Monday, December 9, 2013
Ravens' biggest 'roadblock' to the playoffs
By Jamison Hensley
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens have taken control of their playoff fate by winning three straight games, all of which came in the comfortable confines of M&T Bank Stadium. The Ravens, though, are going to have to figure out how to win away from home if they want to earn a postseason berth.
The Ravens (7-6), who hold the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC, play two of their final three games on the road: at the NFC North-leading Detroit Lions (7-6) next Monday night and at the AFC North-leading Cincinnati Bengals (9-4) in the regular-season finale.
This is going to be a tough challenge for a Ravens team that is 1-5 this season on the road and has already lost at two last-place teams (Buffalo and Cleveland). The Ravens haven't had this many road losses since 2009.
Why have the Ravens been so dominant at home (6-1 record) and so dismal on the road?
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"I think we have won the close games at home and we didn't win them on the road. That's the bottom line," coach John Harbaugh said. "So, we've done the things that we've needed to do to win tight games at home and we haven't done the things we needed to do on the road. It's us. It's what we've done, the plays we've made or haven't made that have made the difference."
Take away the season-opening blowout at Denver, and the Ravens have lost their last four games on the road by a total of 15 points:
In the 23-20 loss at Buffalo, Joe Flacco's career-worst fifth interception with 57 seconds remaining came with the Ravens 10 yards away from field-goal range.
In the 19-16 loss at Pittsburgh, the Ravens allowed a 44-yard kickoff return after they had just tied the game, and the Steelers kicked the winning field goal as time expired.
In the 24-18 loss at Cleveland, the Ravens' defense allowed the Browns to run off 6 1/2 minutes on their final drive and Flacco never took a deep shot after getting the ball back with 14 seconds left in the game.
In the 23-20 overtime loss at Chicago, the Ravens couldn't punch the ball in the end zone despite three plays inside the 6-yard line at the end of regulation and gave up a 43-yard pass to tight end Martellus Bennett in overtime.
Now, the Ravens head to Detroit's Ford Field, where the Lions are 4-2 this season. This is the first time the Ravens have played in a dome since winning the Super Bowl at the Superdome.
"The crowd noise is going to be a factor," Harbaugh said. "It's 'Monday Night Football.' It's going to be loud. It's a hugely important game for both teams. It's a great place to play and it's going to be a huge challenge for us. It's literally going to be the Lions' den."
Here are some other notes from Harbaugh's Monday news conference:
Harbaugh said he's hopeful that pass rusher Elvis Dumervil will play next week after missing his first game of the season. Dumervil is dealing with an ankle bruise. "He looks pretty good today," Harbaugh said. … The Ravens don't sound optimistic that wide receiver Brandon Stokley will play against the Lions. He left the game with a concussion in the fourth quarter and didn't return. "Unfortunately, he's had a number of those in his career, so that could be problematic," Harbaugh said. … In response to Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who criticized the Ravens' fan base for throwing snowballs, Harbaugh said, "Who doesn't throw snowballs when it snows?"