The defending-champion Baltimore Ravens edged the Pittsburgh Steelers 22-20 in Thanksgiving Day NFL action, a critical victory in their bid to get back to the playoffs.
As often happens in match-ups between the two bitter rivals, Thursday night's game at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore was very physical and not decided until the final minutes.
Down 22-14, the Steelers drove nearly 80 yards but twice had touchdowns overruled by instant replay near the goal line. Finally, Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger found wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery wide open in the end zone for a score that narrowed the lead to 22-20 with just 1:03 remaining.
The Steelers had no choice but to attempt a two-point conversion, which failed when Emmanuel Sanders failed to hang on to a pass from Roethlisberger.
Pittsburgh still had a chance to get possession back with an onside kick, but the ball did not travel the required 10 yards.
Baltimore then ran out the clock to secure the much-needed win.
The Ravens (6-6) held on for the victory after taking a 10-0 lead at halftime thanks to an early touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to Torrey Smith and a second-quarter field goal by Justin Tucker.
Pittsburgh, however, rallied with three second-half touchdowns, with Roethlisberger finding Sanders for the first one in the third quarter and Le'Veon Bell rushing for the second in the fourth quarter that cut the lead to 19-14.
Four field goals by Tucker accounted for 12 of the Ravens' 22 points.
The Ravens (6-6), who edged the San Francisco 49ers to win the franchise's second Super Bowl in February, have struggled to sustain any momentum this season but now have their second two-game winning streak.
They now control their own playoff destiny as they try to secure one of two wildcard spots in the AFC, and still have an outside shot of winning the AFC North division, which the Cincinnati Bengals lead with a record of 7-4.
The Steelers, who had their three-game winning streak snapped, fell to 5-7 and now likely will have to sweep their remaining four games to have a chance of making the playoffs.
In the two other Thanksgiving Day games, the Detroit Lions routed the Green Bay Packers 40-10 and the Dallas Cowboys rallied to defeat the Oakland Raiders 31-24. EFE