Ravens: 'We had better handle business'

OWINGS MILLS -- Reeling from the heavy frustration and disappointment of a bitter loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night that cost them a shot at the AFC North title, the Baltimore Ravens have zero time or plans to lament their problems. The Ravens (9-5) still have a solid grip on making the playoffs, and will definitely make it if they win their final two regular-season games.

They current hold the sixth and final AFC playoff spot, which is the second wild-card berth, and would play the New York Jets in the first round of the playoffs if the season ended today.

In the aftermath of a 13-9 loss to the Steelers triggered by officials controversially awarding Steelers wide receiver Santonio Holmes a game-winning touchdown catch following an instant-replay review after overruling an initial call that he didn't score, the Ravens need to defeat the Dallas Cowboys (9-5) in the final game at Texas Stadium and the Jacksonville Jaguars (5-9) at ho me to conclude the regular season.

"Yes, we really wanted to win this one bad, but you can't hold onto this one too long," linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "We've got two games for the rest of our season. We win out, we're in the playoffs. We don't, it's not looking good. So, we had better handle business."

That business begins with putting aside a stinging loss to a division rival and preparing for an extremely difficult road game against a Dallas team laden with stars in quarterback Tony Romo, wide receiver Terrell Owens and outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware.

After registering the worst statistical game of his career with a 22.2 passer rating, a 39.3 completion percentage and 115 passing yards, rookie quarterback Joe Flacco returned to work at the Ravens' training complex by 9:30 a.m. Monday to watch the film of the Pittsburgh game and begin studying the Cowboys.

"We're a resilient football team, we really are," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "That's indicative of where our football team is. Our guys have moved on. You take the emotions and throw them away. You learn from the corrections and let's go forward. It's next game up in the NFL."

There's ample evidence of the Ravens' ability to recover from a setback.

Following a string of three consecutive losses to the Steelers, the Tennessee Titans and the Indianapolis Colts earlier this season, Baltimore went on a four-game winning streak that included three road victories.

After a 30-10 beating against the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants, the Ravens won three games in a row by a combined margin of 94-20.

"You have to be mature about it," offensive tackle Willie Anderson said. "You have to be a man about it."

Especially with the uncertain playoff outlook that would be created if the Ravens don't win their final two games to finish 11-5 overall with an 8-4 AFC conference record.

The Ravens have an identical record to three AFC East contenders: the New York Jets, Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots. Baltimore would get the playoff berth over the Dolphins if the teams both finish 11-5 by virtue of a 27-13 head-to-head win and would edge the Patriots because of a superior conference record.

Meanwhile, the Jets can clinch the division and not be involved in the wild-card tiebreaking procedures by winning their last two games.

"One of the things I'm going to tell my young guys is, is that we have to keep going," middle linebacker Ray Lewis said. "There's two more games left, we can go in 11-5. You deal with what you deal with. The bottom line is your motivation cannot change. You take a loss just like you take a win: strap it up, short week, let's go to Dallas."

Losing to the Cowboys wouldn't eliminate the Ravens from contention, but it would mean they would require assistance to still make the postseason.

"We're going to go there ready to play," Flacco said. "We've got two games left to get some wins and prove that we're a playoff team, and that's exactly what we're going to do."

While the Ravens have demonstrated an ability to rebound from losses, there's also doubt raised abo ut their ability to finish games against quality opponents.

They are 2-5 against teams with winning records, falling to the Steelers 23-20 in overtime after squandering a 13-3 halftime lead, losing 13-10 to Tennessee after being outscored 10-0 in the fourth quarter and losing again to Pittsburgh while being outscored 10-0 in the fourth quarter.

For the season, Baltimore has outscored opponents 98-43 in the fourth quarter.

"In that situation in crunch time, most of the season we've been really good," Harbaugh said. "Offensively, we've been able to put teams away with drives and points at the end. And, defensively, we've been able to stop people. You have to win in crunch time, and that's something we're going to have to do this week to win. ..

"[Sunday] was just one of those games that at some point in time we are going to have the capability to win. And it better be sooner rather than later because we're playing one of those games again Saturday night."

Notebook: NFL backs Coleman's call

Harbaugh denies Walker spit on Steelers' punter

OWINGS MILLS -- Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh finally got his explanation from the NFL brass regarding referee Walt Coleman's controversial decision to award Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Santonio Holmes with a game-winning touchdown following an instant-replay review.

And it's safe to say that after talking with NFL vice president of officiating Mike Pereira that Harbaugh still isn't satisfied or of the belief that the football broke the plane of the goal line when Holmes tapped his cleats inside the end zone. Harbaugh was cautious in his comments Monday after candidly stating Sunday night after the Ravens' 13-9 loss that he didn't think it was a touchdown.

"They just explained it as being a call that was overturned, and they felt like it broke the plane when his feet were down," Harbaugh said Monday after a defeat that won the Steelers the AFC North title. "That's the way it was explained to me."

Meanwhile, an NFL spokesman reiterated that Pereira and the league are backing Coleman's call.

