The Ravens and their fans obviously will take that 21-13 victory over the Oakland Raiders, which was workmanlike and did not feature a lot of stupid mistakes, so you have to consider it progress. There was one pass interference penalty on Chris Carr, but you couldn't fault his effort on the bang-bang play. I've seen a lot worse not called against the guys who have been trying to beat up Derrick Mason all season.

If Job One was to win the game and Job Two was to avoid those self-destructive penalties, mission accomplished.

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That said, it was far from an impressive victory in a game the Ravens had to win to reach the playoffs and needed to win cleanly and convincingly to carry any momentum into the postseason. They have gotten it done against losing teams throughout the John Harbaugh era, but this was a lot more suspenseful than it should have been.

Flacco did not look particularly sharp and the Ravens clearly were forced to refocus on the running game to grind out this must-win victory. Now, it's off to New England, where they came up just short in a regular-season game at Gillette Stadium in October.

Clearly, the Ravens secondary remains suspect, which means there will be a lot of focus on whether Wes Welker will be able to play for the Patriots next week.

"We're in the dance,'' Ray Lewis could be seen telling his teammates on the sidelines as the final minute wound down.

That's true, but the Ravens probably will need to make more strides this week if they want to put on their dancing shoes more than once this month.

Bottom line: Harbaugh and Flacco have reached the playoffs in their first two seasons with the Ravens, so it's not like anybody has a right to complain about where the team is at this point. But it's fair to wonder if the Ravens' inability to dominate the Raiders -- even on the road -- is a bad sign as they head out on the road in the playoffs.

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