Ravens hoping to make playoff push at home

OWINGS MILLS – During the Baltimore Ravens' ride home on the team charter flight, one tradition coach John Harbaugh observes is taking a look at the scores and highlights on the airplane televisions. Tied atop the AFC North with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Ravens (7-3) are positioning themselves for a potential home playoff game

And Harbaugh acknowledged Monday that he's paying close attention to the fellow AFC powers. "I do," Harbaugh said one day removed from a 37-13 victory over the Carolina Panthers. "You throw ESPN on there and see what people are doing and I'll admit to being disappointed in some of those scores and happy with some of the other ones.

"What you want is what's best for the Ravens. You cheer for whoever helps us, so I think we all know who we want to win and who we want to lose in the matchups that are happening." Of course, that exclusive company includes the Steelers (7-3), New York Jets (8-2) and the New England Patriots (8-2).

The Ravens conclude their regular-season schedule with four of their final six games at M&T Bank Stadium, where they're undefeated in four games this season.

"That's kind of what we're preparing for," All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis said. "It just don't get no better once you go through the bulk of your schedule the way we went through playing so many teams on the road. "Travel time is cut down. That's huge for us. We've lost nothing at home yet. So, that kind of goes in our favor right now. Our team is healthy and now we get back home. Our crowd is going to go crazy next week." The Ravens dispatched the 1-9 Panthers, but it wasn't in impressive fashion until the end of the game when Lewis and free safety Ed Reed capped the game with interceptions returned for touchdowns with Reed lateraling to Dawan Landry for the score.

With the exception of that 11-second victimization of journeyman quarterback Brian St. Pierre and a fast start, there was plenty of material for Harbaugh to take issue with. Cornerback Josh Wilson was torched by David Gettis for an 88-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter that briefly made it a one-touchdown game. Wilson was also beaten for the game-winning touchdown last week during a loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

"I was disappointed in the touchdown pass," Harbaugh said. "That would have been part of closing the game out in the fourth quarter, too. We busted a coverage back there, didn't play it right from a communication standpoint. We weren't on the same page. That's something that we need to work on." The Ravens also lost two of their four fumbles, converting only 1 of 4 red-zone opportunities and 2 of 11 third downs. After rookie David Reed's 84-yard kickoff return in the third quarter, the Ravens squandered the prime scoring chance and settled for a Billy Cundiff field goal.

"I think it started with the red zone after the kickoff return when we weren't able to score a touchdown down there," Harbaugh said. "That was a little bit disappointing. I think we had a receiver fall down one time, just basic execution issues that we could have done a better job with. We got in third-and-long and we couldn't really make anything happen." Plus, they Ravens gave up a 64-yard kickoff return. And they allowed obscure, impressive running back Mike Goodson to run roughshod over them for 120 yards on 22 carries. "There's no perfect win," Harbaugh said. "We chase perfection. We're still looking for that dominant game.

"We were all disappointed we didn't play a dominant game, but we're happy with the win.. I think you take your victories where they come within the game, but, by no means, are we satisfied with the way we played." Even though the Ravens won the game over the reeling Panthers, it didn't pass the smell test with a lot of fans who have been griping about the score not being more lopsided considering the downtrodden opponent. "They have a right to do that," Harbaugh said. We care, they care. It's important to the fans. We do the same thing. We nitpick ourselves. Our players nitpick every little thing that they do well or don't do well, and we do the same thing as coaches and we do the same thing for our own performances. That's fine."

The Ravens did get their act in gear when it counted as they scored 17 unanswered points to put the game away.

And the Ravens didn't give up a fourth quarter lead, unlike their recent games against the New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills and the Falcons. "That's something we want to do every week," Harbaugh said. "We talked about it in Atlanta: Let's get off the field, win this thing and close it out."

In order to earn a home playoff game or the even loftier goal of home-field advantage throughout the postseason, the Ravens are aware that they can't afford to relax.

They have remaining home games against the archrival Steelers and the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints. Baltimore has won its past seven home games going back to last season and 11 of its past 13 at M&T Bank Stadium. "I would think every team that's a contender makes that a priority," Harbaugh said of earning a home playoff game. "Let's take care of first things first. We have to take care of Tampa Bay. That's a really good, young football team coming in here that's playing very well. That'll give us a chance to win our division, and that's what we need to do first. After that we can talk about those other things."

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