Ravens Notebook

Ravens: 'We haven't let it get away' Steelers' loss puts Ravens back atop the AFC North

SAN DIEGO -- Terrell Suggs wasn't actually surrounded by fire or devils, or any of the other dark imagery associated with hell as he tried to capture the emotional state of the Baltimore Ravens after their latest road predicament. Seated at his locker Sunday night after the Ravens were embarrassed by the San Diego Chargers during a 34-14 debacle of a road loss that squandered the frontrunner status Baltimore had built in their chase for home-field advantage or a first-round bye, the Pro Bowl linebacker was in a state of disgust.

"It's a reality check, we're in hell right now," Suggs said. "We're in hell, but we got a vacation home in hell. This is normal for us. I feel disappointed. I feel we let our fans down. We could still get that first-round bye. All of that could still happen for us, but we need a little help now."

One day later, the Ravens (10-4) got the assistance they needed from the San Francisco 49ers to regain the lead atop the AFC North division.

Jim Harbaugh, Ravens coach John Harbaugh's brother, and his 49ers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers, 20-3, Monday night, a key development that gives the Pittsburgh an identical record to Baltimore again.

The Ravens own the tiebreaker over the Steelers due to sweeping the annual series and are now in position again to earn a first-round bye and a home playoff game should they win their final two regular-season games against the Cleveland Browns (4-10) at home Saturday and the Cincinnati Bengals (8-6) on the road. The Ravens have clinched at least a wild-card playoff berth by virtue of the New York Jets' loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

However, playing at M&T Bank Stadium is looking like a vital necessity for the Ravens to have a legitimate shot at making an extended playoff run considering their uneven performances on the road this season.

The Ravens are perfect at home, 7-0 heading into this week. However, they're 3-4 on the road. And they're coming off a game where the Chargers never even punted, scored 27 points before Baltimore answered, allowed Philip Rivers to carve up the secondary with only six of his 23 throws falling incomplete as he was never sacked and surrendered 415 yards of total offense and a season-high for points allowed.

In the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year, the Ravens relinquished their hold on becoming the top seed in the AFC with their loss to the Chargers. The New England Patriots are in front now for the No. 1 seed.

"We haven't let it get away yet, obviously, but the control of it we certainly let get away," Ravens coach John Harbaugh told reporters Monday at the Ravens' training complex prior to the 49ers' win. "That's disappointing. That's something that we really wanted to hold on to. That was a target for us. It's a sense of accomplishment, because the first thing you have to do is make the playoffs. It's tough to do. "The next two weeks are going to play out in terms of exactly what that is going to mean for us. Are we going to be at home? Are we going to be away? If we are away, where do we have to go? If we're home, who is going to be coming here? To ourselves in the best position that way, we have to win. We still have to win our next two games, starting with the Browns. We have complete control over the next two weeks, as far as what we do. That's what we need to take care of." The Ravens were rooting on Jim Harbaugh's team against their AFC North rivals. "We'd have been real interested for a lot of reasons anyway because it impacts our team," Harbaugh said. "It's going to be interesting to see what happens. We have no control over it. We'll be watching it. We just have to see how it goes."

Against the Chargers, the Ravens' usually stout defense allowed three rushing touchdowns as San Diego scored on its first five possessions.

Quarterback Joe Flacco was intercepted twice and sacked five times. Former Ravens reserve outside linebacker Antwan Barnes registered a career-high four sacks, running past offensive tackles Michael Oher and Bryant McKinnie.

"It was just bad," Flacco said. "It was an ugly one. We're really already in an all-win situation and we'll continue to be in that. We just got to get back on the horse and go get one this week. And rookie cornerback Jimmy Smith got torched by wide receiver Malcom Floyd while cornerback Cary Williams didn't fare much better against wide receiver Vincent Jackson. At one point, Suggs was seen yelling at Harbaugh on the sidelines and strong safety Bernard Pollard berated Smith after he gave up a touchdown pass.

Harbaugh downplayed anything that was captured by cameras that could have been interpreted as internal discord.

