PITTSBURGH (AP) — Ben Roethlisberger threw for 340 yards and six scores to set an NFL record for most touchdown passes in consecutive games, leading the Pittsburgh Steelers to a 43-23 victory over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday night.
A week after passing for a franchise-record six touchdowns against Indianapolis, Roethlisberger duplicated the feat as Pittsburgh (6-3) earned its third consecutive win. Roethlisberger’s 12 touchdown passes over the last two games broke the mark of 11 set by Tom Flores for Oakland in 1963 and matched by New England’s Tom Brady in 2007.
Antonio Brown caught 10 passes for 138 yards and a score. Rookie Martavis Bryant hauled in two scoring receptions and has five touchdowns in three games.
Joe Flacco passed for 303 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, but the Ravens (5-4) were undone by a sloppy second quarter.
The renewal of one of the NFL’s most physical rivalries traded its usual taut, low-scoring style for something decidedly more spectacular but no less physical. When Roethlisberger wasn’t dissecting Baltimore’s depleted secondary with his expanding number of targets, the teams were trading punches and penalties.
Just not the lead, not after a resurgent Pittsburgh defense gave Roethlisberger all the momentum he would need to continue the finest stretch of his 11-year career.
“We took advantage of turnovers our defense gave us,” Roethlisberger said. “We were slow starting but made plays down the stretch.”
The Ravens were in front 7-0 midway through the second quarter and the Steelers were sputtering when a little vintage Pittsburgh defense — led by suddenly youthful 36-year-old linebacker James Harrison — turned the tide.
Cornerback Brice McCain raced 26 yards following a Lorenzo Taliaferro fumble to set up a 5-yard touchdown pass from Roethlisberger to Le’Veon Bell, and Jason Worilds picked off Flacco and returned it 30 yards to put Roethlisberger in position to find Bryant for a 19-yard score to put the Steelers up 14-7.
The Ravens, playing without injured cornerback Jimmy Smith, simply couldn’t keep up. Roethlisberger ended the half with a perfect 47-yard strike to Markus Wheaton.
Even when things went wrong, they went right for Pittsburgh. The Steelers tacked on a 2-point conversion following Wheaton’s score when punter Brad Wing made up for a botched hold by scrambling to his right and connecting with tight end Matt Spaeth to make it 22-10 at the break.
Rather than sit on the lead, the Steelers kept attacking. Roethlisberger’s 25 completions went to eight different receivers, though he relied on an old one and his new favorite to help the Steelers end a pivotal three-game homestand with a perfect 3-0 record.
Roethlisberger found Bryant for a 54-yard catch-and-run early in the fourth quarter to make it 29-10. Jacoby Jones responded with a 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, but Roethlisberger then hit the 6-foot-4 Bryant for an 18-yard strike and capped another remarkable night with a 33-yard score to Spaeth with 1:51 remaining.
Things were typically heated. Both sides were called for personal fouls for late hits to the opposing quarterbacks, and the Ravens drew three defensive flags on one play in the second quarter.
Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs earned a 15-yard penalty for an ugly shot at the knees of Steelers running back LeGarrette Blount. Teammate Elvis Dumervil picked up another penalty two plays later after smacking Bell.
Roethlisberger took a shot to the jaw from linebacker Courtney Upshaw that left the quarterback comically stretching his face trying to check for damage.
He could afford to smile after the Steelers bounced back from a rough start.
Pittsburgh failed to record a first down on each of its first three possessions and didn’t take a snap past its own 25 until the final minute of the opening quarter.
It hardly mattered by halftime, when the Steelers raced to the locker room with all the momentum as a group of the franchise’s best players walked on to the field to toast one of their own.
Hall of Fame defensive lineman Joe Greene fought back tears as his No. 75 was retired in a fitting tribute for a player who guided a franchise renaissance during a 13-year career that included four Super Bowl titles.
Greene called the honor “overwhelming,” and it seemed awfully fitting that the Steelers selected a matchup with the Ravens to serve as the backdrop. In an era when defenses ceded the balance of power to the offense, Pittsburgh and Baltimore feels like a throwback.
Nine of the previous 11 meetings have been decided by a field goal or less, though the Ravens romped 26-6 in Week 2, emerging from a chaotic few days that included the team cutting ties with running back Ray Rice following the release of a casino elevator video that showed him striking his fiancee, now his wife.
The storm seemed to galvanize the Ravens, who were rolling until a stumble at Cincinnati last week. It also marked a familiar pattern of uneven play by the Steelers that they have only recently shaken.
One that now seems a distant memory.
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