The Steelers and Ravens have created plenty of memorable finishes.
This one might have topped them all.
The Steelers came back for a 39-38 win over the Ravens, on a night when they gave up a 14-0 lead early, and trailed 31-20 entering the fourth quarter. Had the Ravens hung on, it would have been historic.
The Steelers had never previously lost a game at home when they led by 14 points or more. The record was 215-0-2 heading into Sunday.
But Ben Roethlisberger kept throwing the ball (and throwing, and throwing), finishing with 506 passing yards, as they clinched the AFC North title.
When he needed it the most, he looked for Antonio Brown, who caught 11 passes for 213 yards.
It was the eighth straight win for the Steelers (11-2), and after winning this one the way they did, they have to believe they can create more history, of the right kind.
Here are five more things we learned during Sunday Night Football:
1. Joe Flacco may not be elite anymore.
But he’s not as terrible as he was earlier this year.
Perhaps it took him three months to loosen up from preseason back problems, but he looked more like the average to slightly above average quarterback he used to be.
Flacco finished 20-of-35 for 269 yards and two touchdowns, along with an interception. That 7.7 per attempt average (which dropped off late in the game as they went conservative) is a good sign for the Ravens coming down the stretch, as it shows he’s making adult throws.
He was averaging 5.5 yards per attempt heading into this game, which is all but handing off.
Of course, he’s still not playing great. If he hadn’t underthrown a pass to a wide open Mike Wallace early in the game, Wallace might still be running. And there were several other passes off the mark.
But he’s at least throwing it downfield again.
2. It sounds trite at best, and callous, at worst. But the Steelers miss linebacker Ryan Shazier, and can’t replace him.
Shazier’s still hospitalized after last week’s spinal injury and subsequent surgery, so the concern is obviously beyond how he impacts the team on the field.
But the guys they’re putting out there in his spot lack his speed and playmaking ability. Bringing Sean Spence off the street and putting him onto the field created a big target for the Ravens, and the continued to work the middle of the field all night.
That’s going to put further strain on a secondary playing without cornerback Joe Haden, which has proven susceptible to deep balls even when Shazier was playing.
Again, that’s not the first priority for the Steelers, whose concern for their friend and teammate is greater than their concern for their defense.
That doesn’t mean it’s not a problem.
3. The Seahawks have been in a perpetual search for a regular running back for a few years, and it appears they drafted one.
He just plays for the Ravens now.
Alex Collins continued an impressive month, in which he’s making plays on the ground as well as in the passing game. The former Seahawks fifth-rounder was cut before the start of the regular season, and has quickly found a home with the Ravens.
He finished Sunday’s game with 120 yards rushing and a touchdown, and another 46 yards receiving.
In his last five games, he’s gained 491 yards from scrimmage and scored six touchdowns.
4. The Steelers have a diversified enough offense, that some nights it leans one direction or the other.
But as long as running back Le'Veon Bell‘s in your backfield, there’s never really an excuse to let it swing this far.
Roethlisberger completed a career-high 44 passes of a career-high 66 attempts.
The problem was, Bell only carried it 13 times.
Some of that was dictated by the Ravens defense, but that’s a ratio that’s not sustainable for the Steelers as they look to January.
5. Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant was grumbly about his role earlier this year, when he didn’t think he was getting used enough.
But with JuJu Smith-Schuster suspended for the week, he didn’t exactly do enough to justify more work.
Bryant had six catches for 33 yards on a night when his quarterback did nothing but throw.
He was also a non-factor on kick returns, averaging 11.0 yards per attempt before they replaced him. That’s the kind of output you can get from anyone walking in off the street. He’s either not interested in it or simply not very good at it. Either way, we probably won’t be hearing much out of him anytime soon.