Clash has all the juicy stuffings
BALTIMORE — A game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens usually features hard hits, flying helmets and a pivotal play in the final minutes.
The clash between these AFC North rivals on Thursday night had all that — and so much more.
A coach on the field during a kick return, two touchdowns erased by replay and an inexplicable botched field goal were among the highlights and lowlights in Baltimore’s 22-20 Thanksgiving victory.
Justin Tucker kicked five field goals, and Baltimore snuffed a conversion pass with 1:03 left to avenge last month’s loss to their division rivals.
After Pittsburgh scored on a 1-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Jerricho Cotchery to make it 22-20, Roethlisberger’s 2-point conversion pass slipped through the hands of Emmanuel Sanders, who was screened by Chykie Brown.
“Ben gave me a good ball,” Sanders said. “It hit my hands, and I’ve got to make the play. It’s not on him. It’s on me.”
The ensuing onside kick didn’t travel the required 10 yards, and that left Baltimore to merely run out the clock to end Pittsburgh’s three-game winning streak.
“It’s never over when you play the Steelers, it’s never over when you play the Ravens. That’s why these games are so great,” Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said.
The victory provided the Ravens (6-6) with their first winning streak since September and pushed the defending Super Bowl champions ahead of the Steelers (5-7) and four other teams in the race for the final wild-card slot in the AFC.
“We’re in control of our destiny,” Harbaugh said. “I feel like we’re a really good football team; we need to go out and prove it.”
It was the fifth straight game between the teams decided by three points or fewer.
Pittsburgh appeared to score twice in the closing minutes, but on each occasion the touchdown was overturned by a replay. On the first one, tight end Heath Miller was ruled down inside the 1. On the second, running back Le’Veon Bell lost his helmet on a crushing tackle by Jimmy Smith and the ball was ruled dead just short of the goal line.
The game was delayed while Bell and Smith lay on the ground. Two plays later, Roethlisberger hit a wide-open Cotchery on fourth down.
Tucker connected on kicks of 43, 34, 38, 45 and 48 yards after Joe Flacco threw a first-quarter touchdown pass to Torrey Smith.
Flacco went 24 for 35 for 251 yards.
“There were so many opportunities for us to go out there and get points and win, just big, and put the game away and we didn’t do it,” Flacco said. “In the back of your mind you’re thinking, ‘Man, this is going to catch up to us.’”
Roethlisberger was 28 for 44 for 257 yards and two TDs.
Baltimore didn’t get a sack and didn’t force a turnover, but played well enough to bottle up Roethlisberger and the Steelers for the majority of the game.
Down 19-7, the Steelers mounted a 60-yard drive aided by two penalties and got a 1-yard touchdown run by Bell to close to 19-14 with 9:32 to go. It was only the second rushing TD allowed by the Ravens this season.
Tucker answered with a field goal, but Roethlisberger mounted a 79-yard drive to set the stage for the hectic finish.
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 left 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 .500 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.
Broncos’ Fox set to return Monday
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — John Fox is returning to work on Monday, less than a month after undergoing open-heart surgery, and he plans to coach the Denver Broncos in their game against the Tennessee Titans on Dec. 8.
What hasn’t been determined is whether Fox will coach from the sideline or the booth. Fox Sports first reported Fox’s impending return.
Team owner Pat Bowlen sent his private jet to Charlotte, N.C., on Wednesday to bring Fox and his wife, Robin, back to Denver. Fox had been recuperating at his offseason home following aortic valve replacement surgery on Nov. 4.
Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio has coached the team in Fox’s absence.
The Broncos visit the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday in an AFC West showdown of 9-2 teams.
NFL announces dates of London games
LONDON — The NFL has announced the dates of its three regular-season games in London next year, with the Dallas Cowboys playing the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 10 on Nov. 9.
The first game will be played in Week 4 on Sept. 28, with the Raiders facing the Miami Dolphins.
A month later, in Week 8, the Atlanta Falcons will play the Lions on Oct. 26.
All the games will be played at Wembley Stadium.
By wire sources