Kicking woes, questionable calls do Steelers in as Ravens get first win
Playing to salvage a rapidly deteriorating season, the Baltimore Ravens needed a little help.
The swirling wind at the open end of Heinz Field, a rough night for Pittsburgh kicker Josh Scobee and some curious decision-making by Steelers coach Mike Tomlin provided the Ravens plenty.
So did Justin Tucker’s right leg.
Tucker made a 42-yard field goal in the final seconds of regulation to tie it and knocked through a 52-yarder with 5:08 left in overtime to lift Baltimore to a weird 23-20 victory Thursday night.
"The finish is what counts," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "The finish is what our guys were able to accomplish."
The Steelers, not so much.
Scobee, acquired from Jacksonville in August after injuries to Shaun Suisham and Garrett Hartley, had two chances to give the Steelers (2-2) some cushion late in the fourth quarter only to pull both kicks wide left.
"It’s pretty frustrating," Scobee said. "I feel like I let the team down. It’s not something I ever want to remember doing. It’s just a bad feeling."
The second miss gave the Ravens (1-3) enough time to put Tucker well within range to force the extra period. It also gave Tomlin pause when the Steelers moved into Baltimore territory twice in overtime.
Both times Tomlin opted to go for it with backup quarterback Michael Vick rather than send out Scobee for another long attempt into the unforgiving end of one of the trickiest places to kick in the NFL. Vick, starting in place of injured Ben Roethlisberger, was stopped on fourth-and-2 at the 39 and later overthrew Antonio Brown on fourth-and-1 from the 33.
"We lost, so I’m not going to try and justify anything that we did," Tomlin said. "Anything we did, I take responsibility for."
Neither Vick nor Scobee would get a third shot. Joe Flacco led the Ravens to the Pittsburgh 35 and Tucker’s winner was never in doubt even though Harbaugh admitted he considered trying to get a little closer.
It hardly mattered to Tucker, who "definitely" knew the winner was good the second it left his foot.
"To be able to come in and win in such a dramatic fashion with just a consummate team effort, it’s really special," Tucker said.
Justin Forsett ran for 150 yards for the Ravens. Flacco threw a touchdown pass and did just enough late to help Baltimore end the worst start in franchise history.
"The first win for us should (propel) us to go on to big things," Tucker said.
Vick threw for 124 yards and a score and Le’Veon Bell ran for 129 yards and a touchdown but the Steelers bumbled late.
"It’s probably one of the toughest losses of my career," Vick said. "We had our chances to win the game. There were a lot of plays I could’ve made that I didn’t make."
For most of the night, it appeared Pittsburgh would survive with Roethlisberger relegated to a sweatsuit after spraining his left knee last week against St. Louis.
The Steelers sacked Flacco five times, forced a pair of turnovers and twice stopped the Ravens on downs in the fourth quarter to seemingly seize control only to have Scobee let Baltimore back in it.
"The last two I played them down the middle and they both moved," said Scobee, who is 6 of 10 on the season. "It’s a tough end to kick because it’s a little more open area. It’s something that takes experience."
One Scobee might not get, with Tomlin saying the Steelers "have to turn stones over" in an effort to win games.
The Ravens, desperately trying to avoid an 0-4 hole that would all but end their playoff hopes a quarter of the way into the season, responded emphatically if not always smartly while rallying from a 13-point second-half deficit.
Flacco found Kamar Aiken for a 15-yard touchdown strike to cut it to 20-14 and the Ravens had an opportunity to draw within three late in the third quarter. Instead of a relatively short field goal, Baltimore went for a fake that went nowhere.
Not that Harbaugh was in the mood to quibble. Through all the gaffes and questionable decisions, the Ravens survived.
Roethlisberger managed to make it into the field without crutches and even lobbed a few passes to teammates before the game. Yet with their $100 million franchise quarterback’s troublesome knee several weeks away from being ready to go, the Steelers’ chances of keeping pace in the crowded AFC North will rely heavily on the 35-year-old Vick.
Once Vick’s legs — the ones that made him the NFL’s most unique talent in his prime — got going, so did Pittsburgh’s offense. He even threw a block that sprung Bell for an 11-yard touchdown that helped the Steelers go up 13-7 at halftime.
The momentum, however, disappeared late.
NOTES: Ravens WR Steve Smith Sr. caught four passes for 24 yards before leaving in the second half with a back contusion. … Brown caught five passes for 42 yards, ending his record streak of games with five receptions and at least 50 yards receiving at 35. … Baltimore hosts Cleveland on Oct. 11. … The Steelers play at San Diego on Oct. 12.