Nobody gets excited when the Baltimore Ravens are on television. There are reasons other than anthem protests for any no-shows at their stadium.
The Ravens are no fun to watch, but that won’t keep them from making the playoffs. The Ravens ground out another unremarkable, mostly ugly win on Saturday. In the rain, they had a few Justin Tucker field goals, a couple short Joe Flacco touchdown passes and they held off a bad Indianapolis Colts team 23-16. The defense came up big after a Colts punt block with 2:36 left, holding them out of the end zone to seal the win. With a win next week at home against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Ravens will clinch a playoff spot.
The Ravens haven’t made the playoffs for two straight seasons, but the NFL wasn’t going to keep John Harbaugh down long.
Harbaugh isn’t the best coach in the NFL, at least as long as Bill Belichick is active. But he’s close. This isn’t a great Ravens team. The offense has few playmakers, and Flacco is having another blah season. The defense is pretty good, and the Ravens are riding it. It’s a team that knows what it needs to do each week to squeeze out a win, and nine times in 15 games this season it has found a way to win. That’s a credit to Harbaugh and his staff. Harbaugh led the Ravens to the playoffs in six of his first seven seasons as coach, and they’ll likely to make their seventh trip under him this season.
It ended up being closer than they wanted on Saturday. Somehow the Ravens gave up a blocked punt in the final three minutes of a one-score game, a shocking breakdown for a well-coached team. But the Ravens defense held, with a third-down sack and then cornerback Maurice Canady knocked down a pass to T.Y. Hilton on fourth down. As usual, they found a way to win a game that won’t go on many highlight films.
The Ravens aren’t the type of team anyone wants to play in January. At this point it appears they are headed for the fifth seed, and the Kansas City Chiefs are on track to get the fourth. The Ravens will have a game plan to at very least keep every playoff game close until the end. Harbaugh has been in big games before, he has a Super Bowl ring, and he generally gives his team a chance to win. There’s a reason he has a 10-5 playoff record.
There’s still work to do, although at this point it seems hard to imagine the Ravens missing the playoffs. They’re not the most exciting team in the league, but they find a way to get the job done. And they might stick around in the playoffs for a while too.
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