Despite winning their 10th game, the Ravens needed either the Cleveland Browns or the Indianapolis Colts to fail in last-minute comebacks in order to gain control of their playoff fate. Instead of hanging on the final throws of Baker Mayfield and Philip Rivers, Baltimore went to its locker room, where the players and coaches huddled in their traditional postgame prayer and game balls were handed out.
Everything went Baltimore's way for once -- the Browns were upset by the New York Jets and the Colts fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers -- and the news soon made its way throughout the team. This moment could have led some players to celebrate taking a significant step toward a third straight trip to the playoffs. (Their playoff chances are now at 92%, according to ESPN's Football Power Index.) But few even cracked a smile in talking to reporters about how they learned about getting the help they desperately needed.
"My reaction was, 'We just have to keep winning,'" Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson said. "Like I said before, we don't really try to lean on hoping a team loses because it really doesn't matter. We still have to win, no matter what, and that's what I'm focused on."
As much as their run game and pass rush should strike fear into foes, the Ravens (10-5) now can clinch a wild-card spot with a win at the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday because of their refusal to get distracted.
For weeks, Baltimore's players insisted they would keep their entire mindset on their games, even though they needed help elsewhere. And, for weeks, the Ravens have taken care of their own business better than any other playoff contender outside of Kansas City.
Last week, the Rams surprisingly fell to the Jets, and the Steelers shockingly lost to the Bengals. On Sunday, the Browns got knocked off by the Jets.
In their past four games, the Ravens have beaten the Cowboys, Browns, Jaguars and Giants by a combined score of 148-86 -- a 15.5-point average margin of victory.
After last season's playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans, Jackson acknowledged the Ravens were defeated because they overlooked the opponent. This season, Baltimore is in position to return to the playoffs because it never got ahead of itself.
The Ravens can secure a wild-card berth if they beat the Bengals or if either the Browns or Colts lose at home. Cleveland plays host to Pittsburgh, and Indianapolis faces Jacksonville.
"[I'm] proud of [the way they've] just handled themselves in the situation that they were in, and we've been in for the last few weeks," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "Putting themselves in position for controlling their destiny, I think that says everything about their character. Now, we have to get the job done."
Some of the Ravens players admitted they did peek at the scoreboards to see what the other teams were doing. It's difficult to blame them, after the Colts, Browns and Dolphins -- all teams they needed to lose -- kept winning over the past weeks.
Did the Ravens ever think they wouldn't get the help they needed?
"No, we have to do what we have to do," Baltimore linebacker Matthew Judon said. "We can't let other teams and what they're doing and how they're playing affect us. Because that stuff starts to show after a while, if we're just hoping and praying on some negativity in other people. And now, it's in our hands."