"Yeah, I didn't even know there was an issue," Harbaugh said. "Pretty much whatever they saw happens pretty much every game. That's what an NFL sideline is like, especially when you're trying to fight, dig your way out of a hole. For me personally, part of our style is to interact with the players throughout the course of the game a lot.

And I'm always asking guys what they think or sharing my thoughts or whatever. "I get a lot of energy from our players. We've got a brotherhood. When you're a team, a real team, we are a real team, we are a band of brothers. And guys are just out there fighting, trying to find a way to get the job done. So, whatever might have been seen, I really think that's what it is.

Privately, players complained about communication issues on defense. Publicly, they denied there were any problems.

"We were on the same page," free safety Ed Reed said. "There was no bad communication issues on the field. You've got to be able to talk to each other. There's a certain way how you say things. We're all professionals, we're all men. We win together, we lose together." The Ravens took some satisfaction in qualifying for the postseason again.

"The disappointing part is we didn't come out and do what we were supposed to do," said middle linebacker Ray Lewis, who returned from a toe injury that sidelined him for four games. "Outside of that, the thought process is the same: Getting into the playoffs is the No. 1 agenda. It's one thing trying to get home field, but the bottom line is when you get to the playoffs, everybody's record goes back to 0-0."

The Ravens are hoping to overcome their road woes. They've already lost on the road this season to the Chargers, Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars and the Seattle Seahawks.

"I think the fact that we haven't won as many games on the road as we should have is disappointing," Harbaugh said. "We've been traditionally pretty good on the road the last few years. So, that's something that we have to look at, and we will."

Notebook: Kicking game 'a concern'

SAN DIEGO – The Baltimore Ravens' kicking game has now reached crisis status. Pro Bowl kicker Billy Cundiff has missed three of his last five field goal tries and is dealing with a left calf injury that almost sidelined him for the past two games and prevented him from practicing for the last two weeks. His latest miss was a 36-yard chip shot during the Ravens' opening drive that set a bad tone as they lost to the San Diego Chargers 34-14 on Sunday night at Snapdragon Stadium. Ravens coach John Harbaugh indicated Monday that the team is evaluating how to handle this chaotic situation.

The Ravens brought in former Pro Bowl kicker Shayne Graham for a workout prior to a win over the Indianapolis Colts where Cundiff made his lone field goal and all of his extra points. Graham wasn't signed, but remains available. "It's always a concern," Harbaugh told reporters at his Monday press conference. "It's probably all wrapped up in there together. We've got to look at that. We've got to look at that this week, because he hadn't been able to practice the last couple of weeks and that maybe affected him a little bit.

"Nobody's more frustrated right now than Billy with it. Obviously, that's a real makeable kick, a kick that he had made in pregame. He had a really good pregame, and he had a good day the day before. So, we're going to have to look at that really hard this week and try to make a good decision that way."

Every miss has sailed wide right with the exception of a kick over 50 yards against the Seattle Seahawks where there was a bad snap. All of his missed field goals have come on the road. Cundiff has missed nine field goals this season after only missing three all of last season. "I'm not going to make any excuses," Cundiff said. "My job is to go out there and kick and make my kicks, and heading into this game I felt like I was in a position to perform at the level necessary to play, and I didn't do it." Cundiff acknowledged that he nearly missed this game because of the problem with his plant leg. "There was still an outside chance that I wasn't going to play," Cundiff said. "It's certainly not 100 percent, so I'm just trying to figure out what's the best thing to do and how to make sure I'm capable of playing at a high level." Cundiff said he doesn't believe there's any particular issue with him kicking away from M&T Bank Stadium.

"I don't think my approach is any different on the road," Cundiff said. "This has been a learning experience this year. Unfortunately, I've learned a lot of hard lessons." At this point, it's unclear if the Ravens would want to give Cundiff a week off and sign another kicker as an injury replacement or contemplate placing him on injured reserve.

"It's been frustrating dealing with my leg, that's pretty obvious," Cundiff said. "Still, my confidence doesn't waver., I just have to make kicks. It's just that simple."

