Ravens protect a late lead, hold off Steelers, 26-14

Ravens protect a late lead, hold off Steelers, 26-14

Ravens

Ravens protect a late lead, hold off Steelers, 26-14

The news is not that the Ravens won a game in Pittsburgh—but rather that Big Ben and the Steelers did not storm down the field in the 4th quarter to take back the lead, which had been the usual M.O. for the Ravens defense against Pittsburgh the past few years.

The Ravens defense blanked the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second half and left Heinz Field with an impressive 26-14 victory.

The Steelers had six possessions in the second half and zero points to show for it, capped by a fourth-quarter interception by Anthony Levine that pretty much sealed the win.

The Ravens are still the only NFL team that has not allowed a second-half touchdown so far this season. The Ravens (3-1) didn’t want to talk much about their second-half defensive prowess before this game, but this performance spoke loudly.

Maybe part of the reason for the new defensive success is Joe Flacco’s rejuvenated offense is giving the D a lot more time to rest on the sidelines.

In the previous two seasons, the Ravens lost late-game leads in Pittsburgh and suffered two defeats that led to their missing the playoffs. Those memories were painful, and the defense entered this season with something to prove against the Steelers’ potent attack.

In an upbeat Ravens locker room, one of the game balls was awarded to first-year Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale, who players credited with calling a brilliant game. At the start of the week, Martindale told his unit that they were going to make the Steelers worry about what they were doing instead of the other way around.

The defense will receive more assistance this week when cornerback Jimmy Smith returns from his four-game suspension. Smith is often the cornerback assigned to the opponent’s most dangerous receiver. Once Smith joins the fray, the Ravens believe they can take their defense to another level, regardless of who leaves the starting lineup.

But for now, the Ravens will savor this win. HC John Harbaugh was asked whether Sunday’s win had any additional meaning, and he at first seemed ready to downplay it. Then he stopped himself.

“Yes. Yes, it does,” Harbaugh said. “We were here two years ago. We played our hearts out on Christmas Day and we played a very good football game and we got beat by six inches in the end. Came up here last year, played our hearts out again, put 38 points up, and left our hearts out there again on that field. It’s final, who wins and who loses the game. So in some ways, this can be the end, but it’s also the beginning in terms of where we’re going from here. So, yeah, it’s a pretty special win.”

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