First drive pizazz leads to end zone
The Ravens' Jacoby Jones runs into the end zone on a punt return in the first quarter Sunday at Heinz Field.
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The Steelers gave up just 200 yards and did not allow the Baltimore offense in the end zone. They allowed two field goals, the first of which was set up by a turnover when wide receiver Mike Wallace fumbled at the Steelers 29.
It was an effort one might expect from the No. 1 defense in the NFL. But two of the more prominent members of that defense lamented the unit's inability to create turnovers and shouldered some of the blame for a 13-10 loss that let the Ravens go up two games in the AFC North Division with six games remaining.
"We had to find a way to make a play on defense," safety Ryan Clark said. "We never found a way to force a fumble or get an interception."
Clark absolved cornerbacks Keenan Lewis and Ike Taylor of any blame. He said he has not seen two cornerbacks play to their level in the time he has been with the team. He said it was on the safeties and linebackers to make plays, and they could not come up with one.
"We need to make a play -- a statement play to change the game -- and we didn't do that," Clark said.
Linebacker Larry Foote agreed.
"This was the type of game where you needed turnovers," Foote said. "Their defense got two and we didn't get any."
Wallace was held to 26 yards receiving and had a crucial turnover that led to the first three points of the game for the Ravens. In the third quarter he had a chance to make the go-ahead touchdown grab, but he could only get one foot inbounds after reeling in a Byron Leftwich pass in the corner of the end zone.
"I didn't have time to look to see where I was," Wallace said. "I couldn't feel where I was."
Wallace did draw a 42-yard pass interference penalty on the first play of the game, which helped set up the Steelers' only touchdown. But it was the only time Leftwich threw a deep pass in the game.
Four Steelers sustained injuries in the game. Running back Isaac Redman left the game with a concussion in the first quarter and did not return. Defensive end Ziggy Hood left with a back injury and did not return. Running back Baron Batch left with a left foot injury. Safety Will Allen sustained a shoulder injury. Allen left in the first quarter and returned to finish the game.
When cornerback Corey Graham signed with Ravens this offseason after five seasons with the Chicago Bears, he saw himself in the very role he played Sunday night in Baltimore's win.
Graham was inserted as a starter when Ravens cornerback Jimmie Smith had surgery for a sports hernia last week. And his interception in the third quarter was a difference in the Ravens win.
"Leftwich stared at the guy [Emmanuel Sanders] a bit, and I was able to see the route," Graham said. "I guess I was in the right place at the right time."
That place Graham referred to was on the Steelers first possession of the third quarter when they were driving in Ravens territory. On a third-and-8 from the Baltimore 38, Sanders ran an out route and Graham stepped in front of Leftwich's pass at the 18 and returned it 20 yards. The Ravens got a 39-yard field goal from Justin Tucker to build a 13-7 lead.
"He really came up big," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said of Graham. "All the defensive backs played really well."
Tucker, a rookie, missed a 41-yard field goal into the open end of Heinz Field early in the second quarter. Tucker had made 14 of his first 15 attempts to start the season, with the previous miss coming from 51 yards. He later redeemed himself by kicking a 39-yarder into the open end of the field midway through the third quarter to give the Ravens a 13-7 lead.
Center Maurkice Pouncey replaced quarterback Ben Roethlisberger as the offensive captain at the pregame coin toss. Brett Keisel represented the defense and Cortez Allen the special teams.
The Steelers deactivated Roethlisberger, defensive backs DeMarcus Van Dyke and Troy Polamalu, linebackers Stevenson Sylvester and Adrian Robinson, offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert and wide receiver Antonio Brown. The Ravens deactivated defensive backs Smith and Asa Jackson, defensive tackle Terrence Cody, offensive linemen Bobbie Williams and Ramon Harewood, wide receiver Deonte Thompson and defensive end Pernell McPhee.
First Published November 19, 2012 12:39 am