When the Ravens left their team facilities on Monday, they were just hours removed from an embarrassing primetime loss to the Chargers. They had dropped to second place in the AFC North and fallen to the No. 5 seed in the conference.
When the players and coaches showed up to team headquarters yesterday morning, their playoff outlook was a lot brighter. They were back in first place in the division, and knew that should they win their final two games, they’ll earn a first-round bye and at least one home playoff game.
All of that is thanks to Monday night’s Steelers loss to the 49ers, dropping Pittsburgh back into second place in the AFC North and giving the Ravens reason to smile on Tuesday.
“I’d be lying to say that it wasn’t exciting to see those guys lose last night,” quarterback Joe Flacco said yesterday.
“It’s a gift,” said linebacker Terrell Suggs.
Suggs then added that he wished the Ravens weren’t in a position where they needed any early holiday presents, but following the loss in San Diego, that’s where they were. And luckily for Suggs, Flacco and the rest of the guys in the Ravens’ locker room, they got the help they needed when the 49ers topped the Steelers.
The excitement over Pittsburgh’s loss wasn’t just felt by Baltimore’s players, however. It was also hit the Ravens’ head coach, who players say was walking around the team’s facilities Tuesday morning with a little extra pep in his step.
“He was coming in and saying, ‘Hey, did you see that game last night? Who won? Who won?’ ” Flacco said with a smile. “We were like, ‘OK, we all know who won the game. We know you’re way more excited now than you were two days ago.’ Then he asked me, ‘Did you watch the game?’ I was like, ‘No, I didn’t watch it.’ He kind of got flustered from there. He didn’t know where to go with it once I told him I didn’t watch the game. He was a little confused, but you could definitely tell that he was excited.
“We should be excited. We’re obviously in a better position because of what happened (Monday) night. We just have to keep our wits about us and continue to play the way we’ve been playing all season.”
Of course, Flacco and the Ravens know that if they slip up in one of their final two games, they could be right back in the spot they were in following the San Diego loss. We’ve seen over the last few days just how quickly things can change in the NFL, and those swings in momentum might not be done just yet.
Should the Ravens falter in one of their games against division rivals Cleveland and Cincinnati, they will yet again lose control over a first-round bye. That’s why Suggs says the Ravens’ focus has to immediately turn back to trying to win out over these final two games.
“As you can clearly see, that’s easier said than done,” Suggs said, referencing both Baltimore and Pittsburgh’s failed opportunities to gain control of the division. “We’ve got to handle business. First things first, it’s Cleveland.”
“We all know what we’re fighting for,” running back Ray Rice said. “There’s no need to keep talking about it. If we win out, we’re in a great situation. We drop one, and we got to take the show on the road, which everybody knows, that route is very hard. I’ve played in every single playoff game there is to play in except for one ... (in my) four years. I know how hard it is to win on the road.”