This was an embarrassing loss to an ancient QB

Ravens should beat any team that's playing its third-stringer

The Ravens were fortunate that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger didn't play Sunday because the score might have been worse.

Much worse.

In the past couple of weeks, the Ravens had the football gods smiling down on them, but Sunday they were beaten by a quarterback older than Moses.

Some say Charlie Batch was playing in the NFL when there were no facemasks on helmets. There is speculation he has filed for Medicare and Social Security. But Batch, 37, outperformed his much younger and sometimes more talented counterpart Joe Flacco as Pittsburgh upset the Ravens, 23-20, before 71,442 at M&T Bank Stadium.

This was embarrassing. The Ravens lost to a No. 3 quarterback with a 15-year completion percentage of 56.3 and a 76.7 quarterback rating.

A week ago, Batch showed his age as the Steelers fell to Cleveland, 20-14. He completed 20 of 34 passes for 199 yards, but he had three passes intercepted as Pittsburgh finished with eight turnovers.

That was Batch's first start since December 2011and he had a ton of rust as Steelers coach Mike Tomlin seldom let him throw downfield. But with Roethlisberger on the sideline for a third straight week Sunday, Batch made his second-straight start and took apart a Ravens defense that had shown gradual improvement during recent weeks.

Batch completed 25 of 36 passes for 276 yards and one touchdown. He finished with a quarterback rating of 89.6 and carved up the Ravens' secondary in the second half by completing 16 of 20 passes for 219 yards.

Imagine what Roethlisberger might have done. Imagine what Robert Griffin III, Peyton and Eli Manning might do if the Ravens don't get this thing fixed.

"I thought we had some errors," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said of the team's poor secondary play. "A couple of their guys got open on us, over routes and things like that. A couple of man coverage plays they got loose on us. They did a good job of faking a screen one time. Twice, they showed screen looks and then released a guy up field. We overreacted to the screen a little bit. That's what happened on those plays."

At least Harbaugh had a clue, but some of his defensive backs didn't. The Ravens just didn't get beat numerous times over the middle, they were beaten so badly they didn't appear in the TV picture when the Steelers caught passes.

Tight end Heath Miller had a 43-yard reception and another one for 21 yards. Receiver Antonio Brown had one for 34 yards. Pittsburgh took turns making catches over the middle.

Where were the Ravens? They made Batch looked like John Unitas.

"I don't know what to tell you," cornerback Corey Graham said. "Those guys made plays. We just have to find a way to get it done. We have to find ways to get pressure and find a way to get it done regardless of how long the DBs are in coverage. He [Charlie Batch] has been in the league a long time and been able to get some things done. He didn't surprise us."

Oh yes he did.

He surprised the Ravens because they couldn't get a lot of pressure on Batch in the second half. There were times when Batch had enough time to knit a sweater.

And without any pressure, the Ravens couldn't hold a seven-point lead going into the fourth quarter. After the game, the Ravens couldn't point any fingers because it was a total defensive collapse.

Graham and fellow cornerback Chykie Brown appeared lost in coverages, especially when the Ravens were in zone, and safety Ed Reed looks more like a traffic cop than the last line of defense as far as giving up big plays.

"I think every game I go out there I look at it that way," Batch said about having a sense of urgency. "I think a lot of people start to look at it and make it out to be more than what it was. I just look at it, that you take it one game at a time. I wanted this opportunity because I played poorly last week and I wanted the opportunity to come out here and prove and lead this team."

Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said: "They did a great job of mixing up some screens and keeping us honest. I think we just didn't do a great job of pressuring him as much and we just need to do a better job of that."

The Ravens appeared to be pulling out some of the old magic of recent weeks when Batch overthrew receiver Mike Wallace wide open in the end zone in the first half, and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders fumbled the ball after a 21-yard reception over the middle midway in the third quarter.

But Batch was just getting heated up. He completed some hitch passes and short square-ins. And then he kept beating the Ravens over the middle.

He was much better than Flacco, who completed just 16 of 34 passed for 188 yards and never gained any rhythm. Flacco played at home like he has played on the road this season.

And if he wants a big-time contract, shouldn't he have big-time performances in big games? Harbaugh didn't help by blowing a timeout in the second half that cost the Ravens late in the game. Paul Kruger had an unnecessary roughness penalty that pretty much set up the game-winning field goal.

But the outcome shouldn't have reached the fourth quarter. The Ravens got beat by Batch and he came within a couple of catches of blowing the Ravens out.

It was a good thing that Roethlisberger didn't play.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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