BALTIMORE — For all of their shortcomings this season, the Baltimore Ravens are right in the middle of the playoff hunt.
Even better, the defending Super Bowl champions created some separation between themselves and the hated Steelers by defeating Pittsburgh 22-20 on Thursday night.
The victory provided the Ravens (6-6) with their first winning streak since September and proved that they are indeed capable of winning a close one. Prior to this game, Baltimore had lost five games decided by six points or fewer.
“What have we lost, five games by the narrowest of margins?” coach John Harbaugh said. “Those are the games that we need to find a way to win. I feel like we’re getting there. I feel like we’re a really good football team.”
Although the Ravens haven’t been able to generate a running game this season, are 1-5 on the road and have struggled to get into the end zone, they’re still in the hunt for the AFC North crown and at worst, a wild-card berth.
“This puts us back in the picture,” said Ray Rice, who was held to 32 yards on 12 carries.
Pittsburgh (5-7) had won three straight to move into a six-way tie with Baltimore for the second wild-card spot in the AFC. Now the Steelers trail the Ravens and know there is little margin for error over the final four weeks.
“We’ve got to get back to it,” cornerback Ike Taylor said. “The season isn’t over with. There’s no time to pout or whine.”
Here are three oddities about the Steelers-Ravens game:
ODDITY NO. 1: Pittsburgh’s Shaun Suisham was ready to kick the ball several seconds before holder Mat McBriar put it down on what was supposed to be a 50-yard field goal attempt in the second quarter.
Suisham made his approach and pretty much stood there. McBriar handed to ball to Suisham, who was dumped for a 12-yard loss. It was a key moment, giving the Ravens good field position for a drive that they turned into a field goal for a 10-0 lead.
“We were doing it on a cadence to slow down their rush,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said. “And the crowd noise — I don’t think that Shaun Suisham heard the cadence. I think he started to the ball early.”
ODDITY NO. 2: Jacoby Jones appeared to be on his way to a 100-yard touchdown kickoff runback in the third quarter — until Tomlin got in his way. The coach strayed onto the edge of field, causing the Ravens returner to slightly alter course. Cortez Allen might have caught Jones anyway, but his task was easier because of his coach. No flag was thrown on the play.
“I always watch the returns on the Jumbotron; it provides a better perspective for me,” Tomlin explained. “Obviously I lost my placement as he broke free, and I saw it at the last second, saw how close I was to the field of play.”
Asked if he thought he interfered with Jones, Tomlin said: “No.” But he added, “I was wrong. I accept responsibility for it.”
ODDITY NO. 3: Driving to tie the game late in the fourth quarter, the Steelers twice had apparent touchdowns overturned by video review, with the ball spotted inside the 1-yard line both times. First, the frame-by-frame showed Heath Miller’s right knee touching the ground before the ball crossed the goal line. Then it showed Le’Veon Bell’s helmet coming off before the ball broke the plane — which automatically ends the play. Bell was left with a concussion on the hit from Jimmy Smith, and the Steelers didn’t score until Jerricho Cotchery’s fourth-down, 1-yard touchdown pass with 1:03 to go.
“It’s definitely a whirlwind kind of emotions,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said.
The Steelers would have tied the game had Emmanuel Sanders been able to hold on to Roethlisberger’s pass on the 2-point conversion attempt. Sanders got his hands on it, but he was screened by cornerback Chykie Brown.
COWBOYS 31, RAIDERS 24
ARLINGTON, Texas — DeMarco Murray ran for three touchdowns, backup Lance Dunbar had a career-high 82 yards rushing and Dallas overcame Oakland’s fumble return for a score on the opening kickoff.
Murray had 63 yards rushing but his highlight was the finishing work, including a 7-yard score to put Dallas ahead for good early in the fourth quarter.
Dunbar, who went out with a knee sprain, sparked the tying and go-ahead touchdown drives in the second half, highlighted by a 45-yard run that led to a 4-yard scoring pass from Tony Romo to Dez Bryant.
The Cowboys (7-5) moved two games above .50s0 for the first time since late last season. The Raiders (4-8) guaranteed an 11th straight season without a winning record.
Matt McGloin had a strong first half for the Raiders, leading consecutive TD drives that put Oakland up 21-7.
LIONS 40, PACKERS 10
DETROIT — Matthew Stafford made up for some mistakes with three touchdown passes, including one to Calvin Johnson, to help Detroit score 37 straight points after an awful start and beat Green Bay.
The Lions (7-5) had lost their last two games, five consecutive against Green Bay and a franchise-record nine straight in their annual showcase on Thanksgiving.
The Packers (5-6-1) have a five-game winless streak for the first time since 2008, showing how valuable Aaron Rodgers is for the franchise. Rodgers has missed four-plus games since fracturing his left collarbone.
Matt Flynn became the fourth starting quarterback for Green Bay this year and was sacked seven times, once by Ndamukong Suh for a safety.