Ravens have enjoyed a stretch of good luck, but shouldn't rely on it

Jacoby Jones

Ravens' Jacoby Jones celebrates after returning a kick for a touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun / December 8, 2013)

When you look back on the way the Ravens won their last three games, it's hard not to start thinking in cosmic terms.

This invariably leads to the use of words like "destiny" and "karma" to explain the strange and wonderful confluence of events that saved this season – at least so far. The players and coaches prefer the word "faith," though more in the context of confidence in each other than divine providence.

No one is running around proclaiming that God is a Ravens fan, but you still get the feeling there is a team-wide belief that good things will happen to those who have trust in whatever it is that keeps pulling them back from the brink.

There's certainly nothing wrong with that, since confidence is a very valuable asset in a crisis, but there is some danger in drawing too straight a line between separate events that defy logical explanation.

There was nothing particularly magical about the Thanksgiving victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, but the fact that Ben Roethlisberger came up short on a last-minute two-point conversion would feed this narrative when the Ravens staged their amazing triple-comeback against the Minnesota Vikings and staved off the Detroit Lions on Monday night with Justin Tucker's 61-yard field goal.

Though the odds against two teams scoring five touchdowns in 125 seconds are astronomical and the likelihood of one of those teams coming from behind in the final minute the next week on the longest NFL field goal ever kicked indoors is too small to measure, that is only proof that the Ravens were good enough to still be standing when fate decided to smile upon them.

It's fair to point to the character of the team to explain why a gimpy Joe Flacco was able to make a key throw under tremendous pressure on the final drive and Tucker could keep his leg from turning to rubber with his team's playoff hopes hanging in the balance, but a lot of other things had to fall in place over the past three weeks that are not subject to institutional control.

No one can discount the toughness the Ravens have shown during the second half of this season. No one can say they don't deserve to be where they are in the playoff picture right now — for better or worse.

They need to recognize, however, that good fortune has smiled very brightly upon them and it is something that cannot be taken for granted. The only thing that is certain about good luck is that it will eventually run out.

Faith is not a gameplan. The Ravens had no reason to think they could beat the Lions on the road without scoring a touchdown and they should not fool themselves into thinking they can get deep into the playoffs by finding new and different ways to survive late in the fourth quarter.

With the New England Patriots coming to town this weekend, it might be time for the Ravens to put a new spin on an old Russian proverb: "Trust, but get seven in the red zone."

Of course, there is some value in the opposition buying into the notion that the Ravens have an invisible horseshoe on their helmets (but not that horseshoe). It's hard to imagine the Patriots worrying that the football gods are going to put a big helmet-to-helmet hit on them, but you have to wonder what the first-place Cincinnati Bengals are thinking as the clock ticks down on the AFC North race and the Ravens inch closer to what could be an all-or-nothing Week 17 showdown in Cincinnati.

When Tucker's terrific kick cleared the crossbar by just inches on Monday night, it must have felt like that scene in "Poltergeist" when the television starts going crazy and the little girl looks into the camera and says those two words that chill you to the bone.

"They're here."

The Ravens are one of the scariest teams in the NFL right now because no one knows what they're going to do next.

Truth be told, neither do we.

pschmuck@baltsun.com

Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog and listen when he co-hosts "The Week in Review" on Friday mornings at 9 on WBAL (1090 AM) and at wbal.com.

 
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