Not coming away with points after an encouraging first drive got the Ravens off to a bad start. "It was momentum, but I'm not going to say that was the deciding factor in the game," running back Ray Rice said. "You obviously want to come away with points in the red zone right there. That's the swing of things."

ROUGH GAME: Quarterback Joe Flacco was intercepted twice against the Chargers. He completed 23 of 34 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns, but was sacked five times. "It was just bad," Flacco said. "They came out and played well and we didn't play that well." Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs praised the offensive line, and said Flacco held the ball too long.

"There's only one unit that played outstanding and that's the offensive line," Suggs said. "We ran the ball and Joe had time. Joe's got to have that clock in his head like every other quarterback and he has to know when to get rid of the ball."

There wasn't much in the way of separation, though, from the receivers.

"Joe didn't have a lot of places to go with the ball that were clear cut to him," Harbaugh said. "They did a really nice job of covering. It was mostly zone coverage the whole game, and they just executed it very well."

Flacco also misfired on two throws to wide receiver Lee Evans during the Ravens' first drive. "We moved the ball really well up and down the field, but we need to score points," running back Ray Rice said. "We missed out on a few opportunities."

Flacco was also intercepted by linebackers Shaun Phillips and Takeo Spikes. Spikes returned an interception 45 yards thrown directly to him, leading to the Chargers' last touchdown on a Ryan Mathews run.

"I thought Spikes hesitated a little bit," Flacco said. "I was planning to throw it around him and hit Lee in the hole and I just didn't quite get it around him."

Flacco got picked off by Phillips on a short throw meant for Rice. "I think you're more disappointed really when you do shoot yourself in the foot and you feel like you could have done something about it," Flacco said. "You've got to move on."

SHUT OUT: One week removed from recording three sacks and three forced fumbles and being named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week, Suggs was stonewalled by former Ravens offensive tackle Jared Gaither.

Suggs was held to two tackles, but the Chargers did give Gaither some help from tight end Randy McMichael.

"I was really looking forward to one-on-one matchups with their tackles, but then again, would you leave me one-on-one with your tackles?" Suggs said. "I was really looking forward to the matchup with Gaith, but Norv Turner, he felt they needed some chip help. We're going to plan accordingly.

"I knew they were going to give me some attention, but I was really looking to a lot of one-on-ones, but I didn't get them That's my fault. I've got to adjust to the plan accordingly and not let it affect my game. But when we did get there, he got the ball out."

Suggs also committed an unnecessary roughness penalty for a head slap.

"I thought they did a good job of chipping our two edge rushers," Harbaugh said. "They chipped both our edge rushers pretty much the whole game with either a tight end who was in a little bit of a flex or the running back out on the other side.

"So, they sacrificed a little bit of getting their guys out. They still had the three big guys out downfield, or the two outside receivers, out right away, and then they chipped [Antonio] Gates out and they chipped their running backs out. That slowed us down a little bit."

QUICK HITS: Cornerback Lardarius Webb was limited to nickel package duties since he was dealing with a left toe injury with rookie Jimmy Smith struggling as he started in his place. "He hadn't practiced all week," Harbaugh said. "That was the main thing. He held up fine physically. I think it's something that you don't really want to push if we didn't have to. We felt like our young guys were going to do a good job out there, but the main thing was just handling all the different route combinations and the coverage. We felt like those guys that practiced all week gave us the best opportunity, combined with the injury, was the direction that we wanted to go."

Ravens center Matt Birk's wife, Adrianna, gave birth to their sixth child. It's a boy.

The Ravens will return to practice today in preparation for Saturday's game against the Cleveland Browns.

Harbaugh didn't say if David Reed will regain his kick returner job after a 47-yard return late in the game. Reed was replaced as the primary kickoff returner after fumbling twice against the Seattle Seahawks.

"We'll see," Harbaugh said. "It's not something we're prepared to make a statement on right now. It was good to see him get back in there and do a good job with it. That's why you hold onto guys, try to work through tough times, and guys have those tough moments. It's just learning experiences. David is a competitive guy. He's a good guy. He's a talented guy. So, we'll see how it goes."

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