BALTIMORE — When you turned off the television Sunday following the Ravens 20-12 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, did you stop and ask yourself "What the heck did I just watch?"
Trust me, you are not alone.
Baltimore's ninth win of the season stunk. There's no way around it. It probably didn't matter where you were watching — from the couch, in the stadium, or even in the press box — the tension between fans and the team itself was hard to miss, especially following the halftime boos.
Justin Tucker was not very Justin Tucker-like, missing two consecutive field goal opportunities in the game. While the defense failed to allow a touchdown, and recorded eight sacks on the day, there were still plenty of holes in the secondary that allowed Jaguars rookie quarterback Blake Bortles to regularly connect with receivers at pivotal moments. More injuries to that unit only amplified the problems the team is likely to face going forward.
Then there were the blunders on special teams. On a day that started out with promise after Darian Stewart blocked a punt that Kamar Aiken returned 11 yards for a score, the Ravens were duped on an onside kick and a fake punt — two plays that likely had a former special teams coordinator like John Harbaugh in a huff.
The Ravens got the victory, and there were a few positives to note, but only after Owen Daniels' scored on a three-yard pass from Joe Flacco in the third quarter did things really start to go the Ravens' way.
Baltimore outside linebacker Terrell Suggs summed things up fairly well when he so bluntly said, "It would have sucked if we lost."
Yes, it really would have sucked if the Ravens lost, especially when divisional opponents Cincinnati and Pittsburgh also collected victories Sunday.
Yet here sit the Ravens at 9-5, controlling their playoff destiny and continuing to collect wins against the teams they were "supposed to beat," despite it being a difficult process week after week.
December is the hardest month of the NFL season, and as long as a team gets a win, the rest should all be background noise.
With remaining games at Houston, and then back home against the Browns, the Ravens won't have much room for error as the tight races for the AFC North, as well as the wild card, heat up.
The Texans' playoff chances are all-but-finished following Sunday's loss to the Indianapolis Colts, and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick's broken leg means either Thad Lewis or Case Keenum will get the start. Judging by the way Baltimore got after Bortles, guys like Suggs, Timmy Jernigan and the team's sacks leader, Elvis Dumervil, should be champing at the bit.
The Ravens' season finale is against the Cleveland Browns, another team that basically sealed its non-playoff fate Sunday with an embarrassing loss to the Bengals.
Johnny Manziel — who I refuse to call "Johnny Football" because he's an adult man, not a cartoon character — rivaled any one of Jets quarterback Geno Smith's starts this year as one of the worst to date. Head coach Mike Pettine's team doesn't look as scary as it did, say, three weeks ago.
If Sunday's game against Jacksonville reveals anything, it's that the Ravens can't count on any matchup as an easy win. That means a banged-up Texans team could steal a win against Baltimore, and the Browns might want to end the season on a high note against their divisional foe. If a doomsday end of the season occurred, a 9-7 finish would not sit well with fans for sure.
The Ravens aren't like the Patriots or Broncos, and almost every game this season has been, in one way or another, a struggle. Harbaugh's team has only been truly dominant a handful of times, and an easy out-of-conference schedule against the NFC South only helped that cause.
Yet Baltimore has found a way to keep winning, despite continuing injuries and a lack of consistent production all the way around.
It's not likely that Baltimore will catch fire late in the season and charge through the playoffs toward another Super Bowl victory.
Still, as the saying goes, good teams find ways to win.
Are the Ravens a "good team?" Ask me in two weeks.
Reach staff writer Matt Owings at 410-857-7893 or firstname.lastname@example.org