Ravens in good position after four games

OWINGS MILLS – The Baltimore Ravens won't waste time basking in the afterglow of their dramatic comeback victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. That's not to say that they didn't thoroughly enjoy how quarterback Joe Flacco engineered a game-winning drive with his right arm,

punctuating the march with his touchdown strike to wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh. His accuracy was perfect, completing all four throws to move the Ravens 40 yards in a half-minute. One day removed from an epic 17-14 win over the Steelers that marks their first win in Pittsburgh in four years and the first of the Flacco and John Harbaugh era at Heinz Field, the Ravens weren't admiring the view as they're tied atop the AFC North division.

"It was very exciting, it was one of the greatest wins we've had since I've been here," Flacco said. "It was a great win, but honestly we've already moved on. You go out last night with a couple of your buddies and watch the Sunday night game and talk about it a little bit.

"Honestly, it's just another game. We've moved on. It's over. I'm not lying to you and just trying to say stuff that sounds right. We're getting ready for Denver. It's a new week." That type of singular focus is serving the Ravens (3-1) well at the quarter-pole of the regular season.

Despite a challenging schedule where they've played three of four games on the road, the Ravens have managed to defeat the New York Jets (3-1), Steelers (3-1) and the Cleveland Browns (1-3) with a loss to the Cincinnati Bengals (2-2). Now, the Ravens will play seven of their final dozen games at M&T Bank Stadium starting with this weekend's game against the Broncos. "It'll definitely be nice to come home for a few games," Flacco said. "The first quarter of the season is over, and to start at 3-1 is definitely a step in the right direction and a good start for us."

The Ravens' record is remarkable considering the quality of their opponents with a combined record of 9-7.

Plus, the new-look passing game is just starting to gel. There have been breakdowns in the run defense. The offensive line has had to be reshuffled due to offensive tackle Jared Gaither's back injury. And free safety Ed Reed is on the physically unable to perform list after undergoing offseason hip surgery.

The Ravens also rank last in the NFL in turnover margin with a minus-seven mark. As well as Flacco has played in the past two weeks, he's also been intercepted six times. And the defense has created only two turnovers with a fumble recovery and middle linebacker Ray Lewis ending the interception drought when he picked off Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch on Sunday.

"Probably pretty good, if you just look at the numbers," Harbaugh said. "We think we should win them all. So, we're last in the league, and yet we're 3-1. We've managed to still do that when turnovers are the thing that really hurts you win-loss-wise in this league historically. "So, that bodes well. That's an opportunity for us. That's something that we know we're going to continue to improve on both sides of the ball and build on all the other things that give us a chance to be pretty effective as we go forward." With the exception of the debacle of a 15-10 loss at Cincinnati when Flacco threw four interceptions, the Ravens have played sound football.

In Flacco's ensuing 69 throws after the Cincinnati setback, he only threw one interception.

Weeks after public debate on whether he should be replaced by backup Marc Bulger, Flacco is suddenly the toast of the town again after his last-minute heroics in Pittsburgh. It was the second week in a row that Flacco had manufactured a fourth-quarter drive to put the game away.

"It's got to be a confidence boost for Joe," Harbaugh said. "At the same time, he's been doing that pretty much since he got here. He's been in some huge games, he's played in hostile environments. Count ‘em up. That was a big moment, I think we can all realize that." Flacco said he tends to dwell on bad games more than the good ones.

That's just how the low-key New Jersey native is. Not to mention the Ravens rank 27th in scoring (15.2 points), 22nd in total offense (306.5 yards), 15th in passing (222.2 yards) and 24th in rushing yards (84.2 yards).

"Sometimes getting over the interceptions can be harder, and depending on what kind of team you have, getting over the victory can be harder," Flacco said. "But I think we have the right kind of team that we're just going to work to get better and we still have a lot of areas to improve and score more points. It's going to be pretty easy for us to move on and get ready for Denver."

Against the Steelers, the Ravens had some issues with turnovers.

Yet, a resilient defense overcame a Flacco interception to Ike Taylor and a lost fumble from running back Willis McGahee. Both times, Steelers kicker Jeff Reed squandered the opportunity by missing field goals. Sometimes, luck is a big part of a winning equation.

That, and a defense that ranks second in the NFL overall and first in pass defense. "We've got a bunch of tough guys, mentally tough guys," Harbaugh said. "I think we're a very composed team right now. I think we're a very smart team right now. We want to keep building on that. The fact that we've been in those situations so much in the last year or so probably gives us an opportunity to do well here early in the season."


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