With a quick and dismissive glance to his left, Ravens coach John Harbaugh demonstrated Monday just how much attention he expects his team to pay to the San Diego Chargers-Kansas City Chiefs score this weekend.
"Our emphasis is completely and squarely on the Cleveland Browns," Harbaugh said of Sunday's regular-season finale against its AFC North rival. "That's what we're going to be doing. I'm sure they'll flash the score up there and I'm sure we'll see it. But we're not going to be immersed in any other game. That's a recipe for disaster. We will be wholly and fully engaged on the task at hand."
Following his team's disastrous 25-13 road loss to the Houston Texans on Sunday, Harbaugh vowed that the Ravens would leave all the negative baggage from the game behind in the visiting locker room at NRG Stadium and focus on what remains in front of them.
A day later, Harbaugh struck an even more upbeat tone, saying that the Ravens (9-6), despite being eliminated from the AFC North race, still have an opportunity to do something great, even though they now will need to beat the Browns (7-8) and get some help to avoid missing the postseason for the second straight year.
"I guess I don't feel as somber about it as you all do," Harbaugh said to reporters, describing the mood around the team facility as good. "There's no success without failure. You don't improve and grow. There's a process to it all. And you come up short sometimes. We came up short in this game. But that's how you improve and get better, and that's what we plan on doing.
"It gives us an opportunity to do something even greater. Surprise everybody even more. That's what we plan on doing, that's what we're going to try to do."
Moments are the Texans' game, several Ravens conceded that they had no idea what needed to happen for them to make the playoffs. They just knew that they no longer had full control of their postseason fate.
By now, they probably know the scenario that they need to unfold. If the Ravens beat the Browns and the Chargers lose or tie to the Chiefs on Sunday, the Ravens would make it into the playoffs as a wild-card team. The Ravens can also get in with a tie and a Chargers loss.
The Bengals defeated the Denver Broncos on Monday night and close the regular-season on the road against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Both the Bengals and Steelers have clinched playoff spots, and the winner of their game Sunday night will claim the AFC North title.
"We've been in this situation last year, where we didn't really control our own destiny, and we didn't play well," said Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco who completed just 21-of-50 passing attempts for 195 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions against the Texans.
"All we can control is going out there next week against Cleveland and winning a football game. I am not sure what all else has to happen, but the bottom line is that we have to go out there and win a game."
Last season, the Ravens were 8-6 with two games to play and in position for a playoff spot. However, they were blown out, 41-7, by the New England Patriots at home in Week 16, and then they lost their regular-season finale to the Bengals, 34-17, to miss the playoffs for the first time in Harbaugh's tenure.
Unless the Ravens beat the Browns on Sunday and get some help, this season will end with a familiar feeling.
"Each week, you go out and try to put your best performance on the field. We have to do that again. We definitely made things tougher on ourselves," said Ravens left tackle Eugene Monroe, who is dealing with a foot injury. "I fully expect us to regroup and come strong for this last game that is guaranteed for us."
Once one of the feel-good stories of the NFL, the Browns have lost four straight games and five of their past six under first-year head coach Mike Pettine. They have averaged under 12 points per game during their losing streak and they are having major issues at quarterback.
Pettine announced Monday that rookie Johnny Manziel, who has started the past two games, will not play Sunday because of a hamstring injury. Veteran Brian Hoyer, who started the Browns' first 13 games, is dealing with a shoulder injury and his status is uncertain. That could leave undrafted rookie Connor Shaw, who will be promoted from the practice squad, to start on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.
After losing a game Sunday started by Case Keenum, who the Texans signed earlier in the week off of the St. Louis Rams' practice squad, the Ravens certainly won't be looking past a Browns team that they beat 23-21 in Week Three.
After all, the Ravens have some issues of their own. Flacco is coming off one of the worst games of his season and he got knocked around repeatedly against the Texans. The Ravens' running game has been non-existent the past two weeks and primary back Justin Forsett is dealing with knee and ankle injuries.
Both Monroe and starting right tackle Rick Wagner (left foot) had magnetic resonance imaging tests taken Monday and their status is uncertain. Backup tackle James Hurst struggled mightily against Houston and the Ravens don't have another natural tackle on their roster behind him.
But again, Harbaugh was focusing on the positives.
"We are playing a huge game in our stadium," Harbaugh said. "We need our fans to be fired up. … We need our fans to make it hard on whoever the quarterback is on their offense. We're playing a game for the playoffs. We have a chance to make the playoffs. It starts with winning the game. That's what we have to do, so that's our focus — completely, totally, 100 percent. That's all we're thinking about."
Baltimore Sun reporter Aaron Wilson contributed to this article.
- Pro Football
- Baltimore Ravens
- Cleveland Browns
- John Harbaugh
- Houston Texans
- AFC North
- Cincinnati Bengals
- Kansas City Chiefs
- Los Angeles Chargers
- Joe Flacco
- Denver Broncos
- Pittsburgh Steelers
- Los Angeles Rams
- New England Patriots
- Eugene Monroe
- Brian Hoyer
- Justin Forsett
- Casey Keenum
- Johnny Manziel