Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh talks about setting goals for the season and winning the AFC North division was one of them. (Kevin Richardson / Baltimore Sun video)
Two years ago, the Ravens were seconds away from a Week 16 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers and a shot at the AFC North title. One year ago, the Ravens were a late fourth-and-12 stop away from the playoffs in a Week 17 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Six days from a potential division-clinching game, coach John Harbaugh needed no reminders.
“We all know where we've been,” he said at his weekly news conference Monday. “We don't need to talk about anything. We've all learned from all of our past experiences, this year, last year, previous years. The guys that have been here, the guys who weren't here, they're not going to understand it anyway until they experience it. The guys that were here, that drives us, certainly.”
After the Ravens’ 22-10 win over the Los Angeles Chargers on Saturday night and the New Orleans Saints’ 31-28 victory over the Steelers on Sunday, the Ravens (9-6) lead the AFC North heading into their regular-season finale against the Cleveland Browns (7-7-1). With a win at M&T Bank Stadium, or a loss by the Steelers (8-6-1) to the visiting Bengals (6-9), the Ravens would clinch their first postseason appearance since 2014.
Harbaugh said the Ravens’ close calls and missed opportunities over their playoff drought have humbled them.
“Like any experience, you want to learn from those experiences,” he said. “When you have a gut-wrenching experience, a tough one, like we've had the last two years, you take those with you. It makes you stronger. It forges you as a person, as a competitor.”
Harbaugh: 2019 return is ‘nonstory’
Harbaugh said the team’s unexpected announcement Friday night that he would return as coach next season, and that both sides were working on a contract extension, was a “nonstory.”
The 11th-year Ravens head coach downplayed the significance of the news after the win in Carson, Calif., on Saturday night, and said his return was, “in absolute honesty,” not part of the team’s narrative.
Harbaugh echoed those comments Monday, saying that the team’s focus is on winning. He did not comment on the extent of his contract negotiations with team owner Steve Bisciotti.
Harbaugh’s contract expires after the 2019 season but, he said, “Everybody's on a one-year deal. You're on a one-week deal, as far as I'm concerned, in this league. And the players and coaches, that's how we are. We get that. Players and coaches understand that. We don't think too much about all that. You try to go out and do your best the very next day. Have the best day you can have, and that's how we look at it. So all that stuff is just really not something that you dwell on or think about. There's so many other things to think about.”
In September, after wide receiver Breshad Perriman did not make the Ravens' season-opening 53-man roster, Harbaugh said he was "excited" to see the 2015 first-round pick get a "fresh start" elsewhere.
Perriman actually got two. After spending time with the Washington Redskins after his cut, the fourth-year NFL veteran caught on with the Browns in mid-October. He has come on strong of late for Cleveland’s surging offense, with a combined 10 catches for 214 yards and one touchdown over the past four games.
He has 13 receptions for 295 yards in nine Browns games overall, both more than his 13-game totals last year.
“Breshad is playing very well,” Harbaugh said. “He’s made numerous big plays. He’s playing fast. He’s doing a great job. He’s going to be a factor that we have to contend with, for sure, with our defense. He’s bringing that — what you always expected him to bring to the table, he’s found that there in the last few weeks, and they’ve done a good job with him.”
After a 22-10 win Saturday over the Los Angeles Chargers and the Pittsburgh Steelers’ loss Sunday to the New Orleans Saints, the Ravens (9-6) could win the AFC North and earn the No. 4 seed even without a win in Week 17 over the Cleveland Browns.
The Ravens can earn the AFC North title and at least one home playoff game with a win Sunday against the Browns or a loss by the Steelers to the Bengals. The Ravens could also finish as high as No. 2 in the AFC, which would secure a wild-card-round bye.
“It’s incredibly exciting to be in the position to offer fans tickets for a potential home playoff game,” Ravens senior vice president of ticket operations Baker Koppelman said in a statement. “Our city and fans are clearly ready for some postseason football at M&T Bank Stadium.”
» Asked about the success of Mark Andrews, who leads all rookie tight ends in receiving yards (498), Harbaugh said the “rookie wall is a phantom. It’s a mirage. It’s a figment of your imagination. The only walls in life are the ones that we build ourselves. If there’s a wall, we’re climbing over it, we’re getting around it — whatever. There’s no wall.”
» Harbaugh said he watched most of the Saints' win over the Steelers but maintained that he abstained from rooting for a specific result.
"Whatever's going to happen is going to happen. I swear to God, you get all emotionally caught up in all those kind of things, and you just — they drive you crazy. I don't know how people even watch these games. It's just too crazy."
» Harbaugh called the Browns’ offense, led by rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield, “almost like a touchdown-checkdown kind of team. They throw shots all the time, in the pocket, out of the pocket, drop screens to everybody. They've got playmakers out there.”