Perched behind the lectern after another hard day's work, Ravens running back Ray Rice glanced at the television to his left and saw that the Houston Texans had just scored a touchdown in the final seconds to beat the Cincinnati Bengals. Rice playfully pounded his hand on the rostrum.
He was then told to abstain from looking at the television to his right, which just showed the New England Patriots forcing the Washington Redskins into a game-saving turnover. Rice looked anyway and then replied, "Oh Lord," when he saw the evidence for himself.
The Ravens are getting virtually no help in their bid to secure the first overall seed in the AFC, a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, but they are certainly making things look routine on their end. To nobody's surprise, the Ravens had very little trouble Sunday with the winless Indianapolis Colts, coasting to a 24-10 victory in front of an announced 71,187 at M&T Bank Stadium.
From the elusiveness of Rice to the speed of rookie wide receiver Torrey Smith to the tenacity of linebacker Terrell Suggs, the hapless and Peyton Manning-less Colts (0-13) had no answers for the Ravens in a game that was much more lopsided than the scoreboard showed.
"We just have to keep it rolling because as you've all seen through the years, championship teams, they don't settle for what's happening right now," said Suggs, who had three sacks and three forced fumbles, and was described by his coach, John Harbaugh, as a "game-wrecker." "Every week, they try to get better, and they try to continue to go and find ways to get on a roll, like we're doing. We're doing a lot of things good, but we have to correct things and get better at the things that we're not doing so well. We've still got work to do. We're still not satisfied. This team is still hungry."
They have to be because the Ravens, now 10-3 for just the second time in franchise history, have no margin of error with three games remaining. Thanks to victories by the Patriots, Texans and Pittsburgh Steelers this week, there is a four-way tie atop the AFC standings.
The Ravens do have the tiebreaker advantage over the Steelers -- and the Texans, for that matter -- but they know that they'll probably have to win their final three games, starting next Sunday night against the San Diego Chargers, to get what they want. That's why, Rice's playful comments aside, they don't appear to be stressing too much over what everyone else is doing.
"It's out there, so you always see it," said Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who beat the Colts for the first time in four career tries. "It looked like there were a couple of close games, looked like Houston might go down, and they didn't. Looked like New England might go down and they didn't. But I'm not really banking on that anyway. I'm looking at the rest of the season saying we've got to win the rest of our games."
Unlike in Washington and Cincinnati, things were never in doubt here as the Ravens scored on their first three possessions to take a 17-3 halftime lead and then put the game away on Flacco's across-his-body throw to tight end Dennis Pitta for a 7-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter.
Rice was the offensive catalyst again, following up his 204-yard rushing performance against the Cleveland Browns by rushing for 103 yards on 26 carries, and scoring on a 6-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. He passed the 1,000-yard mark on the ground for the third straight season, tying Jamal Lewis' team record. Rice also caught a team-leading six passes for 46 yards.
"I just think we're playing good team football," Rice said. "For me, it was one of those games where I didn't try to do too much, but just stayed the course. We were cooking on all cylinders. We passed when we needed to pass it and ran when we needed to run it."
Flacco was 23-for-31 for 227 yards and two touchdowns, eclipsing the 3,000-yard mark for a team-record third straight season. His lone blemish was an interception in the Colts' end zone early in the fourth quarter.
Wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Smith each had five catches with Smith hauling in an 8-yard touchdown pass from Flacco on the Ravens' first drive. His sixth touchdown tied Lewis' rookie Ravens record for touchdowns in a season.
"Obviously, we're happy with a victory and we're pleased with where we're at as far as 10 wins," Harbaugh said. "We are in December football, and that's what counts. There were a lot of great things out there but I thought our defense was absolutely outstanding. Obviously, until the last drive, we were on the verge of setting a record, so we're disappointed with the last drive. That's something we could've done a better job with some young guys out there."
Harbaugh was visibly annoyed coming off the field after the Colts drove 76 yards on 12 plays and scored their lone touchdown on Dan Orlovsky's 13-yard touchdown pass to Jacob Tamme with no time on the clock. Before that drive, the Ravens, playing for a fourth straight game without middle linebacker Ray Lewis (toe), had held the Colts to just 91 yards of total offense, which would have been the fewest in franchise history.
"They're one of the best defenses in the league statistically in every category for a reason," said Orlovsky, who went 17-for-37 for 136 yards and threw one touchdown and one interception (to safety Bernard Pollard). "Are they the best defense in the NFL? I don't know, but I'd like to watch one better."
Orlovsky will be having nightmares about Suggs, who spent pretty much the whole game in the backfield. With his three sacks, Suggs now has a career-high 13. Defensive end Cory Redding added a sack, and the Ravens now have an NFL-high 45 on the season.
Perhaps, it would have been sweeter if the sacks had come against Manning, who spoke to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti and Harbaugh at midfield before the game but then took up his position on the sidelines, which is where he's been all season with a neck injury. However, the Ravens proved again Sunday that they won't discriminate when it comes to sacking the quarterback.
"Any time you get the front seven eating like they're eating, those jokers want their supper," said Pollard. "It's exciting for us. On the back end, we know that we have to control the receivers and the running back who is leaking. But our front seven is doing a great job as far as getting to the quarterback. The quarterback stays rattled. They come here, they try to hold the ball and throw it against us, they're going to get hit."
The Colts' eight consecutive victories over the Ravens coming in were all with Manning under center, but that was of little consequence to the home team afterward.
They are now 7-0 this season at M&T Bank Stadium, where they've also won a franchise-record nine straight games, and 17 of their past 18. Consider that the biggest reason why the Ravens know that they need to win out and make sure they don't have to leave home for the playoffs.
"The AFC is very competitive [but] we have control of our own destiny," Rice said. "We're in the driver's seat, but at the same time, other teams are playing good football as well. So you hope a team drops one. We don't say 'help' because we feel like we control our own destiny. As long as we keep winning, we'll be fine."
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