Ravens satisfied with knowledge they control their destiny
With their 24-10 demolition of the host Browns on
Sunday, the Ravens are still at the forefront of the discussion for a
top-two seed in the AFC postseason. Baltimore is in line for its first
home playoff game since 2006.
But with the Patriots, Texans and Steelers also
improving to 9-3, the Ravens are in a four-way tie for the conference's
best record. The Patriots and Texans are still Nos. 1 and 2 in
potential seeding due to conference tiebreakers.
However, Baltimore holds the tiebreaker over
Pittsburgh after sweeping the Steelers, so the Ravens would win the AFC
North title and would be the No. 3 seed if the playoffs began this
weekend. That is enough to placate the Ravens -- for now.
"To get this one on the road definitely does
something for our confidence," running back Ray Rice said after the win
at Cleveland. "We know we control own destiny. Regardless of who we
play, we have to take care of business."
Baltimore took care of business and buried a
reputation for playing down to the level of competition by taking out
the cellar-dwelling Browns. And the Ravens did so by returning to a
tried-and-true formula: running the ball and playing stingy defense.
The offense ran the ball 55 times for 290 yards.
The number of rushing attempts was a franchise record, and the number
of yards ranked third all-time. Rice and Ricky Williams each scored a
rushing touchdown, providing the offense's only scores of the game.
Defensively, Baltimore stifled Cleveland, holding
the Browns to 233 total yards. Quarterback Colt McCoy was sacked three
times, and a running attack that had gained more than 125 yards in each
of its previous three games was limited to 59 yards.
The Ravens were overpowering despite the continued
absence of inside linebacker Ray Lewis. The 12-time Pro Bowler sat out
his third consecutive game due to an injured toe on his right foot.
However, Baltimore didn't miss a beat. Inside linebackers Jameel McClain and Dannell Ellerbe patrolled the middle of the field in Lewis'
place. Rookie defensive end Pernell McPhee sacked McCoy twice, and
rookie cornerback Jimmy Smith, making the first start of his NFL
career, got an interception.
"We had to stop Peyton Hillis and their running
attack. You can see how physical he is," coach John Harbaugh said.
"Colt McCoy is a heck of a quarterback. They have some weapons out
there, and he didn't really have a lot of time to find them back there
except for one play."
Baltimore has a favorable schedule with just one
opponent with a winning record (the Bengals) remaining. The players are
aware that beating the teams they should beat (the Colts on Dec. 11,
the Chargers on Dec. 18, the Browns again on Dec. 24 and the Bengals on
Jan. 1) would put them in a favorable position for the postseason.
"As long as we continue to win games, we are in
control," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "We are going to have to
continue to play these hard, physical games and convert on third down.
Score some points, continue the way we have been playing. We have some
tough games left, but it is all up to us."
Ravens Chasing Texans, Patriots
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