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Ravens confident they are on winning trail

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The Sports Xchange

OWINGS MILLS, Md. – Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker wasn’t joking when he said the team has the personnel to close out the season with eight straight wins.

When told of the comments, coach John Harbaugh echoed those sentiments.

Baltimore heads into its bye week with some much-needed momentum following a 29-26 victory over the San Diego Chargers. What made the victory even more special was that the Ravens were finally able to make key plays at the end of the game. While the odds are astronomically long for Baltimore to make the playoffs at 2-6, the coaches and players have vowed to make a push for that goal.

The Ravens will have to do that without their top playmaker and emotional leader in wide receiver Steve Smith, who tore his Achilles’ tendon and is lost for the year.

“You move onto the next players,” Harbaugh said Monday. “The players will be expected to step up and play at the highest possible level. That’s our expectation. It never changes. We’re never going to use excuses.”

Baltimore’s six losses have been decided by a total of 30 points, which has been both frustrating and provided some hope. The Ravens contend they could just as easily be 6-2, rather than the other way around.

The team is ready to continue that roller-coaster ride when they take on the Jaguars on Nov. 15 after a much-needed break.

“We all talk how fun this game is, and how we have to have fun, and at the end of the day, this is a brutal game,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “It’s a brutal game in every way, and it’s a lot of fun when you’re in that locker room, and you’ve won a football game. But up until that point, it’s just a tough, physical hard-nosed game, and you’re fighting your [butt] off to win it. But when you get in there with your brothers, and you’re putting your arms around everybody, and you can just feel that sense of pride that everybody has, then it’s pretty fun.”

Another positive for the Ravens is that they are through the hardest part of their schedule. Baltimore played five of its first seven games on the road, including four matchups against opponents on the West Coast. Even with the travel and adversity, the Ravens had an opportunity to tie the game or take the lead in the final two minutes in each of their six losses.

Baltimore plays five of its final eight games at home.

“Playing at home is a lot better than playing on the road,” Harbaugh said. “We’re excited to be back home. We’re fired up about that.”

In a season full of adversity, everything finally came together against the Chargers when Flacco put together an effective drive on the game’s last possession. This allowed Tucker to nail a 39-yard field goal as time expired to win the game.

Now, Baltimore has a boost of confidence and is fully focused on closing out the season on an unprecedented winning streak.

“That’s the objective – to win the next game,” Harbaugh said. “And our objective is going to be to win the next game. Are we going to define ourselves and say we can’t win every game going forward? There’s absolutely no way we’ll say that. Everybody else can say it. We’ll let them say it … for whatever challenges are in front of us, we’re just the men for the job.”

REPORT CARD VS. CHARGERS

–PASSING OFFENSE: A. Quarterback Joe Flacco completed 25 of 37 passes for 319 yards. He threw for a touchdown and ran for another. His receivers also came up with several big catches. Steve Smith led the way with five catches for 82 yards before being injured.

–RUSHING OFFENSE: B. The Ravens’ running attack began to wear down the Chargers in the final quarter after a slow start. Starter Justin Forsett finished with 69 yards on 17 carries. San Diego was determined to not let Baltimore win with its ground attack.

–PASS DEFENSE: C. The Ravens gave up some big plays, including a 70-yard touchdown pass from Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers to Malcom Floyd. Still, the group made a couple of big stops at the end to preserve the victory.

–RUSH DEFENSE: C. The Ravens got a break when the Chargers had three offensive lineman – center Chris Watt, guard Chris Hairston and left tackle King Dunlap – leave with injuries. But San Diego still managed to make plays on the ground and finished with 81 yards on 26 carries.

–SPECIAL TEAMS: A. Kicker Justin Tucker made all five of his field-goal attempts, including the game-winner as time expired. Sam Koch was especially effective in pinning the Chargers on their own end of the field. He had two punts for over 60 yards. Chargers punt returner Jacoby Jones had minus-2 yards on his only opportunity.

–COACHING: A. The Ravens coaches have managed to maintain a high morale despite the poor start to the season. Coach John Harbaugh has vowed each week to keep fighting and that is exactly what his team did against the Chargers. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees put together an effective game plan to contain Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, who is the top passer in the league. Offensive coordinator Marc Trestman kept the pace of the game moving for quarterback Joe Flacco.


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