Ravens want to put loss behind them, focus on Oakland

December 28, 2009|By Ken Murray | ken.murray@baltsun.com

PITTSBURGH — Next stop, Oakland. The Ravens can't wait to get there.

Missing a golden opportunity to secure a wild-card berth in the AFC playoffs, the Ravens self-destructed in the second half Sunday and dropped a wrenching 23-20 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Asked how the Ravens would respond to the difficult loss, a terse John Harbaugh set the emotional tone he wants his players to follow this week before traveling to the West Coast to play the Oakland Raiders.

"I know how they'll respond," the coach said. "I think everyone on our team knows how to respond. They'll go to work and they'll go out there and compete against a good Oakland football team that has had its share of success this year. We have our hands full, but I guarantee we can't wait for the opportunity. We'd play them right now if we could."

Early losses by the Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins Sunday put the Ravens in position to clinch a playoff spot in Pittsburgh - until Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley turned Heinz Field into his own personal stage and stomped on the Ravens' last shot at a victory.

At 8-7, the Ravens still make the playoffs if they win at Oakland in the regular-season finale.

If the Ravens, New York Jets and Denver all win - the 8-7 teams with the best conference marks - the Ravens and Jets would reach the postseason, the NFL confirmed Sunday night.

The Jets would reach the playoffs as the No. 5 seed over the Ravens and Broncos because of a better record among common opponents. The Ravens then would get the edge over Denver because they beat the Broncos in a head-to-head meeting.

The Ravens could have avoided a messy final-week scenario with a win in Pittsburgh. But this game ended the way so many have this season for them. They were unable to finish off the Steelers after coming back from a 20-10 halftime deficit. They lost two touchdowns to penalties and had another dropped in the end zone. When the game was on the line, the Steelers were the team that made the big plays.

Grim-faced and angry in the locker room after the game, the Ravens were defiant in their demeanor. No, they said almost to a man, they didn't feel like they gave the game away, three turnovers and botched opportunities notwithstanding.

"I don't feel like we gave it away," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "Not at all. I feel like we played really hard, and I feel like this is a game that we're all not going to feel good about, but I think we look at this game and we'll look at each other and realize how hard we played and we're really proud of it, and we're going to move on and get ready for Oakland."

Defensive tackle Justin Bannan sounded a similar theme.

"Any time you lose, you can play the what-if game, and kill yourself over every little mistake," he said. "Things happen. All you can do is learn from it and move on. This is just the way it is."

Even veteran wide receiver Derrick Mason was adopting the move-on-immediately strategy. He led the team with seven catches for 77 yards, but dropped a perfect throw from Flacco in the end zone on the first play of the fourth quarter. A touchdown would have given the Ravens a 27-20 lead.

"Forget about this one, it's over and done with," Mason said. "We just have to prepare for the next one. That's all that matters. We win, we're in. That's our philosophy. I've forgotten about this one; it's done and over with."

The Ravens will need amnesia to forget this game.

They piled up 11 penalties for 113 yards. Pittsburgh had four for 20. The most egregious penalties were called against Terrell Suggs and Kelley Washington. Suggs was flagged for an illegal block in the backfield in the third quarter when Domonique Foxworth returned an interception for an apparent 46-yard touchdown. Washington's obvious holding penalty on Deshea Townsend nine minutes later wiped out a 32-yard scoring burst by Willis McGahee.

"I think you guys can go to penalties if you want," a contentious Harbaugh said. "You can point the finger at whatever you want. We're going to Oakland. We're going to play our hearts out every single week."

The Ravens will try to move on quickly, but the pain will linger.

"Missed opportunities, I think, are the moral of this story," Foxworth said. "And it's a positive because we missed those opportunities and we're still in position to make a championship run. … So I look at it as a positive, and since we lost [ Ed] Reed as one of the leaders in the secondary, I think we all look at it that way. And we're going to talk about it that way."

All the way to Oakland.

Baltimore Sun reporter Jamison Hensley contributed to this article.

Win, they're in
The Ravens make the playoffs if they win at Oakland in the regular-season finale.

If the Ravens, New York Jets and Broncos all win - the 8-7 teams with the best conference marks - the Ravens and Jets would reach the postseason, the NFL confirmed Sunday night.

The Jets would reach the playoffs as the No. 5 seed over the Ravens and Broncos because of a better record among common opponents.

The Ravens then would get the edge over Denver because they beat the Broncos in the head-to-head meeting earlier this season.

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