ravens failed to capitalize as Stover's 43-yard field goal attempt struck the right upright and caromed wide right.
The miss broke a string of 10 consecutive field goals after opening the season with three misses.
The Ravens had one final shot to take the lead before halftime, but struggled with clock management.
After the Steelers inexplicably called timeout with eight seconds left, Wright's desperation pass to Hymes in the end zone was intercepted by Ike Taylor to end the half.
The defeat marked the Ravens' seventh road loss in a row. The string dates back to last year as their last win away from Baltimore was Nov. 4, 2004 with a 20-17 overtime win over the New York Jets at the Meadowlands.
NOTES: The Ravens deactivated Lewis, Reed, Boller, fullback Ovie Mughelli, center Jason Brown, offensive tackle Adam Terry, wide receiver Mark Clayton and defensive end Tony Weaver. … Jarret Johnson started at defensive end in place of Weaver. … Scott played weakside linebacker with Tommy Polley shifting over to middle linebacker. Polley registered a team-high nine tackles by late in the fourth quarter … Chad Williams replaced Reed at strong safety. … Randy Hymes started at receiver for Mark Clayton. … Justin Green started in place of fullback Alan Ricard, who was placed on injured reserve earlier this week.
In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.
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