Batch, Suisham Clutch in Upset of Ravens

In the second installment of the 2012 Steelers/Ravens rivalry, the Charlie Batch-led Pittsburgh Steelers headed into hostile M&T Bank Stadium to face a porous Ravens defense without Ray Lewis.  Just how the coaches drew it up, right? The only thing that remained the same upon the conclusion of Sunday’s contest was the tightness in the score.

Charlie Batch PIT 350x350Unlike the previous meeting at home, third-string quarterback Charlie Batch gutted out an emotional and improbable win. After failing to connect with a wide-open Mike Wallace before the half, the Steelers settled on a Shaun Suisham field goal to end the half trailing 13-6. They could have quit right there and fans would have hardly blamed them, but they showed grit and determination without a number of key starters in the lineup. Somehow, someway, Charlie Batch tapped into the days of old to lead a game-winning drive that silenced the rival Baltimore crowd.  Suisham continued his second-longest streak of consecutive field goals made within 50 yards by icing the game winner with :03 left on the clock.

For the Ravens, a victory today would have all but locked up the AFC North crown for a second consecutive season. However, costly turnovers by Flacco ultimately allowed the Steelers to come away with the victory. Despite masterful running by Ray Rice, fresh off a 4th and 29 conversion last week, the Ravens were unable to make the plays that mattered down the stretch to seal the win. The Ravens did capitalize on their own (un)forced turnovers when Emmanuel Sanders fumbled away a potential TD.

The Steelers achieved a huge victory thanks in part to the returns of dynamic playmakers Antonio Brown and Troy Polamalu to the offense and defense respectively. Though the victory can be attributed to the team, Brown made big catch after big catch in the fourth quarter, including numerous first down conversions on receiver screens.

Though the Cincinnati Bengals were able to escape a hostile road trip out west to defeat the reeling San Diego Chargers, both Cincy and Pittsburgh share a hold of the #6 seed in the AFC Playoff Picture with a record of (7-5). Only time will tell who will walk away with the AFC North title, tough Baltimore still holds a two game advantage. Baltimore (9-3) will face the surging Washington Redskins next week in a tough road battle. Meanwhile, Cincinnati welcomes in a lowly Cowboys squad, who right now are not playing good football including quarterback Tony Romo. For the Steelers, hosting a Chargers squad, which has lost to both the Bengals and Ravens in consecutive weeks, could help the stretch playoff run.

Looking ahead to the schedule, the final AFC Playoff slot most likely comes down to the winner in a Week 16 matchup between the Steelers and the Bengals. Pittsburgh was able to beat their rivals to the west by a touchdown in an October meeting. A matchup of A.J. Green against the #1 passing defense in the league has both fan bases salivating for the game. If Big Ben and the rest of the key players for this streaky Pittsburgh squad can get and stay healthy, another playoff appearance might be in the cards.

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