Ravens finally figure out how to survive

BALTIMORE -- The Baltimore Ravens weren't clamoring that they're back after beating the Cincinnati Bengals, 20-17, in overtime. They didn't establish themselves as contenders again despite knocking off the AFC North leaders and closing to within 1 1/2 games.

The only resemblance to the Super Bowl team on Sunday was this year's team finally figured out how to survive. With their season looking over after the Hail Mary touchdown at the end of regulation, the Ravens found a way to win, as players and coaches repeatedly said, by any means necessary.

"Obviously, we won, so that was exciting. I don’t know if it was more exciting as it was one of those ones where you go afterwards, ‘Phew, I’m glad we won this one,'" quarterback Joe Flacco said. "Having said that, it is a big win, and you take them no matter how you get them."

It's difficult to believe the Ravens have turned the corner after failing to hold a 17-point lead. It's hard to say the Ravens are back on track after Flacco turned the ball over three times (two interceptions and one fumble) and got out-gained 364-189.

Baltimore (4-5) still has a dysfunctional offense that can't protect Flacco (five sacks) and can't run the ball (average of 2.8 yards per carry). The defense still couldn't get the other team off the field late in the fourth quarter.

There are the same issues that have dogged the Ravens all season. The difference Sunday was the Ravens did enough in overtime to win.

What saved the Ravens' season was their pass rush, kicker and ability to bounce back. This is a Ravens team that had lost four of its past five games by a total of 14 points and struggled to make plays in the end.

So, what was Baltimore thinking on that last-second, 51-yard pass to A.J. Green in the fourth quarter?

“I don’t know if you’re thinking that it’s going to be it for us for the season," Flacco said. "You’re probably not thinking all good thoughts. There are some bad thoughts in there. … Real quickly, you kind of say to yourself, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. It is not going right. It is just not going right.’ Me and Torrey [Smith] just sat back down on the bench and just looked at each other and said, ‘Wow.’ But then pretty quickly, you get back up, take the field and see what you can do.”

The Bengals (6-4) helped the Ravens all game, whether it was penalties (nine for 134 yards) or Andy Dalton's three interceptions. Cincinnati handed the momentum right back to Baltimore in overtime when it went for it on fourth-and-two from the Ravens' 33-yard line instead of pinning the Ravens deep inside their territory.

When the Ravens stopped the Bengals on a questionable play call -- Dalton threw a swing pass to running back Giovani Bernard -- they only needed 28 yards to get in range for the game-winning field goal.

"I feel like they showed the heart of champions today," coach John Harbaugh said. "Where this leads us, we will find out."

It was more like the heart of survivors. In the Ravens' championship season, Baltimore won six games decided by three points or fewer. Sunday's victory was just the Ravens' second by that margin this year.

The Ravens are right to breathe a sigh of relief more than celebrate. They put themselves back in the AFC North race, but they have to play better if they want to make a statement to the league.

"Oh yes, [the win] can start something, but we can't let this get over our heads, thinking we're something that we're not," cornerback Lardarius Webb said. "We've just got to get back to that film and keep getting better, and better, and better, because we're a great ball club."