OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — The Baltimore Ravens have spent much of the season in bounce-back mode.
Now they’ve finally reached a point where the objective is to sustain their momentum.
With its refreshingly lopsided victory over the New York Jets on Sunday, Baltimore (5-6) climbed into a six-way tie for the second wild-card slot in the AFC and improved to 10-1 in November home games under coach John Harbaugh.
Given their uneven play this season — they lost four of five before beating the Jets 19-3 — the Ravens would happily take a sixth straight trip to the postseason as the final wild-card team.
But Baltimore still has an outside shot at winning the AFC North, trailing Cincinnati by two games with a victory over the Bengals in hand. The teams meet in the final week of the season.
“We understand where we’re at. We know what everybody’s record is,” coach John Harbaugh said Monday. “But we also know we have to win. None of that matters unless we continue to win. We’ve got to win as many games as we can, and we’ll be hopeful that’s enough to get us in.
“We haven’t given up the division championship yet, either. But we’ve got to win games. We have to win the next one on our schedule.”
That would be a Thanksgiving night AFC North clash against the Pittsburgh Steelers (5-6), who have won three straight and defeated Baltimore earlier this season.
With a victory, the Ravens can climb back to .500, create some separation between themselves and Pittsburgh, register their eighth straight home victory in November and celebrate their first winning streak since defeating Cleveland and Houston in September.
First, Baltimore has to cope with a short week of practice. Instead of getting a day off Monday, the team had a late afternoon session and will work again Tuesday.
“Physically, we have to get back. The turnaround is quick,” Harbaugh said. “We were just in a very physical game, and we’ve got to get our guys back to play another physical game. The other challenge is to be mentally prepared.”
The Ravens can only hope to perform as well as they did against the Jets.
“We’ve played this hard all year,” linebacker Elvis Dumervil said after the game. “It’s nice to see that it’s starting to work out for us now.”
The schedule appears favorable, too. The Jets game was the first of three straight at home for the Ravens, who are 4-1 at M&T Bank Stadium and 1-5 on the road.
Baltimore has allowed only three touchdowns at home this season while outscoring the opposition 100-54.
Being in a must-win position is nothing new for the Ravens, who lost three in a row late last season before defeating the New York Giants at home. That clinched the AFC North and put Baltimore on the road to the Super Bowl.
This season has been a comparative struggle, but the Ravens have managed to remain a part of the playoff picture.
“Whether we were at the top of the wild card or the top of the division, we’ve always been in a pretty tight race where it’s come down to the last game of the season and having to win a football game,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “We’ve been in tight races before, and we’re really in no different of a situation this year right now. Our record just isn’t the same.”
The Ravens hope their performance against the Jets was the start of a trend. The defense allowed a season-low 220 yards, Flacco threw for 273 yards and a touchdown and Jacoby Jones had 108 yards in punt returns.
“We finally put a game together in all three phases,” Jones said. “It’s like we always say: Offense rolls, defense holds and special teams just stay special.”
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)