If the Ravens have to go on the road in the playoffs, they proved yesterday that they can win anywhere.
Riding a defiant defense and a timely offense, the Ravens did what no team had done in a decade: beat the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in December.
The Ravens' 20-10 victory ended the Chiefs' 18-game winning streak at home in December, the longest such streak for this month since the AFL- NFL merger, and further stamped the Ravens as one of the most dangerous teams in the league.
Armed with the NFL's top-ranked defense, the Ravens forced three turnovers and harassed Kansas City quarterback Trent Green with five sacks. Their re-invigorated offense delivered when it was called upon, whether it was an 87-yard touchdown catch and run by receiver Mark Clayton or a nine-minute drive in the fourth quarter.
In the end -- once the NFL's self-proclaimed loudest crowd had stopped its booing -- it was the Ravens' sixth victory in seven games that spoke volumes.
"That's as good a road win that we've ever had given the circumstances," said Brian Billick, the Ravens' eighth-year coach.
Winning double-digit games faster than any other in team history, the Ravens (10-3) still might have to play a couple of games on the road in the playoffs.
With Indianapolis losing, the Ravens are tied with the Colts for the second-best record in the AFC but remain the conference's third seed at this point. The Colts currently have the edge over the Ravens for the No. 2 spot (and a first-round bye) because they have a better record against common opponents.
"At this stage in the season, every game counts and plays a big part in where you go in the postseason," defensive end Terrell Suggs said. "We knew this was going to be a tough one and we knew we had to come in here and take it."
The Ravens' defense allowed the Chiefs (7-6) to cross their 39-yard line six times on the first nine drives and surrendered only a field goal.
Most of the Chiefs' mistakes came because of the Ravens' pressure on Green, who was picked off twice by safety Ed Reed and fumbled when Suggs hit his arm.
Kansas City's only other points came on a meaningless touchdown in the final 80 seconds of the game.
"Our defense has got a lot of pride and passion for what they do," Billick said. "They don't like giving up plays and they've shown a propensity to stiffen when you've got to stiffen."
The Ravens' best stand occurred in the second quarter, when their lead was only 6-0. Three plays after Larry Johnson broke a 47-yard run -- the longest against the Ravens this season -- Reed picked off Green at the Ravens' 6.
"We knew that this was his fourth game back after a concussion and his rhythm wasn't going to be on point," Reed said. "Both of [the interceptions] kind of came to me."
The Ravens, who have given up two touchdowns in their past 15 quarters, brought a fiery determination into the game from a speech given by linebacker Ray Lewis early last week.
His message was they can't be a defense that attains their goal of being No. 1 in the NFL and suddenly become complacent.
"He was saying that it's time to put the pedal to the metal and take it to the next level," linebacker Bart Scott said. "You can't be satisfied."
After watching the defense force three turnovers in the first half, the Ravens' offense decided to take it to the next level.
The Ravens expanded their 6-0 lead in the third quarter when quarterback Steve McNair hit Clayton for an 87-yard touchdown, the longest pass of McNair's 12-year career.
McNair originally thought Clayton was covered and looked inside for his second read. When Clayton got Chiefs safety Greg Wesley to bite on a double move, McNair only had to toss the ball to a wide-open Clayton, who caught it at the Chiefs' 45 and ran the rest of the way untouched.
"When you have a guy like that wide-open, you pray from the time it leaves your hand until it gets to him," said McNair, who was 21-for-27 passing for 283 yards.
After their margin had been trimmed to 13-3, the Ravens sealed their fifth road win of the season with a 16-play, 86-yard drive in the fourth quarter, which was capped by a Jamal Lewis 1-yard touchdown.
The marathon possession featured 12 runs and a 33-yard pass from McNair to Demetrius Williams, taking up all but 5 minutes, 47 seconds of the final quarter.
"That was impressive to show the resolve and the ability to run when we had to run and make the plays in the passing game when you have to in critical situations," Billick said.
By passing this test, the Ravens gain momentum for their homestretch, one that includes no team with a winning record. They can clinch the AFC North in Week 15 if they beat Cleveland and the Cincinnati Bengals lose at Indianapolis.
But the Ravens did secure one thing yesterday -- a confidence on the road that has been nonexistent for years. In a matter of a season, they have transformed themselves from a team that couldn't win on the road (they lost 11 in a row heading into this season) to one that can win anywhere.
"This says we're unflappable. The surroundings don't bother us, and you can put us anywhere," Scott said. "I think it was a huge statement in the way we beat them."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun