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Batch leads Steelers to last-second win at Baltimore

The SportsXchange

BALTIMORE -- Charlie Batch turns 38 on Wednesday, but the Pittsburgh Steelers' third-string quarterback looked ageless Sunday.

Batch turned in a top-notch performance to help Pittsburgh defeat the Baltimore Ravens 23-20 at M&T Bank Stadium. A week after throwing three interceptions in a loss to the Cleveland Browns, Batch completed 25 of 36 passes for 276 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Pittsburgh and Baltimore met Nov. 18, and the Steelers lost 13-10 with Byron Leftwich filling in for Ben Roethlisberger, who remains out due to a right shoulder sprain. Leftwich ended that game with two broken ribs, leaving Batch under center for the Cleveland game and Sunday's rematch with the Ravens.

"I knew going into it I had to play better, to continue to come out here and lead the offense the way I knew I could," Batch said. "For me to go out there, the receivers did a great job of getting open, the offensive line did a great job of protecting, and I was able to go out there and set my feet and have fun."

The game came down to the final play, as many Ravens-Steelers games have over the years. The Steelers' final possession began with 6:14 remaining in the fourth quarter, with Batch engineering a near-perfect, game-winning drive.

With the game tied at 20-20, Batch completed a pass to receiver Mike Wallace for 15 yards on a third-and-7 from the Pittsburgh 18. The Steelers then picked up two more first downs and were aided by a 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty on Ravens outside Paul Kruger.

The Ravens lost their last timeout when cornerback Chykie Brown suffered a lower leg injury with less than two minutes to play and was unable to get off the field. Also hurting the Ravens late in the game was the fact that they challenged an incomplete pass from Batch in the third quarter, thinking it was a fumble. After the game, Ravens coach John Harbaugh admitted throwing the challenge flag was a mistake.

With Baltimore's timeouts used up, the Steelers ran the clock down to three seconds to set up a game-winning field goal. Shaun Suisham kicked a 42-yarder down the middle to end Baltimore's 15-game, regular-season home winning streak.

The Ravens (9-3) lost out on a chance to wrap up a postseason berth. The Steelers (7-5) are tied with the Cincinnati Bengals for second place in the AFC North and for the second AFC wild card.

"We let this game go," Ravens safety Bernard Pollard said. "We're just trying to figure out how and why. Right now, we're eating humble pie, and nobody likes to do that."

Since the Ravens' bye in Week 7, Baltimore's defense had been one of the NFL's best in the previous four games, limiting opponents to an average of 14.5 points in the month of November. It looked as if it would be more of the same at the end of the first half Sunday, when the Steelers had just 93 total yards and six points.

But that's when Batch took over, finding his receiving targets over the middle for big gains. His primary target for the day was tight end Heath Miller, who finished with five catches for 97 yards and a touchdown.

"I'm just happy to get the win," Miller said. "I'm proud of the guys in the locker room for sticking together after a game like last week. I think for some teams it would be easy to start looking around and pointing fingers, but we have a tight group in here. We stuck together and we were able to get the win today."

The Ravens were in control in the first half, jumping out to a 13-3 lead with the help of a 28-yard Anquan Boldin touchdown reception. The Steelers were able to add a field goal before halftime to cut the Baltimore lead to 13-6.

On their first possession of the second half, the Steelers marched down the field tied the game with a 16-yard touchdown from Jonathan Dwyer. The Pittsburgh running back tried to find room inside before breaking a tackle and running to the left sideline. Dwyer finished with 49 yards on 16 carries.

"We figured out what was clicking for us," Dwyer said. "(Batch) got off to a rough start, but he made some big plays in the second half and led us to a win. We just felt that if we could keep the game close, we could win it in the end."

Two possessions later, the Ravens regained the lead with a 34-yard scoring scamper from running back Ray Rice, who finished with 12 carries for 78 yards.

Rice cut back to his left after noticing a huge hole. His touchdown run put Baltimore up 20-13 and briefly gave Baltimore some momentum.

From that point, Baltimore's offense stalled. The Ravens' final three drives ended in a punt, a lost fumble and a punt, respectively. After quarterback Joe Flacco was sacked by Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison and lost a fumble with 9:41 to play, Batch and the Steelers capitalized.

Beginning at the Baltimore 27, Batch got the Steelers down to the 7-yard line with a 17-yard completion to receiver Emmanuel Sanders on second down. Two plays later, Batch found Miller coming across the middle and hit him in stride. Miller took the ball and dived into the end zone, touching the football to the pylon to tie the game.

Many Ravens players felt they squandered opportunities to put Pittsburgh away after going up 20-13 in the third quarter. Defenders felt they gave up too many big plays, seeing as the middle of the field was left open the majority of the second half.

"You have to know the game is going to be like this every time," Ravens safety Ed Reed said. "You know what to expect when playing against the Steelers. We didn't play our best today."

The Ravens hope they didn't lose star outside linebacker Terrell Suggs for any significant time. Suggs injured his right arm in the fourth quarter and was unable to finish the game. His only comment to the media in reference to his injury was, "I'm all right."

Sunday's game might be the last one Batch plays, depending on whether Roethlisberger is able to start next week against the reeling San Diego Chargers at Heinz Field.

Batch said he wasn't thinking that this could be it for him as Pittsburgh's starting quarterback. He just wanted to redeem himself after his performance against Cleveland.

"I wanted this opportunity because I played poorly last week," Batch said. "And I wanted the opportunity to come out here and prove it, to lead this team."
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