Mike Tomlin, in recent weeks, has talked about the importance of an NFL team working in concert in all three phases to increase its chances at victory. That's exactly what the Baltimore Ravens did on Sunday while defeating Tomlin's Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field.
While the Ravens played far from a perfect game, their ability to play complementary football was the main reason why they defeated a Steelers team that was looking to start stacking wins after an 0-3 start. Instead, Pittsburgh -- which lost Mason Rudolph to a concussion midway through the third quarter -- is 1-4 and in third place in the AFC North, while the 3-2 Ravens could be all alone in first place place in the North if the Cleveland Browns fall on the road to the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night.
Why the Ravens won
The Ravens' ability to work better in concert was the difference in a competitive game that needed overtime to be decided. While Pittsburgh scored just six points off of their two first-half interceptions of Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson, the Ravens scored a touchdown on their lone forced turnover of the half, as Mark Ingram's 4-yard touchdown gave the Ravens an early 10-0 lead.
Baltimore's offense, after going through a lull during the middle portions of the game, picked up the slack after Pittsburgh's offense starting finding its rhythm. On three occasions, the Ravens immediately followed a Steelers score with a score of their own that included Justin Tucker's game-tying field goal that sent the game into overtime.
Despite averaging less than 4 yards yer carry, Baltimore's rushing attack made its mark, churning out a hard-earned 138 yards on 40 carries that allowed the Ravens to enjoy a time-of-possession advantage of more than 13 minutes. Jackson did most of the damage, rushing for 70 yards while making up for his subpar passing performance.
Why the Steelers lost
The Steelers have failed to adequately stop the run in each of their four losses. Pittsburgh's struggles to convert third downs was again present on Sunday, as the Steelers converted on just three of their nine third downs.
Pittsburgh's rushing attack continues to struggle. Six days after gaining just 66 yards on 25 carries, the Steelers rushed for 77 yards while only attempting 19 carries. James Conner, who set season highs with 55 yards on 14 carries on Sunday, has now gone 10 games without hitting the 100-yard barrier after having four consecutive 100-yard outings during the first half of the 2018 season.
Though Pittsburgh scored 10 points behind Devlin Hodges after losing Rudolph to a concussion midway through the third quarter, the Steelers continue to hurt themselves by committing major mistakes. JuJu Smith-Schuster led Pittsburgh in receiving, including his 35-yard touchdown in the first quarter, but his fumble in overtime set up Tucker's game-winning kick. Mistakes like that are why the Steelers may suffer their first losing season since 2003.
Baltimore was the recipient of a questionable roughing-the-passer penalty on the second play of their final possession of regulation. After a run by Jackson gained just two yards on his first down, his pass to Ingram went for no gain on second down. The officials gave Baltimore 15 on the play, however, after the flagged Steelers linebacker Ola Adeniyi for roughing the passer. Gene Steratore, a former NFL referee and current rules analyst for CBS Sports, disagreed with the call.
I am all for protecting the quarterback, but this is not roughing the passer in #BALvsPIT. From this angle that is clear, but remember the referee is behind the QB. I believe that these types of plays are much less subjective than pass interference and would be easier to review. pic.twitter.com/AaTmgEBXu8— Gene Steratore (@GeneSteratore) October 6, 2019
Jackson quickly took advantage of the penalty by firing a 14-yard strike to Willie Sneed that helped set up Tucker's game-tying field goal.
Play of the game
It appeared as if the Steelers' decision to defter the opening overtime kickoff would pay off after forcing the Ravens to punt to start the extra session. But Baltimore cornerback Marlon Humphrey bailed out his offense by forcing and recovering the fumble by Smith-Schuster after a 10-yard completion that would have given the Steelers the ball near midfield. The play ultimately set up the game-winning field goal.
PLAYMAKER @marlon_humphrey❗️❗️❗️ pic.twitter.com/aqjMY12twk— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) October 6, 2019
Humphrey was awarded a game ball, the first of his career, from head coach John Harbaugh after the game.
"I'm gonna cut you out, because it's y'all's fault because y'all ask me about these interceptions, and now I've thrown one every week after that. But yeah, just gotta do better and just move on." -- Jackson's comments -- with a smile -- to reporters about their questions about his interceptions. Jackson has thrown interceptions in his last two games after throwing none in Baltimore's first three games.
"First and foremost, I want to send my thoughts and prayers to Mason Rudolph. My draft partner. I just hope he's doing good." -- Jackson on Rudolph, who headed to a local hospital during the fourth quarter of Sunday's game to receive further evaluation after sustaining his concussion.
Baltimore will host divisional foe Cincinnati next Sunday. The Bengals are 0-5 after dropping a 26-23 decision to the visiting Arizona Cardinals. Pittsburgh will head to the West Coast to take on the Los Angeles Chargers, who were 2-2 on the season entering their Week 5 matchup against the winless Denver Broncos.
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