While sacking Ben Roethlisberger nine times, the Baltimore Ravens smothered almost any chance the Pittsburgh Steelers had of successfully defending their Super Bowl title.
The Ravens yielded only 36 yards in the decisive first half Sunday and coasted to their fifth straight victory, a 27-0 blowout at Baltimore that left the Steelers with only a mathematical chance of reaching the playoffs.
It was Pittsburgh’s most lopsided defeat since a 37-7 loss to Dallas in the 1997 opener.
“A very pitiful performance out there today,” Steelers Coach Bill Cowher said. “Where we go from here is we’ve got to line up and play this thing out. It starts next week.”
Baltimore (9-2) leads Pittsburgh (4-7) in the AFC North by five games with five to play.
“It’s the next step,” Ravens Coach Brian Billick said. “It’s against a championship-caliber organization. They have a Super Bowl ring, a number of them, and we can feel very good about it.”
The Steelers had won two straight after a 2-6 start, but their resurgence was emphatically squelched by the Ravens, who got all the points they needed with a touchdown on their opening possession.
The nine sacks, which totaled 73 yards and matched a Ravens franchise record, included a vicious hit by Bart Scott that forced Roethlisberger out of the game in the second quarter. The quarterback sat out only one play, but for the rest of the afternoon he was harassed by a relentless rush.
“They got after it. You can’t get mad at the line; they did a good job,” Roethlisberger said. “There were so many things they had to pick up.”
Buffalo 27, Jacksonville 24 -- Bills quarterback J.P. Losman connected with Roscoe Parrish for a 30-yard completion to set up Rian Lindell’s 42-yard field goal as time ran out at Buffalo, N.Y.
The Bills (5-6), who never trailed, scored 28 seconds after the Jaguars tied the score when David Garrard connected with Matt Jones for a three-yard touchdown.
Losman, who completed 21 of 28 passes for 169 yards, rallied the Bills.
After a six-yard completion to Parrish, the quarterback stepped up in the pocket and threw to the left sideline for Parrish, who kept both toes in bounds to make the catch just in front of Scott Starks.
After a Losman run, which positioned the ball in the middle of the field, Lindell split the uprights.
The Jaguars are 6-5.
Cincinnati 30, Cleveland 0 -- Picking off Cleveland quarterback Charlie Frye four times, Cincinnati got its first shutout since 1989 and Carson Palmer threw three touchdown passes as the Bengals embarrassed the Browns at Cleveland.
Palmer completed 25 of 32 passes for 275 yards and connected with Chris Henry for two touchdown passes as the Bengals (6-5) stayed in the AFC playoff race by beating Cleveland (3-8) for the fifth consecutive time.
New York 26, Houston 11 -- Chad Pennington had his best passing day in weeks, throwing for 286 yards and a touchdown at East Rutherford, N.J.
Laveranues Coles caught nine passes for 111 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown in the third quarter, and Jerricho Cotchery had seven catches for 110 yards.
Mike Nugent tied a career high with four field goals, including a career-long 54-yarder for the Jets (6-5).
The Jets held Houston (3-8) to 25 yards rushing a week after the Texans ran for 188 against Buffalo.