PITTSBURGH — About an hour after his 46-yard field goal gave the Ravens a 26-23 overtime win over the Steelers, Justin Tucker went out for a victory lap at Heinz Field.
In a gray sweatsuit, he jogged across the field, alone, in celebration of his team’s three-point win over its biggest rival.
But on another level, he might’ve given the Ravens season a second life.
Faced with the prospect of going 2-3 and falling to third in the division, the Ravens mounted a comeback and jumped, for the time being, to the top spot in the AFC North.
“We just stepped up in so many different situations and found a way to win the game,” coach John Harbaugh said. “A lot of things were going against us, lot of things did not go our way. Our guys kept their poise. Our guys didn’t get overwhelmed by the moment and found a way ultimately to win the game.”
The ways the Ravens found to win the game weren’t the preferred methods, but the got the job done anyways.
They settled for a 48-yard field goal on the final drive of the game instead of finding the end zone for the winning score. They had to force a fumble on defense in overtime instead of scoring when they got the ball first.
Instead of putting the Steelers away early after taking a 10-0 lead, the Ravens had to scratch their way to an overtime win.
“It was a hard fought game, defensive battle and there was a bunch of situations that was thrown at us, both sides of the ball,” Earl Thomas said. “But we were able to get it done when it counted. I think we need these games as a defense.”
The defense came up big late to help save the offense, aided by a Marlon Humphrey forced a fumble in overtime to set the Ravens up with prime field position for the game-winning field goal.
Despite the late heroics, it wasn't the Ravens' sharpest day.
Lamar Jackson went 19-of-28 for 161 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions and was sacked five times. The three running backs (Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill) averaged just 2.61 yards a carry on 26 attempts — the rushing game was buoyed by Jackson.
The defense allowed an undrafted free agent quarterback, who wasn’t on the Steelers’ active roster as of Sept. 15, to finish 7-of-9 for 68 yards in a little over a quarter of play. Tony Jefferson was also lost for the season with a significant knee injury.
And yet, the Ravens find themselves in an enviable position entering week six.
“I’m just so proud of our guys,” Harbaugh said. “We’re young, but we’re figuring it out. We just need to keep getting better. We need to keep improving. It’s still early in the season and we can become a lot better in terms of doing the things that we need to do”
After back-to-back losses, the Ravens are now 3-2 with the 0-5 Cincinnati Bengals up next. Then the Ravens will head to Seattle, then have a bye week before a home game against the Patriots on Sunday night. They'll head to Cincinnati to cap their next quarter of the schedule.
With a winless team accounting for two of the team’s next four games, it would be a disappointment for the Ravens if they don't have a winning record in November.
If the Ravens had lost to the Steelers, however, they’d be third in the division with little room for error down the stretch. Now, at least for a while, there’s breathing room.
“Now we can right the ship,” Matthew Judon said. “We’re above .500 right now, we’ve got to play better football throughout the year. One game isn’t going to propel us into the playoffs, but this is a stepping stone for us and we’ve got to use it as such.”
The rest of the way won’t be easy, especially without Jefferson and two of the NFL’s best teams on the schedule in the coming weeks.
But 3-2 is a heck of a lot better than the alternative the Ravens were faced with as time wound down in Pittsburgh.
And if it weren’t for a fumble and some clutch field goals, time is exactly what the Ravens would have ran out of.
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