Ravens playoff hopes will ride on performance of defense
(AP Photo/Mike Roemer)
By DAVID GINSBURG
AP Sports Writer
OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) With three shutouts, an NFL-leading 16 interceptions and 13 forced fumbles in 10 games, the Ravens are playing the kind of defense that wins championships.
At this point, Baltimore would be content just to get into the playoffs.
The Ravens allowed only 219 yards and forced five turnovers Sunday in a 23-0 rout of Green Bay, a victory coach John Harbaugh hopes will put his up-and-down team on course to reach the postseason for the first time in three years.
The key is consistency, and Baltimore (5-5) hasn't displayed much of that thus far this season. Despite all those shutouts and turnovers, the Ravens haven't won two straight since starting 2-0 and entered the weekend ranked No. 28 in the league in run defense.
Green Bay managed 75 yards rushing in 25 attempts, and 19 of those yards came from the quarterback.
"Throughout the season we've probably had a couple games when we weren't as good, but we need to be great against the run the rest of the year," Harbaugh said Monday. "Everybody did their job, ran hard to the ball. We were very physical up front."
With four of their last six games at home, beginning with Houston (4-6) next Monday night, the Ravens are in position to make a serious playoff run.
If, that is, they can build on Sunday's performance at Lambeau Field.
"That's the thing: We have to play winning football," Harbaugh said. "I think the formula begins to present itself as the season wears on here as to what that is for us."
The formula has been the same in Baltimore since the turn of the century, when a Ray Lewis-led defense notched four shutouts and the Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2000 with a lackluster offense led by quarterback Trent Dilfer.
Joe Flacco has 11 interceptions and eight touchdown passes as part of an offense that came to Green Bay ranked 30th in the NFL. Baltimore isn't going hit the 40-point barrier too often, but with the defense it has, just a couple TDs should be enough.
"This is the Ravens. This is a team that's built upon defense," Terrell Suggs said. "It's good to have shutouts, but we've got to compile the wins. As long as we are winning, we can enjoy these. We can't have a shutout one week and then come back and drop one and still try to hope to get in."
Houston rang up 31 points against Arizona on Sunday and is averaging 26.5 points per game.
The Ravens are ready for the challenge, understanding that there's little margin for error with six weeks left.
"We still have everything in front of us with an opportunity to still get into the dance," said cornerback Jimmy Smith, who got the defense started Sunday with an end-zone interception on Green Bay's opening drive.
Second-year pro Matthew Judon had seven tackles and two sacks; 2016 fourth-round pick Willie Henry contributed five tackles and two sacks; and rookie cornerback Marlon Humphrey had an interception and knocked away two passes.
"It's good to see guys you had hopes for (play well)," Harbaugh said.
Now standing one shutout short of the team record, the Ravens are looking to finish with a flourish.
"The story is still to be written, in terms of what this defense is," Harbaugh said.
The next chapter will be drawn up Monday night in Baltimore.
"We have a really good offense coming in here with a really good offensive coach (Bill O'Brien) who knows how to attack defense in a great way," Harbaugh said. "That's what our focus has to be."
NOTES: Harbaugh provided no update on OT Ronnie Stanley, who missed Sunday's game with a concussion. The injury occurred on Nov. 5 in Tennessee. ... LB C.J. Mosley has an ankle sprain. ... Baltimore's plane ride home from Green Bay was delayed four hours by mechanical issues.
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Updated November 20, 2017