Having stuck it out all game on a frigid New Year’s Eve — with the Baltimore Ravens all but assured of a playoff spot, either by winning or by another team’s loss — the crowd at M&T Bank Stadium instead watched the season end before midnight.
The welcome to the NFL moments for Darius Kilgo were plentiful during his first season with the Denver Broncos this fall. The former Maryland defensive tackle endured two-a-days at rookie minicamps last May, appeared in the Broncos' season opener against Baltimore in September and watched Tom Brady try to lead a last-minute New England comeback in the AFC championship game last week. And there's a bunch more ahead for him in the next week.
They won't meet on the field tonight, but Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. and Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald are competing nonetheless. Fitzgerald, 32, has 952 career receptions. Smith, 36 and perhaps in his last NFL season, has 951.
Matt Schaub's training camp interceptions have been well-documented. His errant throws have spurred some groans from the fans at the Under Armour Performance Center. One prominent Raven even felt compelled to remind Schaub what color jerseys his receivers were wearing after a series of incompletions.
Immediately after their 20-10 victory, the Ravens started focusing on their next challenge -- trying to mount a successful playoff run. Preparations for the 2015 season can wait, even though their opponents for next year are now all set.
The Ravens can clinch a playoff berth with a win over the Browns plus a Bengals loss, or a Ravens win plus the San Diego Chargers losing or tying the Kansas City Chiefs or a Ravens tie plus a Chargers loss.
The Ravens once again were dealt a schedule that stacks three divisional opponents in the first three games, the third time that AFC North teams occupy the first three spots on their schedule in 10 years, and the team recognizes the stakes.