xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Commentary: Still a likely playoff team, Ravens won't overreact

The Baltimore Ravens will go to the playoffs. It's how they're getting there that's worrisome.

After a fascinating and puzzling overtime defeat to the Washington Redskins on Sunday, the Ravens still lead the AFC North. It was their second straight loss. With a 9-4 record, Baltimore is two games ahead of both Cincinnati and Pittsburgh with three games to go.

The playoffs are a near certainty, the division championship a likelihood, but that kind of thinking doesn't help right now.

Seven days ago, the Ravens lost on a last-second field goal, and on Sunday at FedEx Field, it happened again, this time in overtime. Baltimore is in a most difficult stretch. They narrowly won at Pittsburgh, miraculously won in San Diego, and now have dropped two straight with Denver, the New York Giants and the Bengals coming along.

"It's a tough league. We've had a tough run here. It's been four challenging games," coach John Harbaugh said. "We're fighting through all these kind of things you fight through as a football team. That's why you don't overreact to these things. It's a tough loss. It's going to be a fight for the division championship, and that's what we're fighting for."

Once the Ravens knocked Robert Griffin III out of the game late in the fourth quarter, they thought they had it won.

"I felt confident with him in the game," Baltimore linebacker Paul Kruger said. "I think we should have won this game. I think it's a killer. To play hard, to play a full game like that, and lose the way we did, it's rough."

The Ravens gave up 420 yards to Washington, the fifth time this season they've allowed that many, and things don't figure to get any better next week when Peyton Manning comes to Baltimore with the Broncos.

With both the Bengals and Steelers losing, the Ravens blew their chance to make things easier. When building that 9-2 record, they had some narrow escapes, and now perhaps the NFL karma is turning against them.

"We realize that we won a lot of close games this year. We've lost close games. We have to be men enough to move on to the next one," Joe Flacco said.

Baltimore slips back to fourth place in playoff seeding, and if they lose to Denver next Sunday, not only will it be their third loss in a row, but it will be nearly impossible for them to secure a bye.

If they win their division, they'd likely have to host Cincinnati, Pittsburgh or perhaps Indianapolis in the first round, and if they win that, they'd probably have to win at Houston, New England or Denver to even get to the AFC Championship Game.

"Obviously a little help here and there helps," Rice said. "We pride ourselves on beating people and going into the playoffs strong."

Unless the Ravens suddenly reverse course, it's looking like a short playoff run. In Harbaugh's first four seasons, his team has qualified for the playoffs each year, and is likely to make it a fifth. They've also won at least one playoff game each year before the eventual AFC champion knocked them out.

"We still have playoff hopes. We're still in first place in the AFC North. We're still a playoff contending team," Rice said. "We still have to get to that magic number, no matter what it is. What Cincinnati and Pittsburgh do today means nothing to me. It absolutely means nothing. I'm not going to sit back and watch our playoff fate based on other teams."

Baltimore played for the first time in nearly a decade without having either Terrell Suggs or Ray Lewis on the field. Next week they should get Lewis back.

"It's game-to-game. It's week-to-week. There's no big picture on the whole thing," Harbaugh said. "There's no big statement to be drawn with a turnover here or how a game goes there. You get to the next game and try to win that game."

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement