Ravens' miscues costly in defeat
Forgive the Baltimore Ravens for believing they gave this game away.
Those feelings are natural when you have two touchdowns called back because of penalties; a touchdown dropped in the end zone by one of the most sure-handed receivers in the league; and have an interception returned into field-goal range in the final minute of a 23-20 loss called back because of an illegal contact penalty.
Those plays cost the Ravens as many as 18 points in their loss to the Steelers. They needed a lot fewer than that to secure an AFC wild-card berth.
The Ravens' loss enabled the Steelers, and a couple of other teams, get back into the thick of the playoff chase.
"Listen, you go out there and you fight," Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said. "You go out there and battle. You make plays, they make plays; go back and forth, you fight for it. ... That's what we do. We came up a little short."
And they really had nobody to blame but themselves.
Baltimore was called for 11 penalties for a loss of 113 yards. The Ravens had a game earlier in the season against Green Bay when they were assessed 12 penalties for 135 yards.
Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis wasn't interested in discussing some of the calls made by Pete Morelli's officiating crew.
"It's irrelevant," Lewis said. "You get tired of talking about what other men control. That is why I raise my kids the way I raise my kids, so they don't do crazy things. When men do things like that, you get tired of talking about it, so why talk about it?"
Wide receiver Kelley Washington was interested in talking about his block on Steelers defensive back Deshea Townsend that negated Willis McGahee's 32-yard touchdown run in the third quarter that would've given Baltimore a 27-20 lead.
"It was a clean block," Washington said. "The defensive back wasn't even trying to make a play. When you look at the tape, the defensive back wasn't anywhere close to the play. He was just trying to get locked up with me and he turned his back and threw his hands up, and that's why they called it."
The Ravens had another chance on a drive not long after that.
After a Ray Rice run ended the quarter, Derrick Mason dropped a 21-yard would-be touchdown pass in the back of the end zone.
Two penalties later, the Ravens had to punt the ball.
"I allowed an opportunity to slip away for my team," Mason said. "I cannot allow that to happen. It is difficult because that would've put us up, 27-20. If I catch a touchdown, penalties don't mean anything."
A few minutes before Mason's drop and Washington's penalty, it was a Terrell Suggs' block in the back on Domonique Foxworth's 46-yard interception return that cost the Ravens a touchdown. Baltimore eventually had to settle for a 35-yard Billy Cundiff field goal.
"When that was all said and done, we still had a chance to win the game," Rice said.
"When you play a football team like Pittsburgh, you can't have things like this," tight end Todd Heap said. "You can't let them get back into games. Those things hurt."
Baltimore's last-gasp effort may have hurt the most.
A Tom Zbikowski interception that he returned to the Steelers' 41 with 1:41 left was called back because of illegal contact by Frank Walker.
"The bottom line is that we lost and they won," Lewis said. "The Pittsburgh Steelers outplayed the Baltimore Ravens today. The score was 23-20. Tip your hat off to them. Bottom line."