PITTSBURGH (AP) John Harbaugh considered going for it. Joe Flacco had other ideas.
Why risk extending the worst start in Baltimore Ravens’ history when you have a kicker with one of the best legs in the game waiting to go do his job?
So Harbaugh – not for the first time – listened to his quarterback. And Justin Tucker – not for the first time – sent the Ravens sprinting off the field in triumph.
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Tucker drilled a 52-yard field goal through the tricky Heinz Field winds with 5:08 left in overtime Thursday night to give Baltimore its first victory of the season, 23-20 over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Tucker’s 42-yarder with three seconds left forced the extra period, and his winner was good all the way.
”It’s one of the most electric stadiums to play in in the NFL,” Tucker said. ”So to be able to come in and win in such a dramatic fashion with just a consummate team effort, it’s really special.”
The Ravens, desperately trying to avoid a hole that would all but end their playoff hopes a quarter of the way into the season, responded emphatically while rallying from a 13-point second-half deficit. Justin Forsett ran for 150 yards for Baltimore. Flacco threw a touchdown pass and did just enough late, though Baltimore (1-3) got plenty of help from the Steelers (2-2).
”The finish is what counts,” Harbaugh said. ”The finish is what our guys were able to accomplish.”
The Steelers, not so much.
Kicker Josh Scobee, acquired from Jacksonville in August after injuries to Shaun Suisham and Garrett Hartley, had two chances to give Pittsburgh 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.”
One he might not get a chance to shake with the Steelers after coach Mike Tomlin promised to ”turn the stones over” in an effort to get back on track.
”We have to find ways to win games,” Tomlin said. ”Obviously, (kicking) is an element of it. It was an element of the outcome tonight.”
Some other takeaways from one of the weirder entries in one of the league’s most heated rivalries:
FOURTH-DOWN FLUBS: Scobee’s botched kicks forced Tomlin to change tactics in overtime. Twice the Steelers faced fourth downs at the edge of Scobee’s range. Twice Tomlin chose to go for it. Twice the Steelers put the ball in the hands of backup quarterback Michael Vick rather than running back Le’Veon Bell. Twice the Ravens came up with the stop
”When you lose, you’re open to criticism,” Tomlin said. ”We lost, so I’m not going to try to justify anything that we did.”
RUN FORSETT RUN: An inability to get anything going on the ground was a major factor in Baltimore’s winless September. Forsett helped change that with his first 100-yard game of the season, including a 33-yard sprint that jump-started the Ravens’ comeback.
VICK’S RETURN: The four-time Pro Bowl quarterback showed brief flashes of his old self while taking over for injured Ben Roethlisberger. Vick completed 19 of 26 for 124 yards and a score but was also sacked four times and the Steelers converted just 2 of 13 third downs.
”I’m trying to fill in for Ben and it’s a difficult task,” Vick said. ”I was up for it. I was excited for it. I haven’t felt this pain in a long time.”
SKID STOPPED: A loss would have dropped the Ravens to 0-4, a mark only one team has recovered from to make the postseason. Now there is momentum and a few extra days to prepare for Cleveland on Oct. 11.
”We know where we’re at,” Harbaugh said. ”We know what we have to overcome. You can’t get two until you get one. This one was a long time coming.”
CHOICE WORDS: Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith caught four passes for 24 yards before leaving in the second half with a back contusion and a bad taste in his mouth. Smith said Steelers safety Mike Mitchell – a former teammate when both players were in Carolina – started jawing at him as Smith slowly made his way to the sideline after getting hurt, something Smith didn’t exactly need to hear.
”After he hit me he said `How do you like that?”’ Smith said. ”The best thing I could do without threatening him and saying that I will assault you when I see him is saying I look forward to playing him again and he’s on my lifetime hit list.”
The rematch is in Baltimore on Dec. 27.
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