"Walt Coleman determined via high-def video review that the receiver had possession and two feet down with the ball in the goal line, meaning it broke the plane," the spokesman said in an e-mail.

After reviewing the game, Harbaugh declined to reveal whether his opinion had ch anged even though it's pretty obvious that he remains unconvinced that there was indisputable video evidence that the original no-touchdown call should have been overturned.

"The fact of the matter and the reality of it is that my opinion doesn't mean anything," Harbaugh said. "It's our responsibility to take care of the Baltimore Ravens, and it's Mike Pereira's job to make sure that we have quality officiating in the NFL. And it's Walt Coleman's job to make sure the game is officiated correctly and that replays are handled the way they're supposed to be handled.

"That's his job. We've got to do a great job of making sure that we make the plays we need to make to win a game like that. That's what we'll concern ourselves with, and we'll let Mike concern himself with improving the officiating in the NFL."

While it's debatable whether the officials got the call right, the Ravens have only themselves to blame for allowing Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to drive his team 92 yards for the decisive score against the NFL's second-ranked defense.

"It's our job not to put the official in position to have to make that call," Harbaugh said. "If we do our job better, if we finish in crunch time, it won't even be an issue. We don't need the officials' help to win a football game."

Coleman could stand for some improvement in his explanation of calls and non-calls over the stadium loud speaker. He didn't include the relevant information that he thought Ho lmes broke the plane when explaining his call, although he later added that information when questioned by a pool reporter after the game.

"There was some acknowledgement of that," Harbaugh said. "Not getting into detail, but there was some acknowledgement of that part of it."

Earlier in the game, there was an amusing moment where Coleman announced that offensive tackle Willie Anderson was "confused" during an announcement that there wouldn't be a penalty for illegal formation on Baltimore.

"That situation basically there was no illegal formation because it was a legal formation," Harbaugh said. "I'm not sure about Willie being confused, but he had his hands above his knees and it was a legal shift. So, it was definitely not a penalty. As far as the explanation of it, I'm not sure."

SPITTING?: Harbaugh strongly refuted Steelers punter Mitch Berger's allegation that Ravens cornerback Frank Walker spit in his face at the end of the game following an extra point after Holmes' touchdown.

"That's the first I heard that, I don't believe it for one second," Harbaugh said. "Frank Walker wouldn't do it, none of our players would do it. I don't believe it for one second."

Berger told Pittsburgh reporters that he went after Walker because he thought that Walker intentionally tried to injure kicker Jeff Reed's knee after the kick.

"I tried to get in the middle to separate him, but he got in my face and spit right in my mouth," Berger said. "He=2 0spit right in my mouth. I'm still trying to spit that ... out. I was talking to him, trying to separate everybody and he spit right in my mouth."

Walker wasn't available to reporters Monday to tell his side of the story.

When Harbaugh was informed of the specifics of Berger's claim, he reiterated: "I don't believe it for one second. That's ridiculous."

TRAINING ROOM: Harbaugh expressed optimism that cornerback Fabian Washington may be available Saturday night against the Dallas Cowboys after injuring his hamstring against Pittsburgh.

"We expect Fabian to be OK," Harbaugh said. "He's going to be working on it, and he should be OK."

Harbaugh said he was hopeful that rookie running back Ray Rice (shin contusion) might return this week after being held out against the Steelers. Linebacker Jarret Johnson (calf) and fullback Le'Ron McClain (neck) are among the other injured players.

"We have a lot of guys coming out of that game with bumps and bruises or the previous game in Ray's case," Harbaugh said "Just like you would expect in December, that's where we're at. We'll have them ready for Saturday night."

QUICK HITS: Running back Willis McGahee rushed for just 18 yards on six carries, dropped two passes and missed a critical block in the fourth quarter that pushed Baltimore out of field-goal range. He has gained just 76 yards over the past five games. "We're concerned with all our guys, and Willis being one of the guys," Harbaugh said. "We'd love to break Willis out. He's working hard to do it, and we're going to try to do that Saturday." ... Harbaugh defended offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, who has drawn criticism for running a conservative game plan. "As far as putting a label on play-calling, it has no merit because it's just a label," Harbaugh said. "What you do is you set up a game plan to attack an opponent and they defended us and did a nice job of it. Whether we were throwing or running, I don't know if that makes it conservative or aggressive, but we felt like we were attacking their defense. We really wanted to do that, and they did a good job of defending us down there." ... The Ravens have essentially been scheduled for homecoming as the Cowboys celebrate their final regular-season game at Texas Stadium. "I think we'll embrace it," Harbaugh said. "This is football history. The Baltimore Ravens have a chance to be part of football history. We'll be looking forward to going in there and ushering it out the right way." ... Harbaugh admitted that he's keeping track of the playoff scenarios, but not to the point of distraction. "We're focused on winning and we know what the scenarios are," he said. "It's probably our responsibility to know what they are. We understand the tiebreakers. Bottom line, though, we have to win and that's what we're preparing to do."


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