It was a story that Ravens fans have seen before, even as recently as last year on Christmas Day. Last year, the Ravens built up a lead in the third quarter, but couldn’t hold on to it late. It was exactly the same this year.
The Ravens started the game on offense, and built up some momentum on the first drive. However, it was crushed by a Joe Flacco interception.
Pittsburgh took over, and quickly took control. The Steelers carved up the Ravens defense, especially over the middle of the field. That drive was capped off as Ben Roethisberger passed to LeVeon Bell, who was lined up as a wide receiver, for a touchdown.
The Steelers forced a Ravens punt on the next drive, and quickly drove down the field and scored again. The Steelers led 14-0, the Heinz Field crowd was loud, and the Ravens looked dead in the water.
Suddenly, the Ravens offense awoke. Alex Collins started to find success running the ball, and it provided a spark for the whole offense. Behind Collins’ running, the Ravens moved into Pittsburgh territory, and got on the board with a perfect 40 yard touchdown pass from Flacco to Chris Moore.
The Ravens defense allowed Pittsburgh to kick a field goal on the next drive, and trailed 17-7.
However, the offense continued to roll. Alex Collins continued to dominate running the ball, and he would score for the fourth straight game on an 18 yard touchdown run, closing the deficit to 17-14.
Pittsburgh responded with another field goal right before halftime, and led 20-14 at the half.
The Ravens defense, that struggled throughout the first half, woke up in the second quarter. It forced a Steelers punt on the opening drive of the half, moving momentum to the Ravens sideline.
Baltimore kicked a field goal to pull within three, and after the Steelers second straight punt, scored on a Javorius Allen rushing touchdown to go up 24-20. Baltimore kept its foot on the gas, forcing another Steelers punt, and responding with another touchdown. This time, it was Pat Ricard getting a receiving TD. Baltimore had turned the tide of the game, and took a 31-20 lead. Eerily similar of last year.
The Ravens allowed the Steelers to score on four straight drives to stat the game, then the Ravens responded by scoring on four straight drives of their own, before allowing the Steelers to close the game with four straight drives with points. The Ravens went on a 31-6 run to take its 31-20 lead, Pittsburgh closed with a 19-7 run.
Pittsburgh kicked a field goal, and followed with a touchdown, but failed to convert on the two point try.
Allen scored another Ravens touchdown to push the lead back to 38-29, but it was all downhill from there for the Ravens.
Pittsburgh scored on a third Bell touchdown, and kicked would would ultimately be the game winning field goal on the next drive.
The Ravens offense had 42 seconds to work with after Chris Boswell’s go-ahead field goal, but couldn’t get anything together on offense. The game ended as Joe Flacco fumbled while being sacked by T.J. Watt, the ball was spotted and the clock ran little to the knowledge of Flacco and the Ravens.
The offense went back to conservative, ineffective and poor play calling in the late stages of the game, and it cost the Ravens.
After a three-and-out from the Ravens offense, the defense found itself in a similar spot, protecting a lead late in Pittsburgh. Last year, the Ravens defense couldn’t get one last stop. The offseason was spent revamping the defense for this exact scenario, and it failed.
The defense was the weak link throughout the whole game, allowing 545 net yards, including 506 passing yards from Roethlisberger. The Ravens inexplicably left Brandon Carr alone with Antonio Brown, and the Steelers took advantage. Brown finished the game with 213 receiving yards on 11 catches with 18 targets. The Ravens couldn’t stop the Steelers tight ends either, allowing 97 yards on 10 catches to Jesse James, and 52 yards on four catches to Vance McDonald.
The Ravens, especially Alex Collins, played a great overall game on offense. Collins rushed for 120 yards on 18 carries, and Flacco completed 20/35 passes for 269 yards.
The heartbreaking loss for the Ravens dropped the team’s record to 7-6, while the Steelers clinched the AFC North title while improving to 11-2. Baltimore will face the Browns on the road next week, while the Steelers get the Patriots at home. Baltimore is still well in the thick of the wild card hunt.