PITTSBURGH - - Domonique Foxworth's range of emotions after the Ravens' 23-20 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field mirrored his assignment of shadowing Santonio Holmes wherever the wide receiver went.
There were some things to be proud of - such as the interception of Ben Roethlisberger he returned for a touchdown that was negated by an illegal-block-in-the-back penalty on Terrell Suggs. And Foxworth helped the Ravens' secondary surrender just 259 passing yards and one touchdown to Roethlisberger, who torched the Green Bay Packers for 503 yards and three touchdowns Dec. 20.
But Foxworth was also victimized by Roethlisberger, who connected with Holmes on a pass in the left flat that the receiver turned into a 24-yard gain on the Steelers' game-winning drive.
"Holmes knew what he was running, I knew what he was running, we all knew what he was running," Foxworth said after the game. "There's a lot of grass out there, and it's a play that I honestly feel like I should've made but didn't. And that's kind of the moral of the story for today. We didn't make plays that we should have."
With Chris Carr becoming the third player this season to line up at left cornerback and Frank Walker and the recently signed Corey Ivy playing in the defense's nickel package, it was up to Foxworth to anchor a secondary that also missed free safety Ed Reed for the fourth consecutive week.
Foxworth led the secondary with two pass deflections, and the unit generally held up against Roethlisberger. But Foxworth wasn't in the mood for moral victories.
"We didn't win," he said. "That's the main accomplishment, and they have a great defense over there. We feel strongly about how good our defense is, so that when we go into games like this, it's important for us, in our minds, to outplay the other defense, which we didn't do. They made play after play, we made quite a number of plays, but when it came down to it at the end, we didn't make enough."
For the first time in recent memory, Derrick Mason's hands failed him.
The wide receiver, who led the team in catches (seven) and yards (77) on Sunday, made perhaps his biggest mistake, dropping a potential 21-yard pass from quarterback Joe Flacco in the end zone on the first play of the fourth quarter that would have given the Ravens a 27-20 lead.
"Just didn't catch it," said Mason, who tied Jimmy Smith for 14th on the all-time career receptions list with 862. "That's what it boiled down to. Hit my face mask. ... It happens, and you move on. But that's one that I've got to have. I cannot allow myself to relax in a situation like that, regardless of how open I am."
Said Flacco: "I think we were all surprised, but you just have to move on and continue that drive. We were still in a position where we think, 'We're going to put the ball in the end zone.' [But we] ended up hurting ourselves there and not getting anything."
Ray Rice had another big day against Pittsburgh.
After compiling 150 combined yards in the first meeting, Rice gained 155 yards, including 141 on the ground, to become the first running back in 33 regular-season games to eclipse the 100-yard rushing mark against the Steelers' defense.
"I didn't know my stats," said Rice, who became the first back to rush for 100 yards against Pittsburgh since Fred Taylor gained 147 yards on Dec. 16, 2007. "I don't know my stats until the end of the game. But overall, we look for wins. We didn't get the job done, and we've just got to come out and get ready to play against Oakland. Our minds are on Oakland."
Running back Jalen Parmele got extended playing time - as a kick returner.
With rookie Lardarius Webb out for the rest of the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and Chris Carr preoccupied as the starting cornerback, Parmele gained 145 yards on five kickoffs (a 29-yard average), including a 48-yard return that set up the offense at Pittsburgh's 49-yard line with about five minutes left in the game.
"That just came from great blocking," Parmele said. "We knew how we wanted to hit these returns, and I think we executed it fairly well."
Long injury list
The Ravens' drive to the playoffs took a detour as they played without three starters.
Reed (strained hip, foot), left tackle Jared Gaither (lower back stiffness, foot) and linebacker Tavares Gooden (groin) were deactivated before Sunday's game.
Gaither said he tried to get ready in warm-ups but didn't feel entirely comfortable.
"I went out before that, and everything wasn't kicking on all cylinders," he said. "So we decided not to push it."
Tom Zbikowski made his fourth consecutive start in place of Reed, and rookie Dannell Ellerbe started for Gooden for the second straight week. Rookie Michael Oher shifted from his usual right tackle spot to the left side, and Oniel Cousins filled in at right tackle.