NFL Wire News

Ravens lose control, must focus forward


OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The players and coaches for the Baltimore Ravens say they are fully focused on beating the Cleveland Browns in Week 17 to be in position for one of the six AFC playoff spots.

However, it might be difficult during what still could be their final week of practice.

The Ravens (9-6) controlled their postseason fate heading into the final two games, but a loss to the Houston Texans in Week 16 dropped them off the list of teams definitely in the playoffs.

The loss was especially frustrating because Baltimore failed to take advantage of a team that was playing its fourth quarterback. Houston was forced to sign Case Keenum off the St. Louis Rams practice six days before playing the Ravens and he was able to effectively manage the game.

Baltimore now has to beat Cleveland in the final week and still needs help from other teams to advance to the postseason, most notably the San Diego Chargers at Kansas City. Coach John Harbaugh said the team won’t be scoreboard watching because that would just interfere with focus on the Browns.

“We will be wholly and fully engaged in the task at hand,” Harbaugh said. “We will be very determined. This is a determined football team. It’s a football team that has put (in) a great deal of effort (and) has been through a lot of adversity.

“You learn from adversity. There is no success without failure. You don’t improve and grow (without failure). There’s a process to it all, and you come up short sometimes, and we came up short in this game, but that’s how you improve and get better. And that’s what we plan on doing.”

Baltimore is 2-6 against teams with a winning records. However, injuries have hampered the Ravens all season and this week is no different.

Baltimore lost right tackle Rick Wagner and left tackle Eugene Monroe to foot injuries against the Texans. Their availability will be disclosed later in the week. The Ravens have already lost five cornerbacks to season-ending injuries this season.

Looking ahead, quarterback Joe Flacco will have to bounce back from one of the worst performances of his seven-year career. Flacco completed 21 of 50 passes for 195 yards, two touchdown and a season-high three interceptions that led to 13 Texans’ points.

“It’s tough. We’ve been in this situation last year where we didn’t really control our own destiny at the end of the season,” Flacco said. “We didn’t play well. All we can control is going out there next week against Cleveland and winning a football game. All we can do is worry about ourselves and go win a game.”

The Ravens could face another unheralded quarterback this week against the Browns. Cleveland rookie Johnny Manziel has a hamstring injury and Brian Hoyer has an injured shoulder. This means, Cleveland could be forced to start rookie Connor Shaw.

“I have a feeling (Brian) Hoyer might show up,” Harbaugh said. ‘We’ll be preparing for him as well.”

Harbaugh expects his players to fully embrace the challenge in front of them.

“We’re excited about the opportunity,” Harbaugh said. “It gives us an opportunity to do something even greater — surprise everybody even more. That’s what we plan on doing. That’s what we’re going to try to do.”

Notes: Right tackle Rick Wagner suffered a foot injury against the Texans, was carted to the locker room and his status is unknown. … Left tackle Eugene Monroe left in the fourth quarter with a foot injury and was wearing a walking boot after the game and his status is unknown. … Running back Justin Forsett sprained his ankle in the fourth quarter but should be available for the regular season finale against the Browns.


–PASSING OFFENSE: D-minus — Quarterback Joe Flacco had one of his poorest performances and struggled to find his receivers for most of the game. Flacco completed 21 of 50 passes for 195 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Torrey Smith caught a pair of touchdown passes and has 10 on the season.

–RUSHING OFFENSE: D-minus — The Ravens’ running backs combined for 33 yards on 16 carries and had just one first down. Justin Forsett had one of his worst games this season with 19 yards on 10 carries before leaving the game in the fourth quarter with a sprained ankle. Bernard Pierce, who entered the season as the starter, had just one carry for minus-2 yards.

–PASS DEFENSE: C — Baltimore let Houston’s fourth string quarterback Case Keenum effectively manage the game. The Ravens also fell for a trick play that let Houston running back Arian Foster to throw a 5-yard touchdown pass to tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz. Baltimore desperately needed a game-changing play from this group and they didn’t deliver.

–RUSH DEFENSE: C — The Ravens still have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 25 games — the NFL’s longest active streak — but Arian Foster came close. He finished with 96 yards on 25 carries, including a 34-yard scamper.

–SPECIAL TEAMS: B — Jacoby Jones had a 45-yard punt return to Houston’s 10-yard line that set up a Ravens’ first touchdown in the third quarter. Jones also averaged 30.5 yards on four kick-off returns. Justin Tucker did not attempt a field goal. Sam Koch punted times for an average of 50.4 yards, but had one shank. Coverage was solid.

–COACHING: D-minus — The Ravens potentially played themselves out of the postseason with a loss to Houston. They now must beat Cleveland in the regular season final and get some help from other teams to avoid missing the playoffs for the second straight season. Baltimore simply did not make the necessary adjustments offensively and had one of its worst performances of the season when it needed its best.

About The Sports Xchange


Since 1987, the Sports Xchange has been the best source of information and analysis for the top professionals in the sports publishing & information business