Steelers Notebook: Potential touchdowns negated for Ravens
Baltimore defensive back Domonique Foxworth intercepts a pass intended for Steelers wide receiver Santonio Holmes during the Steelers' 23-20 win yesterday at Heinz Field. Foxworth scored a touchdown on the play but it was nullified due to a penalty.
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Three times in the game's final 24 minutes, separate Baltimore Ravens were in the end zone with a football in their hands or en route. There was Domonique Foxworth on an interception return for an apparent touchdown. There was Willis McGahee on a sweep for another apparent touchdown. There was Derrick Mason for a wide-open, potential touchdown catch in the corner.
Two penalties and one drop later, and the Ravens wound up with a field goal, nothing and nothing. Talk about Steelers luck.
"We hadn't been getting some of those this year," cornerback-safety Deshea Townsend said after a 23-20 Steelers victory yesterday. "We hadn't been getting too many tipped balls for interceptions, sacks for fumbles. That's really what we hadn't been getting to this point ..., some of the breaks. That's how the ball bounces. Fortunately, it bounced our way."
"Man, we need a break or two, don't we?" Steelers coach Mike Tomlin asked. "We've had our share of the opposite."
The Ravens, who began the game as the second-most penalized team in the NFL (67 yards per game), were called for 11 infractions for 113 yards -- their second most this season, with seven for 80 coming in the second half. Everything seemed to go wrong for them, all in just 21 snaps' time.
An illegal block above the waist on Terrell Suggs shortened a 46-yard, Foxworth touchdown return. Holding on receiver Kelley Washington shortened a 32-yard, McGahee touchdown romp. Mason's drop came on the opening snap of the fourth quarter, on a play where his double move left behind Townsend starting in place of Willie Gay: "It's one that I got to have, point blank."
"I don't think it was a lack of discipline," Mason added of the flags on Baltimore. "Penalties are going to get called. It's up to the refs' determination whether they're going to call a penalty. I mean, you could call penalties on both teams all day, if you want to. The penalties [yesterday] were lopsided, so ... .We can't do anything about it. If I catch a touchdown, penalties don't mean anything."
"Missed opportunity is the moral of this story," Foxworth said.
Added Steelers defensive end Nick Eason: "The penalties can kill you, man. We've been the team where penalties killed our drives, or we did something to hurt ourselves. Better them than us."
Five times this season, the Steelers have allowed double-digit points to their opponents in the final quarter. Three times, they graciously permitted 20-plus points -- including two of the previous three games. Yesterday, they pitched a shutout ... for only the fourth time this season (besides Cleveland twice and Denver).
After Mason's drop on the quarter's opening play and two penalties on the next play followed by a personal foul one play later, the Ravens found themselves back-pedaling from the Steelers' 21 to the 41, out of field-goal range. They got as close as the Steelers' 35 with 2 1/2 minutes left, but former Pitt backup quarterback Joe Flacco was sacked back to back by LaMarr Woodley, the second ending in a game-sealing turnover.
"Pretty much all the games we lost, we gave up fourth-quarter touchdowns," Woodley said of a team that blew fourth-quarter leads in six of its seven losses. "Playing the game we played says a lot. 'Cause we didn't give up a point in the fourth quarter."
"We didn't need the offense to bail us out," said Townsend, who finished third on the team with seven tackles replacing Gay, who had three in nickel packages and later playing cornerback when Townsend moved to safety to replace Tyrone Carter. "It's time for us to start doing that. That's what we're used to doing [before this season]. You saw some of that today."
"That's big, that's big," continued linebacker James Farrior. "Our defense has been struggling."
Rashard Mendenhall, on his 5-yard touchdown run, became the seventh Steelers back to top 1,000 yards. He has 1,014. "That's cool," he said.
Ben Roethlisberger became the first Steelers quarterback to surpass 4,000 yards passing. He has 4,108.
They joined Hines Ward (1,106) and Santonio Holmes (1,243) as the first offense in team history to have a 4,000-yard quarterback, a 1,000-yard running back and two 1,000-yard receivers. The closest was the 2001 club, with Kordell Stewart throwing for 3,000-plus yards and Jerome Bettis the back joining receivers Ward and Plaxico Burress for 1,000 apiece. Opined Ward, who left the offense in most formations late in the game due to his tightening hamstring ("I'm playing until I bust it"): Such records are things "to look back on, reflect on [later]. But just 'cause we have all that doesn't bring championships. Hopefully, we can go out there and put up some more points [in Miami]."
The 64,068 in attendance yesterday gave the Steelers 507,882 for the year, some 448 more patrons than their previous single-season high.
Stefan Logan established a Steelers single-season record for kickoff-return yardage with 1,383, surpassing Ernie Mills' 1,306 in 1995. "I didn't really know any of the Steelers records," he said. He also had a 49-yard run-back in the first quarter, his third longest of the season, and tripped in the fourth in the open field on a 17-yard return. "Oh my goodness. I'm still asking for that one back. It was right there."
"I'm just day by day right now," said Ward, who planned to spend considerable time in his hyperbaric chamber this week.
As for defensive end Brett Keisel, who took a hit aggravating the same stinger that caused him to miss practice Wednesday this past week. Expect more missed, or at least limited, practice time for him.
"The strength just didn't come back," said Keisel, who left early in the third quarter. The doctors "made the right decision."
With Brett "The Diesel" Keisel in the garage, wearing a cape along the sideline, rookie first-rounder Ziggy Hood got extensive playing time, and delivered on it. He recorded his inaugural NFL sack on a third-and-9 play with 9 1/2 minutes remaining. Then, on the next series with 2 1/2 minutes left, on a desperate fourth-and-10 at the Steelers' 38, Woodley sacked Flacco, and the fumble flew into the open arms of Hood. Now he has as many takeaways this season as all Steelers cornerbacks combined: one.
"I'll take it no matter what it was," said Hood, who initially thought it was ruled an interception.
Baltimore's Ray Rice became the first opponent to rush for more than 100 yards against the Steelers in 36 consecutive games, regular and postseason, since Jacksonville's Fred Taylor had 147 yards in a 29-22 victory in Heinz Field Dec. 16, 2007. Rice came close to Taylor's numbers with 141 yards on 30 carries.
"They're a tough team with a stout defense," Rice said. "And a game like this, this is what Steelers-Ravens is all about. It's a rivalry for the ages.
"And, after all that happened, when it was all said and done, we had a chance to win the game."
First Published December 28, 2009 12:00 am