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Ravens hope to ride momentum from win in San Diego

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Ravens hope to ride momentum from win in San Diego

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) Ray Rice's incredible fourth-down journey through the San Diego defense helped the Baltimore Ravens move closer to a second straight division title.

It's also possible that Rice's catch-and-run gem - a 29-yard gain on a fourth-and-29 situation in Sunday's 16-13 overtime victory - could ultimately be the defining moment for a team in the hunt to secure the top seed in the AFC playoffs.

``We'll see what it means, if we can capitalize on it and stack some success on top of that,'' coach John Harbaugh said Monday.

Baltimore punted on all six first-half possessions and trailed 13-10 when Rice weaved his way up the field to secure a first down at the San Diego 34 with 1:37 left in the fourth quarter. The 5-foot-8 running back eluded several tackles, received a crushing block from wide receiver Anquan Boldin and finally lunged forward to cover the necessary yardage.

``It's going to go down in history. It was just a remarkable play ... the greatest play I've ever seen or been a part of,'' Harbaugh said. ``It was 11 guys who made the play happen. One guy had a real big role in it. It was a sensational play by Ray Rice.''

Had the Ravens lost, they would have dropped into a tie with New England and Denver for second-best record in the AFC. Instead, Baltimore (9-2) remained a game behind Houston for the best record in the conference and retained its grip on the No. 2 seed.

The Ravens have played seven games decided by seven points or fewer. They have won six of them.

``We know how to win football games,'' quarterback Joe Flacco said. ``We've done a great job of that over the years. It wasn't perfect, but not every game is going to be perfect. When you can grind one out in the end like that it shows that you're a tough football team with a lot of resilience that knows how to win.''

Said Rice: ``We firmly believed we were going to get the first down.''

If the Ravens (9-2) beat fading Pittsburgh (6-5) this Sunday and Cincinnati loses to San Diego, Baltimore will clinch the AFC North title.

``The thing our guys have done is, as a team, they've positioned themselves really well to take advantage of an opportunity,'' Harbaugh said. ``That's what you try to do. Every game makes the next game that much more important.''

The Ravens have won four straight, all without injured linebacker Ray Lewis, who's been sidelined since Oct. 14 with a torn right triceps. To most players, a torn triceps is a season-ending injury.

Knowing how resilient Lewis is, Baltimore placed him on the injured reserve/designated for return list. And now it appears as if Lewis might be back in the weeks ahead.

``I think he will. That's a best guess,'' Harbaugh said. ``He's working hard to do that. There have been no setbacks, so there's a possibility.''

Baltimore's defense has done just fine without Lewis. After holding the Steelers to 10 points one week earlier, the Ravens had six sacks and limited the Chargers to 280 yards over nearly five quarters.

``Defensively, we played pretty well throughout,'' Harbaugh said. ``But as the game went along, we got better on defense. We tackled better. We defended better. We are improving on defense, and we improved throughout the course of the game.''

Still, the Ravens wouldn't love to have Lewis back. The 37-year-old worked the sideline in San Diego, offering advice and encouragement while dressed in a sweatsuit. But he's far more valuable on the field.

``It would be great to get Ray Lewis back. All of our guys would welcome Ray back with open arms if and when that happens,'' Harbaugh said. ``Adding a great player into the mix is only going to make us better.''

The Ravens made a roster move Monday, placing safety Anthony Levine on injured reserve with a shoulder injury. David Reed, last year's starting kick returner, was activated from the physically unable to perform list.

Harbaugh said tight end Ed Dickson (knee) and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (ankle) will likely practice sparingly this week but could play against the Steelers.

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Playoff winners expose Ravens shortcomings

Playoff winners expose Ravens shortcomings

And then there were four.

Four teams remain in the hunt for Super Bowl LI, and this weekend's games showed exactly what it takes to survive and advance this time of year. They also illustrated, quite clearly, how the current Ravens simply don't rise up to that level.

Here are two ways in particular:

* Strong quarterback play

Aaron Rodgers needed less than a minute to move his team into position for a game-winning field goal against Dallas.

Then again, the Cowboys' Dak Prescott needed less than a minute to move his team into position to tie the game moments earlier.

Did the Ravens offense under Joe Flacco this year ever appear capable of pulling off such a feat?

Atlanta's Matt Ryan threw three touchdowns without an interception as the Falcons rolled past Seattle. He averaged 9.1 yards per pass play, above their league-best regular-season average of 8.8. That's what an efficient, potent passing game looks like. The Ravens ranked 26th this year, averaging 6.04 yards per pass play.

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* Playmakers

When Dallas got inside the Packers' 10-yard line in the final four minutes, trailing 28-20, was there any doubt that the ball was going to Dez Bryant? The Packers had to know it. They just couldn't stop it. Bryant reached up with his 6-2, 220-pound frame and hauled in the inside slant that made it 28-26, and then Prescott scored on a quarterback draw for a two-point conversion to tie the game.

Did the Ravens this year ever have such a proven, go-to target near the goal line? If they did, they probably wouldn't have ranked 20th in red zone percentage this year and relied so heavily on kicker Justin Tucker. Too many field goals instead of touchdowns doomed this team.

Aaron Rodgers had to improvise, then made a great throw with an even better catch by Jared Cook to set up the winning field goal. Could the Ravens have pulled off that play this year?

When the Steelers were trying to close out their win over the Chiefs, they opted to throw a pass, knowing an incompletion would stop the clock and possibly give the ball back to the Chiefs. It carried some risk, but Ben Roethlisberger found Antonio Brown for a game-clinching first down.

The Steelers could have opted to run the ball with Le'Veon Bell, who piled up 170 yards on 30 carries. That's what a commitment to the run looks like.

Brown, Bryant and Julian Edelman all finished with more than 100 receiving yards.

Each of these teams has playmakers, and they all stepped up.

MORE RAVENS: Ray Lewis tells Tom Brady to quit complaining

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AFC North: Steelers' Antonio Brown posts, deletes video of Mike Tomlin insulting Patriots

AFC North: Steelers' Antonio Brown posts, deletes video of Mike Tomlin insulting Patriots

Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown has created a new firestorm heading into the Patriots-Steelers AFC championship game, by posting a Facebook Live video from the locker room in which coach Mike Tomlin referred to the Patriots as “a--h----s”.

Tomlin was giving his postgame address to the team after the Steelers’ 18-16 playoff victory over the Chiefs.

While Tomlin was speaking, Brown was streaming the locker room scene on Facebook, unbeknownst to Tomlin.

The coach talked about the Patriots having a head start in preparation, because they won their divisional game Saturday night, while the Steelers-Chiefs game did not end until late Sunday night in Kansas City.

“When you get to this point in the journey, man, not a lot needs to be said,” Tomlin said in the video, which Brown has since deleted from social media.

“Let’s say very little moving forward. Let’s start our preparations. We just spotted these a--h---s a day and a half. They played yesterday. Our game got moved to tonight. We’re going to touch down at 4 o’clock in the f---king morning. So be it. We’ll be ready for their a--. But you ain’t got to tell them we’re coming.

“Keep a low profile, and let’s get ready to ball like this up again here in a few days and be right back at it. That’s our story.”

Well, it’s a little late for the Steelers to keep a low profile now, after Brown’s video went viral.

This is why most coaches don’t like cameras in the locker room immediately after games. The statements are candid. The concept of what is said in the locker room, staying in the locker room, is lost.

Now Tomlin, Brown, and the Steelers will have to deal with the fallout. But it will only raise the AFC showdown, with a trip to the Super Bowl at stake.

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