For Ravens, no place like home

December 17, 2009|By Jamison Hensley | jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

The Ravens look to wrap up another successful home campaign Sunday, when they likely play their last game at M&T Bank Stadium this season.

In two seasons under coach John Harbaugh, the Ravens have an 11-4 record in their stadium. During that span, the defense has recorded the most interceptions (25) and allowed the fewest yards per game (244.1) of any NFL team at home.

"I think it's a special thing playing in this stadium," Harbaugh said. "I think we have a tremendous home-field advantage every time we play because of our crowd. These Baltimore fans care, and they want to do everything they can to help their team win."

The Ravens have outscored opponents at home this season 199-88, which is an average score of 28.4-12.5. Joe Flacco'squarterback rating at home (96.3) is much better than on the road (75.2).

"We don't treat it any differently," Flacco said about playing at M&T Bank Stadium. "I don't think it's that big of a difference really."

The only way the Ravens can play at home in the first two rounds of the playoffs is by winning the AFC North. The Cincinnati Bengals can clinch the division Sunday if they win at San Diego or the Ravens lose.

Injury update
Six starters - free safety Ed Reed (strained hip/foot), linebacker Jarret Johnson (knee/back), defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (sprained right ankle), center Matt Birk (neck), wide receiver Mark Clayton (right hamstring) and left tackle Jared Gaither (lower back stiffness/foot) - did not practice Wednesday.

It marked the fourth consecutive practice the trio of Reed, Clayton and Gaither has missed dating to last week.

Wide receiver Kelley Washington (ankle), tight end L.J. Smith (sprained left ankle), defensive tackle Brandon McKinney (back) and safety K.J. Gerard (thigh) also did not participate.

Tom Zbikowski filled in for Reed, Demetrius Williams joined Derrick Mason on the first-team offense, and Oniel Cousins lined up at right tackle with Michael Oher in Gaither's usual position.

Mason ( finger) and linebacker-defensive end Terrell Suggs (sprained ligament in right knee) were limited.

Back in black
The Ravens will wear black jerseys with white pants Sunday, when they play the Chicago Bears at home, a team official confirmed Wednesday.

It will be the first time the Ravens put on their alternate uniforms this season. The Ravens decided to go from their usual all-black combination (jersey and pants) last season because Harbaugh didn't like the way it looked.

The only time the Ravens have worn the black jersey with white pants was Dec. 7, 2008, when the Ravens beat the Washington Redskins, 24-10.

Dropping the ball
Three spots after the Ravens drafted linebacker Jason Phillips in the fifth round, the Bears selected wide receiver Johnny Knox.

Phillips was on the bubble at the end of the preseason before being placed on injured reserve. The Ravens could have used a young receiver like Knox, who has 41 catches and five touchdowns for the Bears.

"We loved him in the draft," Harbaugh said. "It's not just his speed. He's kind of a waterbug. He's got great body control and very good hands. He brings a lot of dimensions. He's a home run threat every time he touches it."

End zone
For the Bears, wide receiver Devin Hester (calf) and cornerback Charles Tillman (back) did not practice. Defensive tackle Tommie Harris (knee) was limited, while offensive tackle Orlando Pace (groin) took part fully. … The Ravens are looking to win back-to-back games for the first time since September. "If we don't get it this week, there's no next week for us," Mason said. "We have to break that trend. I think this will be a good week to buck the system." … Over the past three seasons, the Ravens have averaged an NFL-best 158 yards rushing per game in December. … The Ravens have the highest margin of victory (19.6 points) in the NFL this season. Seattle is second with an 18.8-point margin of victory.

Baltimore Sun reporter Edward Lee contributed to this article.

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