Terrell Suggs didn’t want to hear about how the Ravens were still right in the thick of the AFC North race or about how they still had nine games remaining and a bye week to make much-needed corrections.
After watching the defense he leads let Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger drive down the field in the final two minutes and set up Shaun Suisham’s 42-yard field goal as time expired, Suggs wasn’t in the mood to mince words.
He used the words “sick” and “disgusting” to describe Sunday’s 19-16 loss the Steelers before an announced 62,295 at Heinz Field and he acknowledged that he’s very concerned with what has become of the Ravens’ 2013 season.
“We know what we have to fix — special teams, offensively, defensively,” Suggs said. “We have a state of emergency now. We can’t let [any] more of these games go by. We have to have these games.”
The Ravens trudged out of Heinz Field and into the bye week at 3-4, the latest that they’ve had a losing record in coach John Harbaugh’s six-season tenure. It also represents the first time a defending Super Bowl champion has had a losing record through seven games since the 2006 Steelers.
Their third loss in four games dropped the Ravens two games back of the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC North and only one game ahead of the last-place Steelers (2-4).
“I still have a lot of confidence,” Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said. “It’s going to be a dog fight just like it always is in this division. Cincinnati won today and they probably have a little bit of a stronghold on it right now, but we haven’t played them yet. We still have a lot of games to go.”
After struggling to finish off drives for the first 3 1/2 quarters, Flacco finally got his team in the end zone, hitting tight end Dallas Clark for a 1-yard touchdown that tied the game at 16 with 1 minute, 58 seconds to play. The scoring drive was 16 plays and covered 83 yards in just over eight minutes, but it didn’t keep Roethlisberger off the field long enough.
The trouble started when kicker Justin Tucker was unable to get a touchback despite kicking off from the 40 because of a Steelers’ penalty. Emmanuel Sanders scooped up a bouncing ball, benefited from the Ravens losing containment on the outside, and stepped out at the Steelers’ 37, giving Pittsburgh great field position and a 1:45 on the clock.
An illegal contact penalty on Lardarius Webb, two Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown completions — one for 13 yards and the other for 11 — set up Suisham for the game winner. He drilled it, improving to 4-for-4 for the game and 14-for-14 on the season.
“That was exciting,” said Roethlisberger, who finished the game 17-of-23 for 160 yards and a touchdown on a 3-yard shovel pass to tight end Heath Miller that started the scoring. “To get the ball tied with two timeouts, you just have confidence. I told the line and I told the guys, ‘let’s go win it,’ and we did.”
For the Ravens, they did just enough to lose, falling in similar fashion as they did in their previous defeat, a 19-17 loss to the Green Bay Packers. In that game, the Ravens fell behind early, didn’t get going offensively until they were significantly behind and then couldn’t get a late defensive stop to give their offense the ball back.
“Every time I line up, I expect to win,” Suggs said. “There’s no doubt about it. Like I said, they just made one more play on us. This is sick, this is disgusting. We dropped two and we pretty much dropped them the same way. It’s time for all of us to take a good look at ourselves.”
When they do — and that will occur immediately without a game until Nov. 3 against the Cleveland Browns — the Ravens will see some common themes. They are committing too many penalties as they added nine more for 67 yards to their resume. Strong-side linebacker Elvis Dumervil was flagged for two 15-yard penalties on one possession, prolonging the Steelers’ drive long enough for Suisham to kick a 28-yard field goal that gave the home team a 13-6 lead late in the third quarter.
For the third time in the past four games, they struggled to stop the run, allowing the Steelers to gain 141 rushing yards on 29 carries. Rookie Le’Veon Bell had 93 of those yards and consistently allowed the Steelers to keep possession and benefit from third-and-short yardage situations.
Despite making some adjustments this week with the blocking schemes, the Ravens still didn’t gain much traction with their own running game, rushing for 82 yards on 26 carries. Ray Rice showed nice burst at times but he finished with just 45 yards on 15 carries and four catches for 27 yards.
They were able to move the ball offensively, but they again struggled to finish drives and that loomed large with the Steelers limiting the Ravens to just three drives in the second half. The Ravens advanced inside the Steelers’ 30 on four of their seven drives and didn’t have any turnovers. However, they scored just one touchdown, settling for Justin Tucker field goals of 46, 38 and 32 yards.
“I don’t think we struggled to get going,” Flacco said. “We just struggled to put the ball in the end zone. We are playing against a good football team and our possessions were limited. You can’t do that. You have to be more efficient.”
There was also a questionable coaching decision by Harbaugh for the third straight week. After Tucker’s 32-yarder pulled the Ravens within 13-9 at the 13:04 mark of the fourth quarter, Harbaugh called for an onside kick. The play didn’t come close to working as Tucker touched the ball before the requisite 10 yards, another Raven jumped offside and Steelers linebacker Vince Williams recovered the ball anyway.
“The idea there was to grab another possession,” Harbaugh said. “They had some long drives and we were struggling to get possessions and get our offense on the field. We would have needed a touchdown either way to tie or to win the game. It felt like we steal a possession there and go down and win the game.”
Instead, the Steelers turned the good field position into a Suisham 38-yard field goal and a 16-9 lead. As it turned out, the Ravens did get the touchdown to tie the game with Flacco going 9-of-10 for 60 yards on the touchdown drive, including finding Dallas Clark in the back of the end zone.
But Suisham had one more chance as well, and as the ball sailed through the uprights, the Ravens were officially a losing football team and their most outspoken player wasn’t hiding from that reality.
“I’m very concerned,” Suggs said. “It’s been very rare with this franchise that we’ve been under .500. This happened at a perfect time for us to address everything. We can’t kid ourselves anymore. We’ve got a tremendous amount of work to do.”