Ravens breeze past Steelers 35-7
BALTIMORE (AP) — The Baltimore Ravens vented eight months of frustration within the span of three incredibly satisfying hours.
Joe Flacco threw three touchdown passes, Haloti Ngata led an inspired defense that forced a team-record seven turnovers, and the Ravens defeated the defending AFC champion Pittsburgh Steelers 35-7 Sunday.
Ray Rice ran for 107 yards and two scores for the Ravens, who bolted to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and never let up against their bitter rivals. It was a rematch of a second-round playoff matchup last January, when the Steelers rallied to beat Baltimore 31-24.
In that game, the Ravens let a 21-7 halftime lead evaporate with three turnovers in the third quarter. This time, the Ravens got three takeaways in the third quarter to turn a 21-7 advantage into a rout.
Ngata was the driving force, causing a fumble and deflecting a pass that produced an interception. Ed Reed also picked off two passes for the Ravens, who mercilessly harassed nemesis Ben Roethlisberger.
Roethlisberger had won seven straight starts against the Ravens, but in this one he was 22 for 41 for 280 yards and three interceptions.
The loss ended Pittsburgh's eight-game winning streak in season openers. The Steelers committed six turnovers after halftime in their most lopsided loss to Baltimore since the series began.
Flacco went 17 for 29 without an interception, getting the best of Roethlisberger and giving the Ravens an early advantage over their AFC North foes.
In the past 51 games, only twice has Pittsburgh allowed a runner to reach 100 yards. Rice did it both times.
Rice had more yards at halftime on rushes (89) and catches (38) than Pittsburgh did on its 26 offensive plays (113).
The Steelers won the coin toss and deferred to the second half, giving the Ravens the chance to get the ball first. Baltimore made the most of the opportunity — and didn't take much time doing so.
Rice ran for 36 yards on the first play, then carried for 3 yards to the 27 before Flacco lofted a touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin, who beat Bryant McFadden down the left sideline.
Baltimore turned a turnover into a touchdown to make it 14-0 late in the first quarter. Roethlisberger fumbled when sacked by Terrell Suggs and Ngata recovered the ball at the Pittsburgh 37.
Flacco's 29-yard completion to tight end Dennis Pitta set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Rice.
The Steelers then got their first score of the 2011 season, an 11-yard touchdown pass from Roethlisberger to Emmanuel Sanders that capped a 68-yard drive.
Baltimore went up 21-7 with an 84-yard march in which Flacco converted three third-and-6 situations. After completing first down passes of 14 and 25 yards, he threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Rice on third down.
In the third quarter, Ngata forced a fumble on the first play from scrimmage by driving into Rashard Mendenhall immediately after the running back took a handoff. Ngata recovered the loose ball, and Flacco threw an 18-yard pass to Ed Dickson on the next play.
To add insult, Baltimore added a 2-point conversion when holder Sam Koch ran the ball in on a fake kick.
After the kickoff, Ngata tipped a Roethlisberger pass and teammate Ray Lewis made the interception. But the Ravens were stopped on a fourth-and-1.
An interception by Reed led to a field goal by Billy Cundiff for a 32-7 lead.