Ravens vs. Steelers: Stingy Defense Powers Baltimore to Huge AFC North Victory

Ian HanfordFeatured ColumnistNovember 18, 2012

The Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers fought their usual fight on Sunday night, with the Ravens eking out a 13-10 win to grab a two-game lead in the AFC North.

Pittsburgh tried to get itself in position for a tie with a drive beginning at the 1:05 mark of the fourth, but Byron Leftwich didn't have enough left in the tank. He was short on several throws throughout the game, and the same held true on the final drive.

If you enjoy offense, this game wasn't for you. The Steelers barely cleared 300 yards of total offense, but the Ravens didn't even come close, at 200. Sloppy would be an understatement.

It's amazing how close these two teams seem to be every time they take the field. ESPN Stats & Info showed that it's not just when they play each other:

How even were the Ravens and Steelers heading into tonight? Over the last 5 seasons, they've each won 51 reg season and 5 playoff games

— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 19, 2012

The game couldn't have started in a more bizarre way, with Leftwich scrambling 31 yards to give the Steelers a 7-0 lead. At the end of the play though, Leftwich fell and injured himself enough to grimace for the rest of the game.

Even though they managed to score 43 seconds into the game, Pittsburgh's offensive success would stop there until late in the game.

Baltimore answered that touchdown with a Justin Tucker field goal and a 63-yard punt return score by Jacoby Jones, giving the Ravens a 10-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Baltimore Sun reporter Aaron Wilson had this to say about Jones following the dynamic return:

Jacoby Jones is having a Pro Bowl caliber season. That's his third return for a score this season, second in as many weeks

— Aaron Wilson (@RavensInsider) November 19, 2012


The first half was stagnant otherwise. Neither team scored in the second quarter, putting the halftime score at 10-7, Baltimore.

The Ravens' Twitter account showed us how even, and how ugly, the first half was:

#Ravens won time of possession in the 1st half: 16:31 to 13:29. #Ravens 2-for-8 on third down. Steelers were 1-for-7.

— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) November 19, 2012


Games like this are expected when these two rivals meet, and the second half was no different.

Leftwich made a terrible decision on a pass in the third quarter, leading to an interception by Corey Graham. That eventually set up Tucker for another field goal to make the score 13-7 Ravens.

It also prompted Sports Illustrated's Chris Burke to say this:

Terrible decision by Leftwich. Worst case, you need to be punting there and keeping field position in your favor.

— Chris Burke (@ChrisBurke_SI) November 19, 2012


He's right, too. Leftwich barely looked comfortable all evening. He made a few big throws here and there, including one on a fade to Mike Wallace that should have tied the game later on, but he struggled overall. He did seem to be dealing with a shoulder injury, though, which makes his 17-of-38 passing night a bit easier to stomach. And pulling him would have been a better choice late in the game because it was obvious that he had nothing left on several throws.

Despite Leftwich's shortcomings, the defense kept him and the Steelers in it. Shaun Suisham's first field goal of the night made the score 13-10 as the third quarter came to a close, setting up a tight final frame.

Then the game seemed to take a turn with just over 11 minutes remaining. Leftwich flipped the ball out to Jonathan Dwyer on a 3rd-and-8, and Dwyer was seemingly able to pick up a huge first down. However, he was spotted short.

Because the Steelers had blown two timeouts earlier in the half, Mike Tomlin's decision to challenge wasn't easy, but he did and won. However, Leftwich still couldn't get anything going, and the Steelers were forced to punt the ball away for the sixth time.

Pittsburgh tried to get it together down the stretch, but the offense just didn't have enough. Leftwich's shoulder was obviously hurting, and the run game only provided tolerable support.

Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense didn't do much either, and Jones' punt return touchdown provided the game's lone highlight. It was enough to carry Flacco's 164-yard night and enough to mask Ray Rice's 40 rushing yards (on 20 carries).

Neither team played a pretty game, but what else do you expect when these two squads face off? With Ben Roethlisberger pacing the sidelines, this result seemed almost inevitable for Pittsburgh.

The 8-2 Ravens will play the San Diego Chargers next week, while the 6-4 Steelers look to rebound against the Browns.