Say what you will about the Baltimore Ravens (11-4) but these birds can win at home. After beating the Cleveland Browns (4-11) 20-14 Saturday afternoon they finished the season a perfect 8-0 at home. Sure, they’ve gone on the road this season and consistently laid egg after egg, but at home they’re are clearly a different team. With one game left, on the road against the Bengals, the Ravens will have a chance to grasp home field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win.
Pittsburgh’s loss to the 49er’s last Monday night was paramount. With that loss the Ravens stayed even with the Steelers, both teams are now 11-4. If both the Ravens and Steelers finish with identical records, which is likely, the Ravens would win the AFC North and secure a first-round bye and a home playoff game (having beaten Pittsburgh twice this season).
The game itself was more of a scrimmage than anything else. Although the Browns kept the game close on the scoreboard, the Ravens were in control throughout. Kick returner Josh Cribbs, the Browns sole explosive player, had an 84-yard punt return for a touchdown and RB Peyton Hillis ran for 112 yards, but that was all she wrote in terms of yardage gained for Cleveland.
The Ravens didn’t exactly play light-out football either. Joe Flacco finished the game 11 of 24 for only 132 yrds with two touchdowns and one interception. Flaccos’ play of late has got to have the Ravens coaches somewhat worried as we head into the cold, hard-fought football the January and the playoffs bring. Ray Rice ran for 87 yards and caught a touchdown, Ricky Williams added another 45 yards on the ground as well.
“I have never been perfect at home in 16 years of football. That’s amazing,” Ray Lewis, Baltimore’s defensive stalwart added after the game. “As good of teams we’ve had here, we’ve always found [a way] to lose one or two games here or there. I think this year we really made a focus on taking care at home. This is the result, us being able to go 8-0 and being able to be sitting here where you want to sit at the end of the day.”
Where the Ravens want to sit is at home for the first round of the playoffs. They want to watch the first round sitting comfortably on their couches at home. Then, they’d like to face whatever team they face in Baltimore well rested and hungry to make a Super Bowl run.
Somehow, someway the Ravens have lost game they should have won and still managed to get 11 wins (with a twelve win out there for the taking). If you had told me before the season that the Ravens were going to lose to Seattle, Tennessee, Jacksonville, and San Diego and still procure a first round bye in the playoffs, I would’ve called you crazy. But here, now the Ravens can do just that with one more victory.
Will they lay another road egg and have to go on the road through the playoffs? Or can they finally play great football when it’s needed most?
About the Author
Written by Frank Sullivan
Frank is a graduate of Old Dominion University, sports fan, author, and founder of TheBloosh.com. He's been working with prosportsblogging.com since April 2011, and has covered the Chicago Bulls, Baltimore Ravens, Virginia Tech Hokies Football, and the Washington Wizards. Frank can be reached @franksullivan on twitter.