Ravens Update

49ers' win gives Ravens gift of first place in the AFCN

OWINGS MILLS -- The mood around the Baltimore Ravens' training complex Tuesday morning was given a significant boost, courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers' victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

By virtue of Jim Harbaugh, the younger brother of John Harbaugh, coaching his 49ers team to a win over a hobbled Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers, the Ravens are now back in first place in the AFC North.

"I know coach Harbaugh was real happy when he came in this morning," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "He was coming in: ‘Did you see that game? Who won?' We were like, ‘OK, we all know who won the game. We know you're way more excited now than you were two days ago. He didn't know where to go with it once I told him I didn't watch the game. He was a little confused but you could definitely tell that he was excited. "We should be excited. We're obviously in a better position because of what happened. We just have to keep our wits about us and continue to play the way we've been playing all season. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't exciting to see those guys lose."

The Ravens' embarrassing 34-14 loss to the San Diego Chargers on Sunday night knocked them out of first place in the division for a day and they plummeted from the top-seeded team in the AFC to fifth. Now, they're ranked second in the playoff seeding behind the New England Patriots. One day removed from a potentially disastrous defeat to the Chargers, the Ravens are well-positioned again.

"I was bouncing around myself," running back Ray Rice said. "You didn't have to be a rocket scientist to know that everybody was thinking the same thing: The 49ers did us a favor. It happened to be coach Harbaugh's brother, so thank you 49ers. I guess that's what brothers do. They look out for each other."

The Ravens own the tiebreaker edge over the Steelers (10-4) after sweeping their two games earlier this season. They are now in line to earn a first-round bye and a home playoff game provided they win their final two regular-season games against the Cleveland Browns (4-10) and the Cincinnati Bengals (8-6).

The Patriots (11-3) will be the top seed in the AFC if they win their last two games, a pair of home games against 5-9 teams: the Miami Dolphins and the Buffalo Bills.

John Harbaugh sent his brother a congratulatory text message after watching him beat the Ravens' archrival in a game interrupted twice by power outages at Candlestick Park. The brothers routinely compare notes about opponents and did so prior to Monday night's game.

"Man, it was a fun game to watch," Harbaugh said. "It was the night the lights went out in Candlestick, right? It was pretty cool. We had a good conversation this morning. The fact that if we win both games now, we will win the division, that means a lot.

"That's really meaningful. It's a tough league, and you have to win every week. The beauty of that is we can control a lot. We can control the outcome of these games." Rice hadn't intended to stay up late to watch the game, but changed his mind having watched Roethlisberger orchestrate epic comebacks in the past.

So, he stayed up past his normal bed time to watch the 49ers finish off the Steelers. "I actually said to myself that I wasn't going to go to sleep before the game ended, but after he threw his third interception, I went to sleep," Rice said. "I knew we had a blessing, we were back in position. It changed the mood of the team Coming in here, guys are happy.

"I'm not saying we're never a happy bunch. We know how to take a loss on the chin. We want to get better from that film, but we don't have to look at it as critical as we would have had to, put as much time into San Diego anymore. We know you got to get onto Cleveland, but at the same time, we still control it. We don't have to take our show on the road if we take care of business." The Ravens' preference is to win the division without needing assistance.

Days after saying the Ravens had taken up residence in their "vacation home in hell," after being demolished by the Chargers, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs' outlook wasn't much different.

"It's a gift, but we wish we didn't have to get it that way," outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "These last two games, you drop it, you go from one place to another. We still have the lease on the vacation home, but hopefully we don't have to go there this year."

Baltimore is 7-0 at home heading into Saturday's game at M&T Bank Stadium against the Browns. And they're undefeated in their respective games against Cleveland and Cincinnati this season. "We've just got to take care of business," Suggs said. "We're playing two teams that know us very well, two division foes, so it's going to be interesting. We've got to get back to doing what we do best, and that's playing Ravens football. "We've got Cleveland coming in. I describe them as ‘The Brawler.' They're going to come in and they're going to fight. We expect nothing else." The Ravens defeated the Browns 24-10 three games ago as Rice rushed for a career-high 204 yards and have won seven games in a row over the AFC North last-place team.

"It's going to be a fight," Rice said. "From here on out, every game is going to be a fight. It's something that, quite frankly, we want to fight for. We all know what we're fighting for. There's no need to keep talking about it. If we win out, we're in a great situation.

"We drop one and we got to take the show on the road, which everyone knows, that route is very hard. I've played in every single playoff game there is to play in except for one, and that's in a short career, in four years. I know how hard it is to win on the road."

