Late for Work 12/20: One Dark Cloud On The Horizon

Well, let’s first enjoy this win and soak up some of the awards that come with it.

Posted by Sarah Ellison on Monday, December 20th, 2010 at 9:22 am | Categories: Late For Work, Sarah Ellison

One Dark Cloud On The Horizon

I hope you enjoyed yesterday’s 30-24 win over the defending champs to the fullest because, as B blogger Matt Vensel put it, there’s one dark cloud looming on an otherwise beautiful day.

It’s name: the Indianapolis Peytons.

“So in other words, pray for a Ravens miracle or brace for the worst,” Vensel said. “Or do both simultaneously.”

Essentially, the Ravens have two avenues in terms of the playoffs. They could win the division, get a first-round bye and home playoff game or they could get a Wild-Card game against the Colts. I like one of those scenarios a whole lot better than the other.

Based on pure records, the Ravens (10-4) are tied with the Steelers atop the AFC North after the Steelers’ 22-17 loss to the New York Jets yesterday.

But Pittsburgh holds the tiebreaker based on their better divisional record. The Ravens have two AFC North losses (Bengals in Week 2 and Steelers in Week 13) while Pittsburgh has only lost to Baltimore.

So the miracle of winning the division would require Baltimore winning out and the Steelers losing to either the Carolina Panthers (2-12) or Cleveland Browns (5-9). That Browns game will be tough, but I’m not banking on the Panthers at Heinz Field.

(By the way, contrary to reports, Pittsburgh clinched a playoff spot last night despite the loss. It’s based off strength of victory, but wasn’t explained further by the NFL. Odd.)

Now here’s the dark cloud part.

With the Indianapolis Colts’ 34-24 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars yesterday, Indy is now in the No. 4 slot. The Colts are currently in place to host a Wild-Card playoff game against the Ravens.  I have trouble believing I’m the only one with chills.

Even though the Colts haven’t been as strong as in years past, going to Indianapolis, Vensel says, is like “traveling to the house of horrors.” Baltimore hasn’t beaten the Colts since 2001, including four straight losses in Indy. Oh yeah, and Peyton Manning knocked the Ravens out of the playoffs last year at The Oil Drum.

But, hey, let’s not forget that we’ve got a pretty good team over here too. As Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports said, the Ravens served notice to the other AFC contenders yesterday.

“[The Ravens] reminded anyone in earshot that when they play the way they did on Sunday, they’re a team no opponent will look forward to facing in the playoffs,” Silver said.

“At some point, you’re gonna have to play smash-mouth football, and there ain’t a team in the business better than we are at that,” linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “That’s who we are. Wherever the road may take us … if it leads through Foxborough, so be it. If it goes a little bit north and a little bit to the west [to Pittsburgh], so be it. We’re ready for whatever lies ahead.”


Now that I’ve got you all worried about the playoffs, let’s stop for a second and soak in yesterday’s victory.

After all, the Ravens and Head Coach John Harbaugh sure did.

The Sun’s Kevin Cowherd painted a scene from the Baltimore postgame locker room.

“John Harbaugh had just finished his post-game interview and burst through the door of the Ravens locker room. Smiling radiantly, the Ravens coach made a sharp right turn and headed straight for the showers.

“HOW ‘BOUT THEM RAVENS?!” he screamed.

And from the gushing water and swirling mist there came this joyous hooting and howling as a dozen players, including Ray Lewis, still the heart and soul of this team, took up the cry: “HOW ‘BOUT THEM RAVENS?!’”

Rice Gets King Award

In his fabled Monday Morning Quarterback column, Sports Illustrated’s Peter King gives running back Ray Rice kudos in his awards section.

“One of Rice’s best games as a storied collegian or pro led the Ravens to a vital victory that tied them for the AFC North lead. He rushed 31 times for 153 yards and a touchdown, and caught five balls for 80 more yards and a second touchdown. The 233 yards wore down the New Orleans defense and his performance was one of the most important elements in beating a team on a six-game winning streak.”

King also put the Ravens at No. 4 in “The Fine Fifteen,” one spot ahead of the Steelers.

“Even though the Saints went up and down the field more than Ray Lewis and his friends would have liked, beating New Orleans and frustrating Drew Brees on key fourth-quarter plays shows this D isn’t dead yet.”

Do The Ravens Like Tight Games?

Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker turned ESPN analyst Derrick Brooks had an interesting thought about the Ravens’ D.

Brooks was talking about the unit’s rebound after its second half struggles against the Texans last Monday night.

They seem to play well the tighter the game,” Brooks said. “Keep it at a one score game, their defense plays well.”

You’ve got to feel like that bodes well for the Ravens if they reach the playoffs, where there will be plenty of squeakers.

Special Teams The Tiebreaker?

With the Ravens and Saints’ offenses and defenses playing about even, perhaps it was Baltimore’s special teams that broke the tie, as The Sun’s Edward Lee pointed out.

Billy Cundiff kicked the go-ahead and insurance field goals. Baltimore got a 26-yard punt return from Lardarius Webb that setup a touchdown. Punter Sam Koch and gunner Marcus Smith combined to pin the Saints deep on their final drive.

“Special teams played tremendously,” Harbaugh said.

Much like Cundiff’s miraculous touchbacks, this story could quickly lose traction. It seems like every week the Ravens’ special teams unit steps up. The unit was even bigger in Houston.

Ravens One-Liners

“We’re still trying to win the division. They have the edge because they beat us, but we’re not conceding that just yet.”

RB Ray Rice on his thanks to the offensive line:
“I don’t know what I have to do for my guys, that’s two consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. Maybe a steak or some early Christmas gifts. I’m gonna help those guys out.”

Rice on career day:
“That’s why I laid my shoes over there. I’m going to give them to my mom for Christmas. I’m going to sign them and give them to her for Christmas on top of her other gifts.”

Rice on his TD reception:
“It was just one of those throws where it should make top 10 this week on ESPN.”

LB Terrell Suggs on DE Cory Redding INT:
“I was looking at him, and I saw that he caught it, and the first thing I was thinking was ‘when is he going to get down, please?’”

LB Jarrett Johnson:
“When you have two bulldogs fighting in the ring, they’re going to go at it. It was a chippy game, that’s how we like it.”

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