No fluke, no flinch, no contest

November 24, 2008|By DAVID STEELE | DAVID STEELE,

This is how good the Ravens feel right now, not only about themselves, but also about their chances down the stretch of the regular season - and beyond. When Ed Reed was asked about the Gatorade shower given to John Harbaugh at the end of the near-gratuitous 36-7 beating of the Philadelphia Eagles yesterday, he said: "We plan to be doing this in late January and February. This was just practice."

Reed said it with a grin, understandable considering what a laugher this became, thanks largely to his latest NFL-record play. Still, it did indicate that the Ravens, at 7-4, know who they are better than they have all season.

They're no fluke, for one thing, nor are they simple overachievers. They're good enough to not just beat, but beat handily, most of the NFL. They can't stay on the field with all of the elite, but they're not that far away from them, either.

What that all mean? They're good enough to make the playoffs. They know it, no matter how many times they repeat the one-game-at-a-time mantra.

Diminish that if you like by noting that it's more a sign of the NFL's mediocrity than anything. No doubt that was the case yesterday, when the Eagles came apart like a soggy cheesesteak and made the first firm steps toward the end of the Andy Reid-Donovan McNabb era. (They tried to pass the quarterback torch, but Reed intercepted it and ran 108 yards with it. Thank you, don't forget to tip your waiters.)

Still, the Ravens are beating who they are supposed to. If they keep that up (next week in Cincinnati, for example) and also give themselves a chance against the better teams (Pittsburgh and Dallas), then 10 wins, the minimum for AFC playoff contention, is in their sights. They don't have to look beautiful from kickoff to final gun to get there, either.

As unwatchable as three quarters of that game were thanks to both teams, and as close as the score remained, the Ravens never gave a sense that they would let this game get away from them. Remember, this was one of the NFC East opponents that were supposed to expose them. They're 1-1 against them now, after the Giants handled them a week ago.

"I think we put it behind us, and we took lessons from it. You do both," the still-wet Harbaugh said. "You take the emotions and put them behind you. The hurt, you put it behind you and you move on from that. But the lessons, you have to take with you."

If they do nothing more than apply the lessons from their few beatdowns (the Colts and Giants) to the rest of the schedule, that should be enough.

"We have the personnel to dominate anybody," linebacker Bart Scott said. "It's just us staying patient, making the plays when they come, letting plays come through us, being where we're supposed to be."

Which they didn't do against the Giants, it goes without saying. "You do that, and even if it's a tight game, tight game, tight game - suddenly it's a blowout."

Like yesterday, when in a 14-minute span of the third and fourth quarters, they squashed the Eagles' chances and spirits, scoring 24 straight points in brutally demoralizing (to the Eagles) and exhilarating (for the Ravens) fashion.

Yet even Reed, the one who dangled February out there, wasn't ready to commit quite that fully when asked whether the playoffs were indeed on their minds.

"Give us a couple more weeks, and we can answer that question," he said, again chuckling. "We have an uphill battle."

Actually, it's not as sharp an incline as he might think.

Listen to David Steele on Fridays at 9 a.m. on WNST (1570 AM).

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