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Carroll County Times
Carroll County

Commentary: Ravens faced with 'tough math'

Terrell Suggs walked out of the locker room saying nothing. Ray Rice was nowhere to be found. Lardarius Webb mumbled one-word answers.

Clearly, the Baltimore Ravens are in a position they never dreamed possible.

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The Ravens lost to the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, a team that they had beaten 11 straight times - and none of those games was terribly close.

This was different. Not only was this the first defeat to the Browns since Nov. 18, 2007, when Brian Billick was the coach, but this loss puts Baltimore and its current head coach in a most difficult spot.

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"It's going to be a challenge. We're 3-5. The math says it's going to be a challenge," John Harbaugh said. "We've got to start winning close games."

Baltimore was blown out in Denver in its first game, but the Ravens' four losses in the last five games were by a combined 14 points. As Harbaugh pointed out, they've won only one tight game, their last win in Miami, by three points four weeks ago.

Last year, four of their six losses were by six points or fewer, but five of their 10 wins were by six or less, too. In the postseason, they won both the exciting double-overtime game against the Broncos and the Super Bowl by three.

The 2012 Ravens were a heady team. This bunch makes lots of silly mistakes. There was a holding call on Courtney Upshaw on a fair catch, and Tandon Doss' costly fumble on a punt return deep in his own territory followed by a 12-man on the field penalty.

"I'm not going to sit here and tell you I know what the problem is," Arthur Jones said. "I know we've got to get better all the way around."

There was a six-minute plus drive to start the second half that netted nothing. Contrast that with the 15-play, 6:30 drive by Cleveland that set up Billy Cundiff's short field goal with 14 seconds left. Baltimore used all three of its timeouts and had the two-minute warning as an aid. Had that drive come at any other time in the game, it could have chewed up nine minutes.

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The Ravens thought they caught a break when the Bengals (6-3) lost on Thursday night against Miami. After failing to capitalize on that chance, they're going to have to beat Cincinnati twice to get a chance to defend their title.

"My focus now is to fix my mistakes, what I did wrong," Jones said. "Cincinnati, that's our big target right now. We have to win that game to keep playing to make it to the postseason."

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Even if Baltimore beats the Bengals, they have to play at Chicago, then play two games at home in five days against the Jets and Steelers.

In December, it's Minnesota, Detroit, New England and another one with the Bengals. It looks as if they're going to have to win seven of eight.

The good news is that the final wild-card spot currently belongs to the Jets, who are 5-4. Miami, Tennessee and San Diego are all 4-4. Cleveland is 4-5, and Oakland is 3-5. If the Ravens can go on a roll, as unlikely as it seems, they could still play in January.

After 11 straight wins against the Browns, Flacco lost to them for the first time. Being 3-5 is new to him, too.

"It's not easy on Sundays when you're going out there and it's tough sledding and you're not getting the job done," Flacco said. "You have to stare it right in the face and just meet it."


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