Ravens up 16-7 over Steelers after 3rd quarter
Justin Tucker kicked two more field goals in the third quarter, and Ben Roethlisberger brought to life a slumbering offense with a lightning-quick drive, leaving the Baltimore Ravens with a 16-7 lead over the Pittsburgh Steelers headed into the final quarter of the first Thanksgiving meeting between the AFC North rivals.
Tucker converted from 34 and 38 yards, sandwiched around Roethlisberger's 8-yard touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders. The Steelers had only 98 yards of offense in the first half and trailed 10-0, but they nearly matched that on their first possession of the third quarter - an 80-yard march in seven plays that took just 2:55 and featured a no-huddle attack and a 43-yard run by rookie Le'Veon Bell.
It was only the fourth touchdown allowed by the Ravens in six home games this season, and Jacoby Jones responded by a returning the ensuing kickoff 73 yards to Pittsburgh's 27-yard line. Jones might have gone farther, but he appeared to alter his path to avoid Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, who was standing on the left sideline.
Jones was brought down by Cortez Allen and came up complaining. The Ravens managed only a field goal from the good field position to increase their lead to nine.
Joe Flacco found Torrey Smith for a 7-yard touchdown pass early in the first quarter to give the Ravens the lead. The closest the Steelers came to scoring in the first half was when they lined up for a 50-yard field goal attempt that was aborted, with the ball ending up in kicker Shaun Suisham's hands for a 12-yard loss. It was unclear whether the play was a deliberate fake or if Suisham mistimed the snap and arrived at the ball too early.
A Steelers-Ravens game is always intense, especially when there are playoff implications, and there were three post-whistle scuffles in the opening quarter alone. Baltimore lost receiver Brandon Stokley for the game with a sprained left knee, sustained while he was running a route early in the second quarter, while linebacker Elvis Dumervil left with a sprained left ankle late in the second quarter. Dumervil returned in the third.
Pittsburgh defensive end Brett Keisel injured his left foot in the first half. The team announced at halftime that he would not return.
Despite their losing records, the Steelers (5-6) and Ravens (5-6) began the game in a six-way tie for the AFC's second wild-card berth. Both were also two games back of the Cincinnati Bengals, each with one game remaining against the division leaders.
On the Ravens' opening drive, Flacco had plenty of time to find Smith on a deep post pattern for a 54-yard completion, falling just short of a touchdown when Smith was dragged down by Allen at the 1-yard line.
Flacco took a sack two plays later, but then connected again with Smith, who was wide open over the middle. Flacco completed 4 of 5 passes for 74 yards on the drive and was 10 for 16 for 118 yards at the half.
While the Ravens came out throwing, the Steelers gave the ball to rookie running back Bell for their first five offensive plays, including a three-and-out on their opening drive.
When Roethlisberger started passing, his first five completions went to five different receivers in a slow march downfield. But the drive into Baltimore territory stalled, and Pittsburgh opted to punt on fourth-and-6 at Baltimore's 37. A drive in the second quarter advanced the ball to Baltimore's 32 before the field goal attempt that went awry.
The Ravens took advantage of the miscue. Given good field position at their own 44, they moved the ball with the help of a 26-yard pass interference call on Ike Taylor to set up a 43-yard field goal that made the score 10-0.
The Ravens increased their lead on the opening drive of the second half, moving into field goal position with a couple of third-down completions to Smith, leading to the 34-yarder by Tucker.
The game had figured to be another Steelers-Ravens nail-biter - nine of the previous 11 regular-season games between the teams were decided by three points, including a Pittsburgh win last month on a field goal as time expired.
The Steelers had won three straight after a 2-6 start, while the Ravens were trying to put together a winning streak for the first time since September.
Neither team is accustomed to playing on Thanksgiving. The Ravers are 1-0 all-time on the holiday, while the Steelers were hoping for their first turkey day win since a 28-17 triumph over Chicago Cardinals in 1950.
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