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By, Andrea Hangst
The Baltimore Ravens don’t generally lose games at home—in fact, before this Sunday, the last time they fell on their home field was in 2010, against the Pittsburgh Steelers. It didn’t seem like they’d lose this time around, either, considering that the Steelers were coming to town without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger under center.
Instead, third-string quarterback Charlie Batch came off of his three-interception game in last week’s loss to the Cleveland Browns to not only lead the Steelers to a much-needed victory, but to also outplay Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco in the process.
Though it wasn’t mistake-free football, with Batch and Antonio Brown each throwing an interception and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders coughing up the ball as well, the Steelers stepped up on both offense and defense in the second half and escaped Baltimore with a surprising 23-20 win that keeps them firmly in the playoff picture.
In the first 30 minutes, the Steelers put up 93 yards of total offense to Baltimore’s 191. Batch had just 57 passing yards in the half, and it seemed as though Pittsburgh’s defense wouldn’t be able to keep Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin contained, allowing him four receptions on 11 targets for 75 yards and a score.
Things changed dramatically in the second half, however. The Steelers defense held the Ravens to just 97 second-half yards while putting up 173 of their own. Boldin had only one additional catch (and only one additional target) and Torrey Smith didn’t add anything to his 33-yard first-half total. The Steelers allowed only five Flacco completions for 54 yards.
The cornerback tandem of Keenan Lewis and Cortez Allen (who came in to replace the injured Ike Taylor) fell into a second-half groove the Ravens couldn’t pass their way out of.
Batch ended his day completing 25 of his 36 passes for 276 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He also threw the key block on Jonathan Dwyer’s touchdown run and drove the ball down the field for kicker Shaun Suisham’s 42-yard game-winning field goal.
It was a strong outing for each of Batch’s biggest targets, with five being the magic number. Heath Miller had five receptions for 97 yards and a touchdown, including a 43-yard catch-and-run.
Emmanuel Sanders also had five receptions for 60 yards and his fumble was his only failed catch. Antonio Brown led the team in targets with 10 and had five catches for 58 yards while Mike Wallace also had five catches for 44 more yards.
While Dwyer led the way in the run game, with 16 carries for 49 yards and the aforementioned score, Isaac Redman also held his own, with nine rushes for 43 yards. Rashard Mendenhall was declared inactive for the game while Chris Rainey saw his fair share of snaps, though primarily as a decoy.
Pittsburgh’s defense finally got the better of an opponent when it came to turnovers. Linebacker James Harrison strip-sacked Flacco, with Ziggy Hood recovering the ball while safety Ryan Clark notched himself an interception. Hood also added a sack, as did Larry Foote. They also held the Ravens offense to just three converted third downs in 11 attempts and Flacco to just 188 yards—something that happens rarely when the quarterback plays at home.
As a starter, Batch had faced Baltimore only once, in a 2010, 17-14 loss. After throwing three picks last week—three, by the way, of the Steelers’ eight total turnovers—it didn’t seem possible he could go into Baltimore and be the catalyst for a Pittsburgh win.
Though the Steelers defense surely did their part, especially in the second half, this win was very much attributable to Batch. Though his receivers weren’t always providing him help, considering the Wallace drops and the Sanders turnover, Batch never faltered. He didn’t appear out of his element as he did in last week’s loss, and showed the Ravens a quarterback they weren’t entirely prepared to face.
Depending on Roethlisberger’s health, this may have just been Batch’s last NFL start, and it provided him with his personal best victory. With this win, the Steelers’ playoff hopes are alive, they avoided a three-game stretch of divisional losses and they defeated their most hated rivals. Nearly no one thought they could do it, including the Ravens, and Baltimore was burned as a result.