Pride is going to have to carry the Ravens through the last part of the season

November 17, 2013|Mike Preston

CHICAGO — The Ravens don't play like a championship caliber team but play with the heart of defending champions.

Their 2013 playoff hopes took another hit Sunday after a grueling 23-20 overtime loss to the Chicago Bears in a five-hour game which included a 113-minute delay.

Barring major collapses from around the AFC and the Ravens running the table in their six remaining games, it will be extremely hard for this team to advance into the postseason, the first time that would happen under sixth-year coach John Harbaugh.

Regardless, the Ravens are resilient. The talent level is down from their Super Bowl team, but these guys won't go easy.

"We just got to take care of business," Ravens running back Ray Rice said. "We got the New York Jets next week. If you look at where we're at right now, we really just — and I know it's getting old — got to take care of business. We've got a couple of home games ahead of us. We've got to take care of everything.

"We've got to turn this thing around, get better every day and try to shake this thing up and put ourselves back in the hunt."

The Ravens know the odds are against them. They have played about as hard and as well as possible in the last two weeks, both overtime games.

But at this point, we're no longer talking about finding positives to build on or finding identities. We're talking about a team right now that is just playing on pride. They showed a lot Sunday.

The one-handed catch from tight end Dallas Clark was amazing. After weeks of criticism, the Ravens hitched a ride on the legs of Rice who had 131 yards on 25 carries. The Ravens had a gutsy, nine-play, 80-yard drive in the final 4 minutes and 08 seconds of regulation into the wind to tie the game, and of course there was quarterback Joe Flacco.

It was another vintage Flacco performance. He was inconsistent throughout the game, but made clutch throws in crunch time.

The critics will continue to whip up on the Ravens into Monday morning, and I certainly have been one of the harshest. But any fan of football who watched that game Sunday got their money's worth.

"It's a tough loss, we were close," Flacco said. "It's tough to keep telling yourself you've got to keep going, but you have to, you have to get to the next game. You've just got to do it. It was a long day, a long game, we just didn't persevere like we wanted to."

The Ravens can still earn a playoff spot and four of their six remaining games are at home. But two of them are against rivals Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots, and the two road games include a Monday night date with the Detroit Lions and the end of the season finale at Cincinnati.

Ten games into the season, there isn't going to be significant improvement for the Ravens. They rushed for a lot of yards against the Bears because Chicago's rushing defense was ranked No. 31 in the NFL.

Some of the things that have hurt them all season hurt them Sunday. They could only stop the Bears on one of three possessions in the fourth quarter and overtime, and they gave up another big play in the secondary, a 43-yard reception to tight end Martellus Bennett which helped set up the game-winning field goal.

Bennett made great play leaping over cornerback Lardarius Webb, but that's something else the Ravens have lacked. The don't have a lot of playmakers. Wide receiver Torrey Smith gave them something Sunday and so did Flacco and Rice. But wide receiver Tandon Doss dropped two big passes, and fellow receiver Deonte Thompson couldn't break lose.

And when a cornerback needed to make a big play in the Bears last drive, the Ravens couldn't deliver like they did a week ago when they smothered the Bengals.

Consistency hasn't been a strong point for the Ravens this season but resiliency has. As they prepare for the last six games, that might have to carry them through.

What they lack in talent they make up in heart. It almost got them through Sunday.

"It's how this league is," Harbaugh said. "It's life. It's just the way it goes. Our guys fought and they came back out and battled and we made mistakes and we made plays and in the end we came up a little bit short. I heard Joe Flacco just say it might be hard to convince people.

"There are going to be a lot of skeptics out there who don't want to believe it, but we will keep fighting. We'll come back next week. We'll come back home for a few weeks and will get ourselves back in this thing. "

It's coming down to pride now. There isn't much else left.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

twitter.com/MikePrestonSun

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