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Flacco would later evaluate this performance as something even more significant because his stats, 20-of-32 for 164 yards, weren’t gaudy but he felt that he did his job, which was winning the game. Rice had it no easier against the Steelers defense, gaining just 40 yards on 20 carries. Anquan Boldin was the biggest offensive factor for the Ravens, grabbing eight catches for 79 yards and helping move the chains in a game that featured 16 punts, equally split.

“I got my ass kicked that night and we didn’t turn the ball over,” he said. “The difference between winning and losing is making one mistake. If you make it, you lose the game. I didn’t throw a pick, and those are games that go underrated in the NFL. No one will say ‘Joe played a great game’ after that one, but I feel like I play in a ton of those games. That’s what I always do. Trust me, I wish we were a team out there winging it and having a big lead on the road, but that’s not the reality in the NFL. We play in a ton of tough, close games. Every team in the league does. As a quarterback, not making mistakes is as important as making a play. I enter every game trying to make plays to win games, and I want to get up 17-3, and I wanna get to 24, 31, 38…but winning by a field goal in Pittsburgh? I’ll take it every year.”

Ugly wins had been disappointing in Cleveland and Kansas City. The hideous loss in Houston still had a stench about it. But this “ugly” victory was savored because it was Pittsburgh. There are no bad wins over the Steelers.

Despite giving up 134 yards of rushing offense, the defense did enough to thwart Leftwich, even with the 31-yard touchdown run from the big quarterback. Suggs, who chased Leftwich on that play, but never caught him, wasn’t in optimal shape yet after a month back on the field. “I wanted to be back for the championship rounds,” Suggs said. “Those are the months of November and December. You have to win those rounds, these months, to get to the playoffs. I feel like I’m getting better every week and so is our defense. It’s funny, we’re 8-2, and we’re angry because we know we can play better. We’re going into games pissed off.”

Corey Graham had a key interception of Leftwich in the third quarter, stalling a Steelers drive. He had become a plug and play cornerback in the absence of Webb. “Corey came up with so many big plays,” Harbaugh said. “You talk about the interception and the broken-up passes, the knocking the ball loose in the last drive [and] the play in the corner of the end zone. But, there were also a number of tackles. He made some tackles in the run game stepping up from his nickel position and making plays. He played really well. He’s a great guy. He wanted an opportunity to prove himself as a defensive back, and he got it, and he did it, and he’s continuing to do it.”

After the game, the quick flight home was more businesslike than celebratory. In previous years any win in Pittsburgh might’ve taken on a greater significance but this battle-tested unit had left Heinz Field with their season over twice in recent memory. This was simply a November win. Important? Sure. But not the grand prize the Ravens were looking for and they knew the toughest part of the schedule still was ahead with a trip to San Diego coming in four days.

As the Ravens prepared on Monday to install a game plan for the Chargers, Harbaugh got word that Ed Reed would be suspended for the game in San Diego due to an unnecessary roughness penalty following a hit on wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders in Pittsburgh. The penalty was considered to be Reed’s third violation over the past three seasons, resulting in the automatic suspension. Reed’s initial violation was in 2010 when he was fined $10,000 for a hit to the head and neck area of New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees. His second strike came in September 2012 after hitting defenseless New England Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch, drawing a $21,000 fine. “We cannot tolerate repeated violations of rules, especially rules related to player safety,” said NFL executive vice president of football operations Ray Anderson. “We will continue to take the strongest possible action to deter these types of violations and protect our players.”

Because Reed’s base salary was $7.2 million in 2012, a one-game suspension without pay meant a $423,529 pre-tax income “fine.” Reed would also not be allowed to practice or be allowed into the Owings Mills facility for a week.

The Ravens and Reed immediately appealed the fine and suspension. The next day, NFL hearing officer Ted Cottrell reduced the penalty to a $55,000 fine with no suspension. Ed Reed would play in San Diego.

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