The Ravens have already earned a playoff berth for the fourth consecutive year, an unprecedented feat in franchise history. They clinched before kickoff Sunday night due to the New York Jets' loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Having been expelled from the postseason in the divisional round the past two years and losing in the AFC championship game to the Steelers three years ago, the Ravens aren't content with merely qualifying for the playoffs again. And they're not satisfied with winning one wild-card playoff game, as they have done the past two years.

"To be honest with you, it's not good enough for us," said Flacco, displaying more emotion than his usual stoic personality. "It's not good enough for anybody around here, just getting to the playoffs. We've seen that. We've won a playoff game the last three years, and it hasn't been good enough. And it's not good enough for us. "We need to go in there and we need to start playing our best football right now, and that's what we're excited about. We're excited about going out there and continuing to improve and really getting to the point where we're playing our best football so that we can go into these playoffs and have a lot of success rather than just success."



Ravens notebook: Seneca Wallace to start for Browns

OWINGS MILLS --The Cleveland Browns plan to start Seneca Wallace at quarterback Saturday against the Baltimore Ravens due to starter Colt McCoy still experiencing concussion symptoms. McCoy hasn't been medically cleared since being leveled by Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison two weeks ago in a helmet-to-helmet hit that triggered a one-game suspension for the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

"First, we've got to get him to the point where he's going to be healthy enough to play," Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. "He's still going through the process of coming back from his concussion." With McCoy sidelined last Sunday, Wallace completed 18 of 31 throws for 226 yards with a 76-yard touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver Greg Little during an overtime loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

"I think they're similar in style as quarterback, and I think you can see that evidenced by the way Seneca played last week against Arizona," Shurmur said. "So, I think that allows us to do a lot of the same things offensively that we would have done with Colt. So, that part is good. And then Seneca is a veteran player in this league. He did some good things the other day."

Wallace started against the Ravens last September, completing 18 of 24 passes for 141 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. "We've always had a lot of respect for Seneca Wallace as a quarterback and consider him a starter," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "We've felt like they had two starting quarterbacks there. He's a playmaker, he's dangerous out of the pocket, throwing and running. "Very accurate, very strong arm, reads them out exceptionally well. He's a guy we've seen before. He had a really good game against us here last year. So, he'll be a big challenge for us." TOO LONG?: Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was sacked five times, and threw two interceptions during a 34-14 defeat to the San Diego Chargers. And outside linebacker Terrell Suggs and coach John Harbaugh concluded that Flacco held the football too long. Flacco disagreed with that take on his performance, which also included two touchdown passes.

"I felt like I did," Flacco said when asked if he released the football quickly enough. "The bottom line is they were dropping pretty deep. We were running some things that were trying to move the ball down the field, and we had to score and had to score quickly. They did a good job of dropping back, and I had to drop a lot off. The sacks, they did a good job of getting a push and collapsing the pocket a little bit. But, that happens when you're in the position we were in. [It was] 17-7 at halftime.

"Then, they went down and scored on their first possession [in the second half]. It made it tough on us, and we really had to claw back from there and move the ball a little bit. I made a mistake, throwing the first interception, and trying to make a play on the field and be aggressive, and things happen."

CUNDIFF, REDDING SIDELINED:

Ravens Pro Bowl kicker Billy Cundiff and veteran defensive end Cory Redding weren't at practice Tuesday during the portion open to reporters.

Cundiff has a left calf injury that has prevented him from practicing for much of the past two weeks and missed a 36-yard chip shot in a loss to the San Diego Chargers on Sunday night. Redding has an ankle injury and limped off the field Sunday, but returned. The five other Ravens listed as questionable for Sunday's game were all at practice, including: middle linebacker Ray Lewis (right turf toe), cornerback Lardarius Webb (left toe), defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (back), offensive guard Ben Grubbs (right turf toe) and cornerback Chris Carr (back). It was a light workout and no official injury report was released.

SMITH BREAKS RECORD:

Rookie wide receiver Torrey Smith broke Jamal Lewis' Ravens' rookie record for touchdowns.

The second-round draft pick from the University of Maryland caught his seventh touchdown of the season on a 36-yard pass from Flacco in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter Sunday night. Smith is now tied with Cincinnati Bengals standout A.J. Green for the most touchdowns among NFL rookie wide receivers.

"Torrey's done a really good job," Harbaugh said "He's gotten better every week. We're pleased with the fact that he's a Raven. He's a hard-working guy, but he can get a lot better, too. That's what we're looking for."

REED RETURN: Benched after fumbling twice against the Seattle Seahawks, kick returner David Reed was utilized as a returner for the first time since that horrible outing. He registered a 47-yard return against the Chargers.

It's unclear if the Ravens will give Reed his job back as the primary kick returner, duties that Tom Zbikowski has assumed since the Seahawks game. "It felt amazing," Reed said. "It's a true blessing what God has put me through and done for me. Whatever the coaches want to do, I'm with it. I just keep it moving."

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