DETROIT — Now, everyone will take the Ravens seriously.
Of the three remaining games they had on the schedule, the Ravens won the toughest Monday night by beating the Lions 18-16 here in Detroit.
The Lions aren't considered the best team in the NFL, not even the best team in the NFC North, but they play tough defense and they are hard to beat at Ford Field.
It's Game On. The Ravens are back.
They play the hated New England Patriots next week at M&T Bank Stadium, but the Ravens aren't afraid of the Patriots. In fact, they've played some great defense against them in the past and have gotten into quarterback Tom Brady's head.
The Patriots also don't play any defense, so there is no fear.
The Ravens still have the Cincinnati Bengals left in the season finale on the road, but did anyone catch the Bengals against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night? They look like the Bungles again. It might be another choking episode.
So, the Ravens are still in the thick for a wild-card berth and still might be able to win the AFC North title.
This wouldn't have been possible if the Ravens lost to the Lions Monday night, but they didn't. They are in a more serious hunt now.
They still need to score more touchdowns inside the red zone, but their defense forced the Lions into several turnovers and the Ravens have the ultimate weapon in place kicker Justin Tucker, who kicked a game-winning 61-yard field goal.
It didn't take long for two major weaknesses of the Ravens' defense to be exposed on the Lions' first offensive drive. Rookie safety Matt Elam missed a tackle on a 17-yard reception by wide receiver Nate Burleson, and rush linebacker Terrell Suggs got hooked momentarily long enough for running back Reggie Bush to bounce outside for a 14-yard touchdown run.
Suggs has made a lot of plays by going down inside earlier in the year but opponents have started to take advantage of him not holding the edge.
Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson dropped a 25-yard reception down to the Ravens 20-yard line on Detroit's second series with 4 minutes, 21 seconds left in the first quarter. There wasn't a Ravens defensive back within 10 yards of Johnson.
Johnson dropped another possible 20-yard reception late in the first half.
Hmmmm. Johnson did look a little old on both of those and made Elam look like a prophet.
Miscues lead to mistakes
The Ravens had a 15-play, 89-yard drive that went into the second quarter and ended with a 29-yard field goal from Tucker. But during the drive the Ravens had miscommunication on what appeared to be a running play that was checked into a passing play, and left tackle Eugene Monroe missed an assignment with guard A. Q. Shipley which resulted in a hurried throw and incomplete pass by quarterback Joe Flacco on a third-and-8 at the Detroit 11.
Those types of things happen, but those mistakes shouldn't be recurring this often this late in the season. Instead of coming away with seven points, the Ravens had to settle for three.
Missing the call
Offensive coordinators should call 10 long passes a game because officials don't know the true interpretation of pass interference and you can get three of four calls a game.
The interference call on Detroit's safety Don Carey late in the first half on receiver Marlon Brown was atrocious because there was no contact except the two getting their feet tangled up. There doesn't need to be any offensive strategy at times, just chuck it up.
Poor quarterback play
Stafford can look downright ugly at times. Critics used to jump on former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow because of his throwing motion, but few throw sidearm more than Stafford.
Defense stepping up
Ravens did a nice job in the first half and led 9-7 after two quarters. The Ravens held up against Detroit's fierce pass rush and Flacco made several plays with his movement in the pocket.
Flacco stayed patient during the first two quarters. Meanwhile, the Ravens kept consistent pressure on Stafford which helped force some of those ugly side arm throws.