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Old 12-14-2008, 07:21 PM   #1
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Default Steelers Get in the Last Shot Against the Ravens

December 15, 2008
Steelers 13, Ravens 9
Steelers Get in the Last Shot Against the Ravens

BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Ravens have played most of the season in the shadow of the Pittsburgh Steelers, their staggering defense ranked second behind the Steelers’, their results putting them just a game out of first place, where the Steelers had taken up residence.

When the Steelers beat the Ravens in September, the headline was not that it had taken overtime for an American Football Conference favorite to defeat at home a team with a rookie head coach and rookie quarterback. It was that the Ravens were talking about bounties placed on the heads of Steelers players. The Ravens, people figured, were a fluke this season, one that would eventually crumble.

On Sunday, with the defenses allowing little yardage and providing plenty of pain, the Ravens proved they were no accident, but the Steelers showed they might be the toughest team in the N.F.L. Scoring the game’s only touchdown with 43 seconds remaining, the Steelers came from behind to beat the Ravens 13-9 to win the A.F.C. North and grab a first-round bye in the playoffs.

The victory was the Steelers’ fifth come-from-behind win of the season and their second in a row. And with Tennessee’s loss to the Texans on Sunday, the Steelers could become the A.F.C.’s top seed if they win their remaining two games, against Tennessee next Sunday and against Cleveland in the finale. The Ravens, who were just seconds from grabbing a share of the division lead Sunday and whose final chance to win the game ended, fittingly, with a Pittsburgh interception at the goal line, are now consigned to the scrum for a wild-card spot.

Both teams will take plenty of bruises with them through the rest of the season. The Steelers and the Ravens do not just have the best defenses statistically. They have the best defenses in attitude, replete with players who delight in leveling opponents, in sending quarterbacks scrambling for safety, in making offense almost ancillary to a team.

The relentless pressure took its toll. Both quarterbacks, Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco, bounced passes in the turf. Roethlisberger fumbled deep in Ravens territory once, and the game devolved into a battle of field goals, with the Ravens holding a 9-6 lead, until the Steelers came alive with just minutes remaining. The 92-yard winning drive came down to a few precise passes by Roethlisberger and one dazzling touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes, who managed to get two feet down, with the ball in his hands, before falling out of the end zone and back toward the 1-yard line. A replay review confirmed that it was a touchdown. [B]The Steelers, who have the N.F.L.’s toughest schedule this year, had finally earned a rest, when they will need it most, on the road to the Super Bowl.[/B]
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