BALTIMORE (AP) — The Baltimore Ravens got the bounce-back victory they needed, in record-breaking fashion.
After rallying to defeat the Arizona Cardinals 30-27 on Sunday, Baltimore hopes to ride the momentum of its big second half into next week’s AFC North showdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Down by 21 points in the second quarter against Arizona, the Ravens (5-2) staged the biggest comeback in franchise history and won the game on Billy Cundiff’s 25-yard field goal as time expired.
The victory eased the sting of their 12-7 defeat at Jacksonville on Monday night and set up Baltimore for its duel on Sunday night in Pittsburgh.
“We still have the Steelers in front of us next week,” coach John Harbaugh said. “We have to get ready for that now. That’s the challenge.”
If the Ravens are to beat Pittsburgh on the road, they can’t afford to fall 21 points behind. Overcoming that kind of deficit at home against Arizona (1-6) is one thing; doing it at Heinz Field is quite another.
On Sunday, however, Baltimore found that one great half of football was good enough for an important win.
“I think we just turned our level up just a little bit,” said linebacker Ray Lewis, who missed a few plays in the first quarter with a right shoulder injury but returned the next series.
Outscored 24-3 in the second half, the Cardinals (1-6) lost their sixth straight. Four of those defeats have been by four points or fewer.
“It’s hard right now,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “Our guys are very disappointed after today’s game because it was an opportunity to do something nobody thought we could do. But our guys believe in what we’re doing. If you look at what we did the first half, it shows that if we do it the right way, we can be a good football team.”
In the second half, the Cardinals made only six first downs and were penalized nine times for 87 yards.
The Ravens, on the other hand, played to form.
“Those guys came out in the second half with a different approach,” said Arizona’s Patrick Peterson, who returned a punt 82 yards for a touchdown but was flagged for pass interference prior to the second of Ray Rice’s three touchdown runs.
“They just made more plays than we did in the second half,” Peterson said. “We definitely thought there was a couple of bad calls in the second half, but that’s how the game goes.”
Using a fumble by Joe Flacco and Peterson’s sensational punt return, Arizona scored three touchdowns during a five-minute span of the second quarter to take a 24-3 lead.
Baltimore answered with a 24-point run and moved in front 27-24 when Rice scored on the opening play of the fourth quarter.
Arizona pulled even with a 45-yard field goal by Jay Feely with 8:55 left, but the Ravens won it with a 37-yard, beat-the-clock drive in the final minute.
After the Cardinals were forced to punt from deep in their own territory, Baltimore took over at the Arizona 44 with 52 seconds left. A 36-yard completion from Flacco to rookie Torrey Smith moved the ball to the 5, setting the stage for Cundiff’s game-winner.
The Ravens’ previous biggest comeback was from 19 points down against Tennessee in 2006.
“We woke up, plain and simple,” said former Arizona star Anquan Boldin, who caught seven passes for 145 yards and was a key contributor in the rally.
Flacco went 31 for 51 for 336 yards, and Rice ran for 63 yards on 18 carries. Against Jacksonville, Rice was limited to 28 yards on eight carries.
“We had to get over Monday,” Rice said.
Kevin Kolb threw for 153 yards and a touchdown, and Peterson became the eighth player in Cardinals history to have at least two punt returns for touchdowns in a single season. The last one to do it was Vai Sikahema in 1986.
Down 24-6, the Ravens began the second half with an 80-yard drive in which Flacco went 5 for 5, including a 37-yarder to Boldin that set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Rice to make it 24-13.
“I felt like the way we came out at halftime is what turned it around,” Baltimore linebacker Jameel McClain.
Late in the third quarter, Boldin caught passes 21, 23, 27 and 9 yards during an 88-yard march that ended with another 1-yard TD run by Rice.
The momentum turned even further in Baltimore’s direction immediately after the ensuing kickoff. On first down, Kolb was hit by Terrell Suggs while throwing a pass that was intercepted by McClain and taken 8 yards to the Arizona 22. Three plays later, Rice ran in from the 3.
Two holding penalties against the Ravens extended the Cardinals’ drive that ended with a field goal that tied it at 27.
Mistakes by Baltimore also played a big part in Arizona’s big second quarter. But the Cardinals couldn’t hold on.
Asked to assess the mood at halftime, running back Beanie Wells said, “We just didn’t want to let up. We wanted to keep on fighting. We wanted to go out there and prove that we’re a good football team. We came up short, unfortunately.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)