Ravens edge Steelers in OT
By DAVID GINSBURG, AP Sports Writer
BALTIMORE (AP) In a fierce rivalry that has featured several of the most notable NFL players over the past 10 years, a couple of backups made their mark in memorable fashion.
Add third-string quarterback Dennis Dixon to a list of notable Pittsburgh Steelers that includes Hines Ward, Ben Roethlisberger, Plaxico Burress and Troy Polamalu.
Paul Kruger, welcome to a club that includes Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Tony Siragusa and Shannon Sharpe.
Kruger intercepted a Dixon pass to set up a 29-yard field goal by Billy Cundiff with 6:42 left in overtime, and the Baltimore Ravens outlasted the Steelers 20-17 on Sunday night.
Dixon started because Roethlisberger was sidelined with a concussion and backup Charlie Batch had a broken left wrist. Dixon had thrown only one pass in two seasons before getting the nod against the Ravens.
For much of the game, Dixon did his best impersonation of Roethlisberger. He threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes, and even added a personal touch, running for a 24-yard touchdown to put Pittsburgh up 17-14 in the fourth quarter.
"I like his demeanor throughout it all. He made some plays," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "I thought he represented himself relatively well."
But in overtime, Dixon's lone turnover propelled the Ravens (6-5) to a much-needed win.
"This is a confidence booster. Not only against a great team with a great legacy, but a division opponent," said Ravens running back Ray Rice, who rallied Baltimore in overtime. "It sets us up for a five-game season right now."
The Steelers (6-5) have lost three straight, their longest skid since a three-game run in 2006.
"We will not go gently," Tomlin said. "We won't go in a shell. We're going to go into attack mode, because that's what's required."
Playing in place of injured linebacker Terrell Suggs, Kruger picked off the pass and returned it 26 yards to the Pittsburgh 28, and six plays later Cundiff delivered the game-winner in Baltimore's first overtime win since November 2005 (against the Steelers).
"To be a part of that victory is huge for me," said Kruger, a rookie playing in only his fourth game. "It was a designed blitz. I was the dropper. I just happened to be at the right place at the right time."
Dixon said, "It was a situation where they were disguising the blitz throughout the whole game. We saw it. I basically tried to trust my instincts. The guy made a good play."
Pittsburgh's past two defeats have come in overtime. Dixon went 12 for 26 for 145 yards, and Rashard Mendenhall gained 95 yards on 24 carries.
"Please don't talk to me about moral victories and things of that nature," Tomlin said.
Joe Flacco completed 23 of 35 passes for 289 yards and a touchdown to keep Baltimore in the thick of the playoff hunt.
"You have to be ready to play 60 minutes. Today we played more than that," Flacco said. "It feels good. It's what we needed. Against these guys, it's even bigger."
With Roethlisberger in full uniform looking on from the sideline as the third quarterback, Dixon ran around the right end for a touchdown on a third-and-5 from the Baltimore 24 to give the Steelers their first lead, 17-14, with 6:24 left.
But the Ravens came back. Facing a fourth-and-5 from his own 46, Flacco completed a 44-yard pass to Rice to set up a 24-yard field goal by Cundiff with 1:51 to go.
Cundiff came up short on a 56-yard try on the final play of regulation.
Pittsburgh closed to 14-10 in the third quarter when Jeff Reed kicked a 44-yard field goal to end a 24-yard drive that featured a 20-yard pass from Dixon to Mendenhall.
The Ravens went up 14-7 with an 89-yard drive late in the second quarter. Flacco completed passes of 11 and 54 yards to Mark Clayton before connecting with Derrick Mason for a 10-yard score.
Baltimore nearly picked off Dixon's first pass and forced a punt on Pittsburgh's first possession. Willis McGahee then capped a 73-yard drive with a 2-yard run, the Ravens' first touchdown on offense before halftime since Oct. 4.
On Pittsburgh's second drive, Dixon had an impromptu 31-yard run wiped out by holding. But there were no flaws the next time he got the ball: Dixon was 3 for 3 for 60 yards, including a touchdown pass to Holmes.