As Things Fall in Place for Ravens, Defining Game Looms

December 20, 2009 | Glenn Clark

For the 2nd straight week, the Baltimore Ravens DOMINATED a NFC North opponent en route to an easy victory.

For the 2nd straight week, other teams in the AFC did what they could to help the Ravens improve their chances of clinching a Wild Card berth.

And for the 2nd straight week, the Ravens will know that a big win means only as much as what they do the following Sunday.

The Baltimore Ravens were particularly impressive Sunday in routing the Chicago Bears 31-7 on a M&T Bank Stadium field that hardly appeared to have been ravaged by a blizzard just 24 hours earlier. The Ravens’ dominance was especially impressive via the air, as Joe Flacco was 21/29 for 234 yards and 4 TD’s while his counterpart Jay Cutler was 10/24 for 94 yards and 2 INT’s.

Combine that effort with losses by the Jaguars (Thursday night), Dolphins (in overtime to the Titans), Jets (thanks to a late Matt Ryan-Tony Gonzalez TD) and Broncos (Jamarcus Russell, really?); and the Ravens find themselves atop the race for the Wild Card spots in the AFC. They are remarkably still alive in the AFC North race, just a game (and a tiebreaker) behind the Bengals thanks to Cincinnati’s loss in San Diego.

And while the Ravens should certainly feel good about the position they find themselves in, they can’t afford to get overconfident. Taking another step towards a playoff berth now continues at Heinz Field, where John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco have never won.

Next Sunday’s trip to Pittsburgh is absolutely winnable for this Ravens team. This is a team that snapped a 3 game losing streak to the Steelers on November 29 with a 20-17 win. Of course, that was with Ben Roethlisberger sidelined and Dennis Dixon playing. They almost certainly won’t have the same luxury a week from now. But beyond that, the Steelers’ secondary has been awful, and their offensive line hasn’t been much better. If there were ever a time when the Ravens were primed to go to the Steel City and win, this would be pretty close to it. And they know it.

Todd Heap said the Ravens started talking about Pittsburgh while they were still in the locker room after the win over the Bears. John Harbaugh was quick to point out that “the players brought it up.” Although he added on that the Ravens knew the task they faced playing their “arch rival”, adding the Steelers will “be excited to play us.”

Derrick Mason mentioned the win Sunday was “all for nothing” without a win over the Steelers to back it up. He’s right. The Ravens are a loss to Pittsburgh away from finding themselves in such a muddled playoff picture that they may have needed Troy Smith to score some points at the end of the game to help improve their overall score differential. They’re a loss in Pittsburgh away from doing not only scoreboard watching, but calculator watching. They’re a loss in Pittsburgh away from needing rosaries and prayer as much as needing touchdowns as practice.

And while the Steelers are as beatable as most of us can remember, they’re equally as primed for a MAJOR win. Not that I have to explain that to you, as I’m sure you saw the end of their 37-36 victory over the Packers. They sit at 7-7, and they’re just one win over the Ravens away from entering the cluster of teams who could have real Wild Card chances entering the final week of the season. Not that Mike Tomlin would even need that to have them ready to face Ray Lewis and company.

It’s akin to Ohio State-Michigan with a BCS berth in the balance. Or Yankees-Red Sox in the final week with the AL East crown undecided. Duke-Carolina with the ACC still in the balance. Well, maybe not quite (since the AFC North is completely out of the picture for Pittsburgh and a long shot for Baltimore); but it will have that feeling.

It’s really everything you can ask for in the NFL.

Ravens players have been asked frequently this season “what kind of team are you?” Or “how would you define this team?”

In 7 days, they’ll have their answer.

-G

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CB/KR Lardarius Webb suffered what appeared to be a season-ending leg injury. John Harbaugh said the team won’t know for sure until Monday, but he’s “not optimistic.” Mutiple players (including Ray Lewis) spoke as if Lardarius was done for the year.
Chris Carr and Frank Walker would be the players who would have the most pressure placed on them with Webb out. John Harbaugh eliminated the chances of the Ravens signing Chris McAlister earlier in the season, but there is no doubt his name will come up again this week.

Jay Cutler’s passer rating (7.9) was the lowest EVER for an opposing QB against the Ravens.

Hear from the following NOW in the Audio Vault at WNST.net:
Coach John Harbaugh
QB Joe Flacco
RB Ray Rice
WR Derrick Mason
WR Demetrius Williams
TE Todd Heap
LB Ray Lewis
CB Domonique Foxworth
CB Chris Carr

Domonique Foxworth is scheduled to join Drew Forrester tomorrow morning at 9:40am on “The Comcast Morning Show” on AM1570 WNST.

Ray Rice reached 100 yards of offense for the 11th time this season. (87 rushing, 17 receiving, 104 overall.)

Joe Flacco’s 4 passing TD’s were the most he’s thrown in a single game in his young career.

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