Despite loss, Ravens still in control in AFC North
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens remain poised to reach the postseason as AFC North champions -- just like last year -- in spite of their disappointing and unexpected loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Baltimore (9-3) could have clinched a playoff berth and eliminated the Steelers from the division race with a victory on Sunday. Instead, the Ravens had their 15-game home winning streak snapped with a 23-20 defeat.
Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs left in the fourth quarter after hurting his upper right arm and could miss this Sunday's game against Washington. After sitting out the first six weeks of the season recovering from a torn Achilles tendon, Suggs has 19 tackles and two sacks in six games.
Suggs' arm injury "needs to be evaluated as far as possibly coming back and playing this week or not," coach John Harbaugh said Monday.
Harbaugh doesn't believe it's a long-term injury.
"I think we are encouraged that it may not be," he said. "We'll just have to see."
The loss to Pittsburgh dropped the Ravens into a three-way tie with New England and Denver for the second-best record in the AFC behind Houston (11-1). Baltimore leads Pittsburgh (7-5) and Cincinnati (7-5) by two games in the AFC North with four to play.
"We still are on course," Harbaugh said. "We have an opportunity to accomplish our first and foremost objective -- I wouldn't say the most important objective, but the first objective on the agenda -- which is to win the division. That's something that we need to do. We need to get to 11 (wins) to do that. That hasn't changed. And the idea of the high seed in the playoffs is still in front of us, too. So we're going to be working hard to get those things done."
The loss to Pittsburgh hurt, but the pain was lessened by the fact that the Ravens remain in control of the AFC North.
"Obviously, there's a little bit of comfort in that," said quarterback Joe Flacco, who was sacked three times, lost a fumble and threw an interception.
Many of the things that Baltimore did right this season didn't happen on Sunday. The Ravens had a difficult time putting pressure on third-string quarterback Charlie Batch, converted only three of 11 third-down plays and, worst of all, blew a 20-13 fourth-quarter lead. Baltimore was 48-7 under Harbaugh when entering the fourth quarter with a lead, including 7-0 this year.
"We really lost the fourth quarter," Harbaugh said. "That was the difference in the game. ... We got ahead but didn't stay ahead."
Pittsburgh had the ball for 12 minutes, 14 seconds in the fourth quarter and limited the Ravens to one first down. So, it wasn't difficult for Harbaugh to explain why this game was different than the 11 that preceded it.
"We got some stops in other games and got some first downs in some other games," he said. "We converted some third downs in some other games and didn't do that in this game. That's the biggest thing. We needed to get something going and we weren't able to do it."
Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said, "It's just disappointing that we lost. I think we all felt that we could win this game, and we just didn't finish it at the end."
The remainder of the schedule is not easy. After Sunday's game against the Redskins, Baltimore hosts Denver and the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants before concluding the regular season at Cincinnati.
"I know what this team is all about. A loss doesn't change who we are," wide receiver Anquan Boldin said. "We'll still go out, we'll win the AFC North and be a force to be reckoned with in the playoffs."
Especially if they're playing at home, where the Ravens are 16-0 (including playoffs) since falling to Pittsburgh in December 2009.
"We're disappointed about having our first loss at home in two years," Harbaugh said. "That's tough. That's not something that you want to see happen. We were proud of that streak. It will be our job to start a new streak. That will be our goal going forward."
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Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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