Ravens gamble and lose to Steelers, 20-19

Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh said injuries affected his decision to go for a potential game-winning 2-point conversion Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers, instead of settling for a tying point-after kick.

With 12 seconds remaining in regulation, Lamar Jackson‘s pass on the 2-point conversion went off the outstretched left hand of tight end Mark Andrews as the Ravens fell to the Steelers 20-19.

Asked why he went for two instead of the PAT to force overtime, Harbaugh said: “[We’re] trying to win the game right there. We were pretty much out of corners at that point in time. It was an opportunity to try to win the game right there.”

Ravens Pro Bowl cornerback Marlon Humphrey grabbed his left shoulder when trying to tackle Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson on Pittsburgh’s go-ahead, 5-yard TD with 1:48 to play. The Ravens fear Humphrey suffered a season-ending injury on the play, a source told ESPN, confirming a report by NFL Network.

Harbaugh said Humphrey will undergo an MRI and declined to specify the injury.

The analytics slightly favored Baltimore going for two points (47.1%) over the kick (46.5%), according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

Jackson backed Harbaugh’s decision.

“I want to win,” Jackson said. “I didn’t want to go to overtime anyway.”

With the Ravens trailing 20-13, Jackson capped a 60-yard drive by hitting Sammy Watkins for a 6-yard touchdown. Then, on the 2-point conversion, Andrews was uncovered in the right flat but Jackson had to step up and adjust his throw because Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt was in his face.

Jackson is now 3-of-10 on 2-point conversions in his career (either rushing or passing). That’s the second-worst conversion rate in the past 20 seasons among 40 players with 10-plus 2-point conversion attempts, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

“T.J. Watt’s got range. He’s a long guy,” Jackson said. “I had to throw around him and try to make something happen. That’s all. Just came up short.”

Andrews accepted the blame for the failed conversion.

“[It] was a good play call,” Andrews said. “I came wide open. Lamar threw a great ball; I just didn’t make the play.”

In the past three seasons, teams are 3-for-8 (37.5%) on 2-point conversion attempts when down by one point in the fourth quarter. They are 10-of-23 (43.4%) in these situations since 2000.

Harbaugh was pleased with the play call, not the execution.

“It was a game of inches,” Harbaugh said. “You saw the Al Pacino speech in ‘Any Given Sunday.’ There you go. That’s football. It’s just that close.”

This marked the fourth time in five meetings that a Ravens-Steelers game was decided by five points or less.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin wasn’t surprised by the Ravens going for the win.

“They aggressively play analytics,” Tomlin said. “From that standpoint, they’re predictable.”

Baltimore allowed Pittsburgh to score on all three of its fourth-quarter drives and then lost its top corner in Humphrey. Entering Sunday’s game, the Ravens were already dealing with injuries at cornerback, with all their active ones — Anthony Averett (shoulder/ankle), Tavon Young (illness), Jimmy Smith (neck/ankle) — missing at least one practice last week.

The Baltimore secondary has already dealt with season-ending injuries to two starters in the secondary: cornerback Marcus Peters (knee) and safety DeShon Elliott (torn biceps/pectoral muscles).

“We’ve got a lot of injuries, so we’ve been dealing with stress all season, and we’ve still been able to overcome it,” Ravens nose tackle Brandon Williams said. “So, that’s what we plan on doing. It’s a ‘Next Man Up’ mentality, so the show must go on.”

Despite the loss, the Ravens (8-4) still lead the AFC North by one game. Baltimore next plays at the Cleveland Browns (6-6), who are coming off a bye.

Ben Roethlisberger threw his second fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Diontae Johnson, and the ensuing 2-point conversion to Pat Freiermuth gave Pittsburgh a 20-13 lead with less than two minutes remaining.

But Jackson and the Ravens (8-4) weren’t finished.

Jackson overcame a false start and a sack during the Ravens’ eight-play, 60-yard scoring drive. Jackson also converted a pair of third downs, including a third-and-14 and a third-and-5, which resulted in a 6-yard touchdown grab by Sammy Watkins.

But rather than turn to star kicker Justin Tucker for an almost automatic 35-yard extra point, the Ravens went for the knockout punch.

“I was in the moment,” Jackson said. “We just scored. I was cool with it. I wanted to win. I didn’t want to go to overtime anyways.”

The Steelers, as they did throughout the day, brought pressure during the 2-point conversion attempt. Star linebacker T.J. Watt hurried Jackson’s throw to an open Andrews, and the ball went off the tight end’s fingertips in the flat and bounced away.

“T.J. Watt’s got range,” Jackson said. “He’s a long guy. I had to throw around him and try to make something happen. That’s all. Just came up short.”

Jackson was sacked seven times. Watt had a career-high 3 1/2 sacks and Chris Wormley, who was acquired in a March 2020 trade with Baltimore, finished with 2 1/2 sacks.

“Seven sacks is too many,” Harbaugh said. “It’s way too many. That’s on us as a coaching staff to get that cleaned up.”

It was the third game in series history between the Ravens and Steelers decided by one point. The Steelers have won all three of those games — all started by Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger threw for 236 yards and engineered his 39th fourth-quarter comeback, but it took a last-second defensive stand on a 2-point play to help Pittsburgh (6-5-1) end a three-game winless streak.

“You saw the play,” Harbaugh said. “It’s a game of inches. That’s football. It’s just that close.”

Baltimore visits Cleveland for another key division game on Sunday. The Ravens, who lead the AFC North, beat Cleveland 16-10 on Nov. 28.

Jackson passed for 253 yards with a touchdown and a first-quarter interception. The Ravens held a massive edge through three quarters in total yards and time of possession, which included a 10-minute, 99-yard scoring drive, but they only had a 10-3 lead to show for it.

That allowed Roethlisberger and the Steelers to rally in the fourth.

A wide-open Johnson caught a 29-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter, but Tucker’s 28-yard field goal on the ensuing possession made it a 13-9 game. Boswell answered with a 43-yard field goal, before Roethlisberger’s second touchdown pass to Johnson put Pittsburgh in front late in the game.

Jackson put Baltimore in position for overtime. Harbaugh and the Ravens wanted the win, and they ultimately fell short.

“Honestly, if we would’ve converted the 2-point conversion, we would’ve been having a different conversation right now,” linebacker Josh Bynes said. “We’d be talking about how we found a way to win. At the end of the day, they found a way to make one play and we didn’t. That’s what it came down to. They made one extra play. They got one extra point than us and they came out victorious.”

1st Downs 22 17
Passing 1st downs 12 11
Rushing 1st downs 7 4
1st downs from penalties 3 2
3rd down efficiency 8-16 5-12
4th down efficiency 0-0 0-0
Total Plays 69 57
Total Yards 326 321
Total Drives 10 10
Yards per Play 4.7 5.6
Passing 219 236
Comp-Att 23-37 21-31
Yards per pass 5.0 7.4
Interceptions thrown 1 0
Sacks-Yards Lost 7-34 1-0
Rushing 107 85
Rushing Attempts 25 25
Yards per rush 4.3 3.4
Red Zone (Made-Att) 2-5 1-1
Penalties 10-55 5-81
Turnovers 1 0
Fumbles lost 0 0
Interceptions thrown 1 0
Defensive / Special Teams TDs 0 0
Possession 36:30 23:30