The Ravens are, in fact, beatable at M&T Bank Stadium. Over the past two years, the Ravens had protected their house like Kevin McAllister. No, they didn't use tripwires and other booby traps like the little kid in "Home Alone" and NFL teams are much more formidable than the Wet Bandits. They relied on efficient offense, opportunistic defense and 71,000 or so fans who don't mind going to work hoarse on Monday morning. The Ravens had won 16 straight games at home, including their playoff win over the Houston Texans a year ago, and they had outscored their opponents by an average of 12.2 points. They were so dominant there, it seemed like home wins were a formality. I'm sure a decent chunk of those 71,000 lunatics I just mentioned assumed they would be watching a Ravens victory on Sunday night. After all, the Pittsburgh Steelers came into the game looking like Ben Roethlisberger, their injured star quarterback: down, out and not looking very pretty. But as is usually the case on the road and not in their own building, the Ravens offense wasn't there for a full four quarters and couldn't play keep-away with the football long enough for time to expire. The defense, which was the NFL's stingiest in the month of November, couldn't bail the offense out after a fumble by Joe Flacco and couldn't stop their glacial game-winning drive, one that took the final 6:14 off the clock and put the proverbial celebratory champagne back in the wine cellar at M&T Bank Stadium. Yes, Charlie Batch, who turns 38 in a couple of days and looked more like he was 58 in Pittsburgh's loss to the Cleveland Browns last weekend, completed nearly 70 of his passes while throwing for 276 yards, his highest passing total since 2001, his Detroit Lions days. He methodically dinked them and dunked them down the field at the end of the game -- Paul Kruger's roughing the passer penalty helped him do it -- and the Steelers sent the stunned crowd quietly to their cars with a 42-yard field goal by Shaun Suisham. The home streak was bound to be snapped eventually, and given the nature of this rivalry, it shouldn't be that surprising that the Steelers, the last team to beat the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium way back on Dec. 5, 2010, were the ones to do it, even though they didn't have Roethlisberger under center. The streak is now gone, but we'll see if the team's aura of invincibility went along with it. Whether the Ravens ran their opponent out of the building in the first half or needed a late scoring drive to secure a win, it always felt like the Ravens were going to find a way to win, including for the first 54 minutes of Sunday's 23-20 loss to the Steelers. But losses happen, and now would be a good time for the Ravens to start a new streak. The AFC North is still up for grabs, as are the two first-round playoff byes. But the Manning boys, leading the defending champion New York Giants and the dangerous Denver Broncos, respectively, come to town later this month. Those aren't exactly the Wet Bandits or the Sticky Bandits.
Baltimore Sun photo by Gene Sweeney Jr.