Flacco rallies Ravens past Steelers 23-20
Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh's chin took a beating in the aftermath of his team's dramatic 23-20 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night.
He can live with the beauty mark if his resilient team keeps finding ways to beat its arch rival.
Joe Flacco hit Torrey Smith for a 26-yard touchdown with 8 seconds remaining, starting off a giddy celebration in which Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome - a Hall of Fame tight end - dropped his head coach.
''He's supposed to hold you up and keep you up when you jump into his arms,'' Harbaugh said.
Thankfully for the Ravens, Smith has better hands.
Baltimore (6-2) ended Pittsburgh's four-game winning streak behind a brilliant final drive by Flacco, who led the Ravens 92 yards in 13 plays to move Baltimore into a tie with Cincinnati atop the crowded AFC North.
''This Steelers-Ravens game is a game for men,'' Harbaugh said. ''This is a game for big men. You've got to shine bright in this game if you want to win this game. And nobody shined brighter than Joe Flacco in this game.''
Not even Smith, who made up for a pair of earlier gaffes with the biggest reception of his young career.
The rookie was flagged for a penalty on Baltimore's first play, wiping out a 76-yard touchdown run by Ray Rice. Five plays before the game-winner, he dropped a pass in the end zone.
Yet Flacco went right back to Smith, who got behind William Gay and shook off a pass interference penalty to give the Ravens their first season sweep of the Steelers since 2006.
''I have to go to Torrey and I hope he makes the play,'' said Flacco, who finished with 300 yards passing. ''He's a playmaker and when you need to make a big play down the field, he's the best guy for that. On that last drive we went to him a couple times and finally it worked.''
The Steelers (6-3) appeared to be in control after rallying from a 10-point deficit to take a 20-16 lead with less than 5 minutes to go when Ben Roethlisberger hit Mike Wallace for a 25-yard score.
Pittsburgh's defense held once and the Steelers moved in range for Shaun Suisham to attempt a 47-yard field goal that could have bumped the lead to seven.
A delay of game penalty, however, pushed Pittsburgh back five yards and the Steelers opted to punt.
''I accept responsibility for that,'' coach Mike Tomlin said. ''There was some hesitation on my part.''
There was none from Flacco, who atoned for an earlier fourth-quarter fumble by making big play after big play. He converted a fourth-and-1 at the Pittsburgh 49 with less than a minute to go to keep Baltimore's hopes alive, and Smith made up for a drop with the biggest play of his young career.
''For him to make that play, it's huge for him,'' Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis said. ''First of all, it's huge for Joe. I think the thing is, outside perception might be to doubt Joe. But we don't doubt Joe.''
And the Ravens left no doubt they're not intimidated by the defending AFC champions.
''We swept them, but don't be fooled - we'll see them again in January,'' Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs said. ''This is the only team in the world that can play like we play and match us blow for blow.''
This time, the Ravens got the last shot in.
''You don't really have anything to lose,'' Flacco said. ''You either score or you don't score. ... You take a couple of shots at the end zone and see what comes of it.''
The Steelers trailed by 10 going into the fourth quarter but roared back behind Roethlisberger. Rashard Mendenhall scored from 1 yard out to pull Pittsburgh within 16-13 and Harrison swatted the ball out of Flacco's hand on Baltimore's next possession.
Gay recovered and Roethlisberger put the Steelers in front when he rolled right to avoid pressure and threw in the direction of Brown. Wallace streaked in front of his teammate for the score and Pittsburgh appeared to be on its way to avenging a 28-point loss to the Ravens in the season opener.
Roethlisberger finished with 330 yards passing to become the first Pittsburgh quarterback to top 300 in three consecutive games, but the Steelers' defense couldn't contain Flacco at the end.
Suggs picked off Roethlisberger's pass in the third quarter to preserve a 9-6 Baltimore lead. A dozen plays later, Rice darted in from 4 yards out to put the Ravens up 16-6.
The NFL's top-ranked defense couldn't make it hold up, though for once Flacco bailed the defense out in a relationship that's often been vice versa.
''In my eyes, to be totally honest with you, they're the defending AFC champs, so they're still the team to beat,'' Suggs said of the Steelers. ''But if we're playing football throughout, we'll see them again in January. But they've got to come to our house.''