December 17, 2013

Resilient Ravens

By David Ginsburg
Ap Sports Writer

Overcoming adversity seems to be a way of life for the Baltimore Ravens, who flourish in situations that usually provoke panic and doubt.

click image to enlarge

New England Patriots strong safety Tavon Wilson (27), tackle Marcus Cannon (61) and middle linebacker Brandon Spikes (55) walk off the field after they lost to the Miami Dolphins 24-20 in an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

The Ravens fueled their late-season playoff run Monday night by using a beat-the-clock drive and a remarkable kick to pull out an exhilarating 18-16 victory in Detroit.

Down by a point, working with only one timeout and facing a third-and-15 at the Baltimore 28, Joe Flacco connected with Jacoby Jones for a 27-yard completion. That set up Justin Tucker for his sixth field goal, a club-record boot of 61 yards that provided the Ravens (8-6) with their fourth straight victory.

Just a month ago, the defending Super Bowl champions were 4-6. Now they’re in command of the final AFC wild card and still in the running for another division title.

“Man, I tell you what, we are a team that keeps believing,” linebacker Daryl Smith said. “We never quit. I don’t really have any words for it.”

Anyone who thought the Ravens were doomed to defeat after the Lions took the lead with 2:21 left must not have been familiar with Baltimore’s exploits over the past two years.

On their way to an NFL championship last season, the Ravens overcame a three-game skid to win the AFC North. In the playoffs, Baltimore used a late Flacco-to-Jones touchdown to rally past top-seeded Denver, then beat New England on the road before surviving a power outage and a late surge by San Francisco to capture the Super Bowl.

This season, with a vastly revised roster, the Ravens are displaying the same brand of determination. They’ve been involved in nine games decided by three points or fewer, including each of the last three – all of which they won to remain on course to reach the postseason for a sixth straight time.

Baltimore’s experience in close games, along with the resiliency the team has shown under coach John Harbaugh, produced a feeling of confidence Monday night when the offense huddled up before the final, pivotal drive.

“We’ve been there so many times over the past few years,” wide receiver Torrey Smith said. “If you’re in the huddle, everyone’s just calm, relaxed, like, ‘All right, let’s go do it.’ No one’s panicking. We’ve been there before and we know how to handle it.”

The victory was sealed with an interception by rookie safety Matt Elam, who created a stir days earlier when he said Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson was “pretty old.”

“He trusted his teammates and he had faith,” Harbaugh said. “The thing I love about our football team is that we are a team of faith. We believe. We trust. Because of that, we’ll fight. We will run the race right down to the end; that’s something that our football team does. I’m very proud of them for that.”

The Ravens host New England on Sunday before closing the season at Cincinnati. Baltimore will claim the AFC North title by winning both games.

“We’re playing our best football right now,” Harbaugh said. “We’re going to have to continue to improve with what we have in front of us down the stretch.”

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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