Riding 8-game streak, Ravens now in control
OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens now own the top seed in the AFC, a distinction that provides home-field advantage in all games leading up to the Super Bowl.
Well, that’s how it works when the season is done. There are still four weeks to go, as Ravens coach John Harbaugh was quick to point out Monday.
“It just means you control your own destiny, but they don’t have a No. 1 seed until they do the seeding,” Harbaugh said.
The Ravens (10-2) and New England (10-2) have the best record in the conference, but Baltimore gets the tiebreaker on the strength of its 37-20 victory over the Patriots on Nov. 3.
Working from behind all season, the Ravens finally passed New England on Sunday. After Baltimore beat San Francisco 20-17, the Patriots fell to Houston — a team the Ravens recently stomped 41-7.
Combining the running of Lamar Jackson and a gritty defense that have proven to be far better than expected, the Ravens have won a franchise-record eight in a row. They’ve established themselves as the team to beat not only in the AFC, but as San Francisco will attest, the entire NFL.
Now is not the time to let up. Perhaps the toughest remaining game on the schedule is coming up next: Buffalo (9-3) on the road this Sunday. The Bills will be ready and rested after thrashing Dallas on Thanksgiving.
Jackson ran for 101 yards against the top-ranked defense in the NFL on a wet, windy day.
When Jackson has the ball in his hands and his feet churning forward, something good usually happens for the Ravens. Jackson’s rushing total is at 977, 62 yards short of Michael Vick’s record for a quarterback, set in 2006.
What needs help
Harbaugh wasn’t happy that the Ravens yielded 174 yards rushing, including 146 to the unheralded Raheem Mostert.
“They ran the ball on us too much. We’ve got to look at that and straighten it out,” Harbaugh said. “But it was outside stuff that we can clean up. We have to go to work on that.”
Mostert had a 40-yard touchdown run and receiver Deebo Samuel ran for 20 on an end-around.
Taking over for injured Matt Skura, center Patrick Mekari played well in his first NFL start.
“All the snaps were very good,” Harbaugh said. “We operated normally, with the center calls. He made all the right calls and made almost all of his blocks against one of the best defenses.”
Mekari was signed as a rookie free agent last May.
“I think he’s a tough dude and works his butt off,” Harbaugh said.
Rookie WR Marquise Brown caught one pass for 1 yard, one week after having five receptions and scoring two touchdowns against the Rams.
Don’t blame Brown, though. Jackson had all sorts of trouble throwing the wet football, completing only 14 passes.
“A lot of passes were getting away from me,” the quarterback acknowledged.