Brown: Mistakes aside, Ravens win is big
The Ravens still have issues, but at least they have hope.
That is what Sunday’s wacky 20-17 overtime victory did for the Ravens. It ended a three-game losing streak. It pulled the Ravens (4-5) closer to the AFC North leading Bengals (6-4), who have lost two straight overtime games.
As bad as some of the football looked Sunday, the Ravens and Bengals may be the best that the AFC North has to offer this season. Somebody has to win the division. And by winning Sunday, the Ravens improved their chances.
“Where this leads us we will find out,” said Ravens coach John Harbaugh. “We have to get better in a whole lot of areas. Individually and collectively, we have to improve as a football team. But these are the games you have to win in order to have a chance in this league, and we did it, and I’m proud of our guys.”
Had the Ravens lost this game, realistic playoff plans could have been cancelled. It had been more than a month since the Ravens’ last victory, and the pressure was building on coaches and players. When A. J. Green caught his improbable Hail Mary pass to tie the game at the end of regulation, that pressure almost broke the Ravens. James Ihedigbo should have batted the Hail Mary pass down, but instead, he deflected the ball high in the air, leading to an easy touchdown catch for A. J. Green. Afterward, television cameras caught Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith yelling at Ihedigbo, for what Ihedigbo described as a “bonehead” play.
“I was more frustrated,” Smith said. “It’s a play that you go over all the time, and the frustration just came out. We had such a dominant performance, and to let them get to overtime with that type of play, it’s just frustrating.
“We’ve had an up-and-down season. That play (was) kind of like the topper.”
Imagine the Ravens’ locker room if they had lost in such a bizarre way, and fallen to 3-6. Talk about frustration. That may have been the final straw for the 2013 Ravens.
However, cornerback Lardarius Webb said defensive veterans like Jameel McClain, Elvis Dumervil, Haloti Ngata, and Terrell Suggs spoke up and set the tone on the sideline before overtime.
“Our heads dropped and our hearts dropped for a moment,” Webb said. “That’s when the leadership stepped up. Jameel, Elvis, Haloti, Terrell, they were like, ‘We’re not going to leave off this field without a win. Let that play go. Let’s win this game.”’
That’s what the Ravens did. After the Hail Mary, the Bengals won the toss and got the ball back to start overtime. If there was ever a time for the Ravens to think, “This ain’t our year,” this was it. Instead, the Ravens eventually stopped the Bengals on downs, and the Ravens drove for the game-winning field goal.
The Ravens haven’t done many things well this season, particularly on offense. But they haven’t quit. Outsiders may not believe in them, but the Ravens still believe in themselves. That’s important. Beating the Bengals, and outplaying them most of the game, will only reinforce that belief.
It’s easy to find flaws with the Ravens, as they look ahead to Sunday’s road game against the Bears. The Ravens are offensively challenged. Their running game remains putrid – 2.8 yards per attempt against the Bengals. Joe Flacco (20 for 36, 140 yards, two TD’s, two interceptions), isn’t playing that well either.
However, the Ravens’ defense was excellent Sunday, particularly the pass rush (five sacks) and the secondary (three interceptions). The Ravens can win ugly, and Sunday was a win they needed desperately.
“It feels great to get that stink off our shoe,” said defensive end Arthur Jones. “We just got to keep on fighting.”
By winning Sunday, the Ravens gave themselves more to fight for.