Backup Batch directs comeback, Steelers beat Ravens, 23-20
Shaun Suisham kicks the winning field goal in the Steelers' last-second victory against the Ravens on Sunday in Baltimore.
Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch hands off to Jonathan Dwyer against the Ravens in the first quarter Sunday in Baltimore.
Running back Jonathan Dwyer scores a touchdown against the Ravens in the third quarter Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch drops back to pass against the Ravens in the first quarter Sunday in Baltimore.
Ravens safety Ed Reed intercepts a pass intended for Heath Miller in the end zone in the fourth quarter Sunday in Baltimore.
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BALTIMORE -- Charlie Batch, who turns 38 Wednesday, threw a surprise party Sunday in Baltimore for 71,442 people who were not among his closest pals.
Many came dressed in purple, and some of the participants knocked the old quarterback around as if he were a piñata. He never broke, though, and he came bearing gifts for the minority in the crowd -- a 23-20 Steelers victory over the heavily favored Baltimore Ravens.
"I'm proud of him," said Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel. "We all knew he could do it."
Batch, playing his second straight game because of injuries to quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger and Byron Leftwich, turned around his three-interception performance in Cleveland a week earlier by stunning the Ravens. He completed 25 of 36 passes for 276 yards and led the Steelers to two fourth-quarter drives that wiped out a 20-13 Baltimore lead. He even threw a block that helped spring running back Jonathan Dwyer for a 16-yard touchdown run.
"I wanted this opportunity because I played poorly last week and I wanted the opportunity to come out here and prove it and lead this team," Batch said.
He did that.
"Charlie came in and played the game that we needed him to play today to win," said linebacker James Harrison, who lent a big assist in the victory as well. "It's not surprising to us. It may be to you, but not to us."
Harrison sacked Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco and forced him to fumble at the Ravens' 27 in the fourth quarter, giving the Steelers an opportunity to tie it.
"Flacco held onto the ball a little longer than normal and I was able to get my hand in there," Harrison said.
Batch and tight end Heath Miller made sure it counted. Batch's 7-yard pass to Miller was ruled a touchdown when the tight end, the ball in his left hand, stretched out and touched the pylon.
That tied the score, 20-20, with 7:24 to go.
Batch then maneuvered them from the 15 with 6:14 left. Twice, he was hammered by Ravens defensive linemen on that drive. Haloti Ngata legally slammed into him as he cut loose with a 15-yard pass completion to Mike Wallace. But Paul Kruger illegally knocked him to the ground after he completed a 10-yard pass to Wallace.
That 15-yard penalty after the play put the Steelers in scoring position at the Baltimore 19 and, three plays later, Shaun Suisham kicked his third field goal of the game, from 42 yards for the winner as time ran out.
It was the first loss at home for Baltimore since the Steelers beat them Dec. 5, 2010, a stretch of 15 consecutive wins.
"This was a character win for us," linebacker Larry Foote said. "The Ravens are a very special team at home."
And Baltimore still has a commanding lead in the AFC North Division with a 9-3 record, two games ahead of the Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals, who remain in the thick of the wildcard playoff hunt at 7-5. But Batch & Co. spoiled Baltimore's party at least temporarily.
"This is a missed opportunity because of what we weren't able to do," said Flacco, who played poorly, completing just 16 of 34 passes for 188 yards, a TD, an interception and that lost fumble. "The missed opportunity is the fact that we could have separated ourselves even further, and we weren't able to do it."
For a while, it looked as if they would.
After Suisham's 46-yard field goal put the Steelers in front 3-0 on their first offensive series, the Ravens ran out to leads of 13-3 in the second quarter and 20-13 in the fourth.
Mistakes had cost the Steelers heavily. Antonio Brown threw an interception and Emmanuel Sanders lost a fumble at midfield with no one around him. The Ravens scored on touchdown drives after each.
A third turnover occurred in the fourth quarter when, on first down at the Baltimore 20, Batch tried to get a pass to Miller in the back of the end zone and Ed Reed swiped it for his 61st interception.
It just did not seem to be in the cards for the Steelers, who played with three position changes in the offensive line and without cornerback Ike Taylor, whose lower leg was injured on the first series.
But they kept coming back.
"The only people that thought we could win were the people in Pittsburgh and the people in this locker room," safety Ryan Clark said. "Everyone else thought this was a done deal. Today you saw the fight this team has and the will to get it done. We're still alive, but we need some more games like this."
The Steelers had tied the game 13-13 on the first series of the second half. Batch completed a 43-yard pass over the middle to Miller to account for more than half of the 78-yard drive.
Dwyer closed it out when he took a handoff to the left side, which was clogged up. He bounced it outside and ran to the front corner of the end zone for a 16-yard touchdown. Batch threw a block on Ravens cornerback Cary Williams to clear the way.
"That was amazing," said Dwyer, who ran for 49 yards on 16 carries. "It shows you what kind of heart he has. I know I wouldn't have scored without that block, and I appreciate it."
Baltimore bounced back into the lead, however, when Ray Rice bounced outside and ran 34 yards for a touchdown late in the third quarter. It came after Sanders caught a pass and fumbled while running in the clear near midfield.
"Emmanuel really took it hard," Batch said. "he felt that if he didn't drop the ball, it's probably a 70-yard touchdown."
It was all Steelers in the fourth quarter, however, when the Ravens managed just one first down.
"Right now," Ravens safety Bernard Pollard said, "we're eating humble pie and nobody likes to do that. We have to finish. We didn't do a good job of that today."
Rookie Justin Tucker kicked two field goals in the third quarter to end consecutive drives and put the Ravens ahead 6-3. His first tied the game from 45 yards out. His second, from 23 yards, came after a 30-yard pass interference penalty against Steelers cornerback Cortez Allen at the 10.
The teams then traded interceptions over the course of three plays. Flacco escaped a Keisel sack only to throw a poor pass that Clark intercepted at the Steelers 49. Two plays later, Antonio Brown took a handoff, ran to his left, stopped and threw to his right toward Dwyer. Cornerback Corey Graham was not fooled and intercepted it.
The Ravens took over at their 31 and moved 69 yards on four plays and one key penalty to score on a 28-yard pass from Flacco to Anquan Boldin. Baltimore led 13-3.
The Steelers closed the gap on Suisham's 41-yard field goal with 32 seconds left but they would not see another lead until the very end.
"Charlie got off to a rough start," Dwyer said, "but he made some big plays in the second half and led us to a win."
First Published December 3, 2012 12:02 am